A Recipe for Lemonade
How to Survive Post Traumatic Church Syndrome
I love a good glass of lemonade. The sourness of the lemon married with the syrupy sweetness of a ton of sugar and a sprig of fresh mint or lavender or a bit of strawberries for an extra layer of interest. Fill up a tall glass with ice and pour the faintly cloudy yellow liquid over it, and slurp it up through a straw. There’s something so satisfying about turning a fruit that was almost bitter and too sour to eat on its own into a delicious drink on a hot day. Try doing the same recipe with strawberries or apples in place of the lemons and you end up with a drink that is so overly sweet, there’s no relief from anything and it leaves you thirsty for water after a few sips.
A good church with a bunch of people who love Jesus and work together at being closer to God and doing good for their community, can be like a bowlful of grapes, apples and strawberries. It’s appetizing, doesn’t need anything more than a bit of washing, is refreshing and ready to serve.
Sometimes, we wander into a church full of lemons. Like a bowl of lemons, it looks really appetizing on first approach. It’s beautiful and shiny, gorgeous with bright yellow streaming from the bowl. They smell good and bright! They look good enough to grab one and bit into it. Typically, the uninitiated will grab a lemon, smell it, peel it, and then begin to eat it. If you’ve ever peeled a lemon, they are hard to get any good out of it. The pith is really thick, and extremely bitter. After digging around in the pith and peeling as much of it off of the segments buried in it, segmenting the lemon is equally difficult. The lemon is football shaped and does not separate easily. Eating a segment is not delightful. The acid content is high, the skin is bitter, and it’s harsh to say the least.
I spent a bit of time in a lemon of a church. I believe that God allowed me to participate and worship Him in such an acidic and bitter environment, because ultimately I grew a lot. Just this past week, I had a brief conversation with a former member, and it went well. I didn’t go into too much detail, I didn’t overly moan about how much I had been hurt. I identified that I spent some time being bitter after having left that lemon bowl, and it took me a while to forgive.
Maybe you’ve spent time in a church that was unforgiving and bitter, perhaps on the surface it seemed like a good place to be, but when you started peeling back the layers and getting involved, there didn’t seem to be as much good. Maybe you’re an optimist or as stubborn as I am, insisting that if you keep squeezing that lemon, you’ll find goodness, or you convince yourself that what you’re getting is really really good, when it needs a bit of sweetening up.
Here’s the first step of this recipe. The sweetness in this recipe isn’t sugar, it’s forgiveness, and you’re going to need a lot of it. Where do you find forgiveness? On the cross.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This can be one of the hardest things to do, it’s simple, but it isn’t easy. We must look to God, in our relationship, in our prayer time, and converse with Him about it. Tell Him it isn’t fair, that you got hurt by His people, allow yourself to be angry, and then allow Him to work on your heart. If you need the why, ask Him to reveal the why, but don’t go digging it up yourself. Allow God to heal the hurt. One of the things He’s going to ask you to do is to forgive.
Matthew 6:9-13 Amplified Bible
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors [letting go of both the wrong and the resentment].
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’
The people in the lemon church may think they were in the right, perhaps they feel to be so now, and may not listen to anything you have said or want to say to them. It is not our place to convict them of wrong doing, that’s like blaming a lemon for being a lemon. The lemon sees nothing wrong with being a lemon, and you can’t convince a lemon to be a strawberry. The only way a lemon can become something else is by transformation, and unless you have magical powers, that ain’t going to happen, but you can pray for them to be transformed to be more like Christ.
On with our recipe.
When you think you’ve poured enough forgiveness (sweetness) into the mixture, you’ll discover you’re going to need even more. Whatever pain you’ve experienced, there’s a dose of forgiveness that exceeds your pain. The beautiful thing is this, the same forgiveness that Christ has given us, is also extended to your enemies. If you don’t feel you have enough, go to the source of forgiveness.
Sometimes, we think that the source of forgiveness wanted us to go through with all that bitterness, to drink that acidic juice as it is, bitter, sour, and unpleasant. Our source allows us to go through some tough things, not so that we can become lemons, but so that we can be transformed through the bitter, that even the bitter things in life can become sweet.
See, God desires for none to perish.
2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
We may want retribution for the wrongs done to us, and we may desire them swiftly, but if God dealt with us the way we want punishment dealt on others, we would never see salvation, we would only experience death and bitterness. If you want to experience life, you have to let go of all the bitterness and hurt.
As I told my acquaintance, I try not to think too much about that time or those years spent in that lemon bowl. I came away with a lot of lemon juice and pith, and there’s a lot of forgiveness I’ve had to pour into that juice.
There’s one more addition to lemonade, and that’s water. You have to spread out the juice with a lot of water. The only place you can get living water is in relationship with Christ. The more lemon juice you have, the more water you need. Spend time with God. Reignite the passion and fuel in relationship and communing with God.
Just picking up and reading the Bible can be painful when you have so much lemon juice, but you have to water it out by spending time in His presence. Some of the best teachers of practicing the presence of God are Brother Lawrence and Jeanne Guyon.
Both of these books, along with the Bible, are essential to reforming your walk with God, especially after being in a lemon bowl.
Slowly, and surely, through faith, hope, and love, being patient with yourself and God, and through the process of forgiveness and repentance and spending time in the presence of God, when you do find the strawberries for your lemonade, you will discover that even the most bitter of fruit can be turned into something sweet through God.