About a week ago, however, that is exactly what I got. A cup of vinegar.
Of course, it wasn't really vinegar. It was words. Words that had many of the same characteristics of vinegar. So bitter was this cup handed to me by one I trusted. Vinegar can look like water at first, but how quickly its true properties are revealed.
The human reaction to taking a sip of vinegar is to spew it out. The same with words that taste like vinegar. We get a mouthful, and it repulses us. We spew it out and want no more of it. It makes a mess, though, and we get a cloth and try to clean it up. Perhaps it has gotten on others who might have been in the line of fire, too, and then there's an even bigger mess.
After taking that sip of vinegar, I just could not get the taste out of my mouth. I tried--I really did! No matter how I tried to make my taste buds happy with sweet-tasting things, the taste of vinegar kept coming back. It was just like I was taking the drink all over again.
Isn't that just the way it is with us when we have a "vinegar" experience? We relive it over and over again. We keep opening the wound, allowing our feelings to get hurt all over again---getting a little more angry each time. Why, when the original dose was so distasteful?
I don't know. But one morning when I was pouring my coffee, I believe I got a word from God regarding this exact thing. I thought I'd tell you about it.
As I was pouring myself a cup of coffee, I noticed a blinking red light on my coffee maker. Under the light was the word "clean". The coffee pot is relatively new, and I'd never really done a deep cleaning. It was high time, I guessed.
I pulled out my instruction booklet (do not ask me how I was able to lay my hands on that thing!), and went to the section marked "Cleaning and Maintenance". It said when the red light starts blinking, the coffee maker likely has calcification build-up and could not function properly. It said, if the coffee maker was not cleaned, it could affect the taste of the coffee.
The cleaning concoction was 2/3 pot of cold water mixed with 1/3 pot of vinegar. Vinegar? That was a property of vinegar that I had never considered. I had only been considering the value of vinegar as something akin to poison, but cleansing?
My coffee pot had developed calcifications from hard water that needed to be removed, and vinegar of all things was the answer. But not straight vinegar. Vinegar mixed with water.
If I believe the holy scriptures, they tell me all things work together for good to them who love Christ Jesus. All things. Even bitter, foul-tasting words that come from the lips of a fellow believer. If I'm honest, I will say that I sometimes find this so hard to believe. But then the Spirit tells me it is indeed so, so I choose it!
When our hearts become hardened toward someone because of how they've treated us, we can't possibly function at capacity. It will affect everything we do. We can't love like we need to. We can't worship like we need to. We can't serve like we need to. The calcification has to be removed. So God takes the vinegar, that alone was so offensive to us, and He adds the cool, clear water of the Spirit. The vinegar that poisoned is diluted and actually begins to heal. He ever-so-gently cleanses away the hardness that has built up until, once again, our heart is functioning properly and at full capacity. All things work together for good.
How long had that red light been blinking on my coffee maker before I actually took the time to clean it? And what if I hadn't cleaned it? Would it one day quit working altogether?
I believe it is possible to keep tasting the vinegar in our lives until we aren't quite so sensitive to it anymore. In fact, we might even acquire a taste for it--until it doesn't repulse or offend us quite so much anymore. Until we kind of like it. Until we don't even notice the "build-up" and the hardening in us. We just slowly, stop functioning at all.
There is always a red light. I don't want to miss it.
Oh Lord, when the taste of vinegar offends my soul, let my first thought be to cry to you; that you might send your cool water to dilute what is foul and bitter to cleanse me so that my heart will not become hardened.
|Never underestimate the importance of a red light.|