Making lemons into lemonade. It’s a familiar phrase. Making good from the bad. Taking the rough places in life and finding the lovely. I’m actually pretty good at doing this. But sometimes I find it leaves me feeling invalidated and even frustrated. Why is that?
We usually try to make lemonade two different ways. The first way is by squashing the hurt down and the second way is by giving it a silver lining. Squashing it down can be temporarily effective, but like a ball floating on top of the water, it always pops back up. And giving it a silver lining? We often do this for the sake of others. Maybe we don’t want them to feel bad for us or see us hurt, so we paint on a shiny top layer but the hurt still nags and pulls at our insides.
Maybe you have a whole bowl of lemons on your plate this week, or maybe just one, or maybe you have a pile of past lemons all around you. May I offer you a suggestion of something that is really helping me? Perhaps it’s time to just let the lemons be. Might they cause you to pucker a bit? Yes, but the thing about a pucker is it only lasts for a few moments and then it goes away.
It makes me think of Paul and the thorn in his flesh. He asked God to remove it, but God reminded Him that His power was made perfect in weakness. In order for God to make His power perfect we must choose to acknowledge and accept that our weakness exists. We must be willing to feel it, get real about it, and if it’s going to be around for a while – figure out how to stomach its existence.
But how do we do this? Especially if the thorn involves feelings of loneliness, shame, hurt, abandonment, grief, or trauma.
One way is rather than pushing it away or giving it a silver lining, just give it some distance. When we feel these things they often sit so close to our face that they are blinding. They block out all the other parts of our lives and all that we can focus on is the pain, even when we try our hardest to see around it.
Give it distance the next time you feel it by allowing yourself to slow down, take the time to notice where you feel the emotion or pain in your body, and just sit with it. Imagine holding it in your hand and looking at it. What kinds of things does this emotion say, what does it look like? Often when we do this it becomes less threatening and we realize that we can in fact sit with this lemon – it will not cause us to double over in anguish – and that the sour taste will eventually pass. Will it come up again, yes? But if we just acknowledge it’s presence, it will pass.
Making lemons into lemonade can be helpful, no doubt. But sometimes we just need to let the lemons be.