Casseroles, Cartwheels, and Beards

When I was young, our family piled in our Suburban for a week’s vacation somewhere. I loved orange soda at the time. The details are foggy, but I remember sitting in the back seat with my own two-liter bottle of Orange Spot. As we chugged down the road, I chugged down my soda—all of it. Before reaching our destination, I was so sick of orange soda I wouldn’t touch it for years.

There are many other examples. At the beginning of his trip, Applebee’s sounds pretty good for dinner to the salesman out on the road but by the end of the week he’s craving his wife’s cooking—even that casserole with green beans in it and Frito’s crumbled on top. We get so tired of April’s day-after-day cold and rain that the first 70-degree day has us doing cartwheels outside. Then, six months later we get excited if it’s cold enough for snow.

It is the way God has made His world and us. We like the contrast both sides the bell-curve brings. Experiencing one extreme makes us appreciate the other side more.

However, there are aspects of life we don’t want the contrast of the other side. We want a sunny providence for our kids, wanting to shield them from as many of life’s storms as possible. We want enough money at the end of the month to take care of our needs and even a few wants. We want to be healthy so we get that flu shot, remembering how miserable we were last time we got sick. In short, we’d like life to go well for ourselves and kids. How can that be bad? It’s not.

There is something I have discovered, however, as I take another chronological step next month into my fifty’s. My kids are better for it after facing some adversity. More trust and faith develops when finances are tight with the challenges of two in college. I am more thankful for my health after I lost it for a week. In other words, the “other side” makes me appreciate “this side” more.

It has been ten years since our church went through a difficult season. Relationships at the Council level and in the pew were strained for many of us. At the end of that trying time, several families chose to leave. It was not an enjoyable experience for anyone. That trauma a decade ago has left an indelible mark on me. One such way is that it has made me more appreciative of what we relationally enjoy today.

If you walked into one of our Council meetings, you would hear as much laughter as discussion. There’s an appreciation, respect, and oneness that makes serving as deacons and elders such a blessing. And the love, care, and concern I see exhibited by the congregation toward one another each week is a living testimony of what David describes in Psalm 133:1-2:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

Clean-shaven all my life, I haven’t had oil run down my beard. But I’m tempted to grow one—there would be a lot of oil around here to pour!

God often uses the contrast of the “other side” to appreciate “this side” more. Ten years ago, many of us experienced the challenging side of congregational life. Some who have recently arrived experienced it in their previous church and is why they are now here.

May yesterday’s pain and difficulty provide more reason to enjoy today’s joy and peace. Oil running down the beard, whether you have one or not, feels really good doesn’t it?

Pastor Rich Hamlin
April 24, 2014

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