The Liability of Lemon-Sucking

One of the toughest days of my life found me in a diner in Dalton, Georgia. I was nineteen years old and one week into my first summer of college. I was a thousand miles from home. I was sleeping at the Salvation Army shelter where, the night before, an inebriated guy on the bunk above mine rolled over and puked. If homesickness was water, I was soaked to the bone.

On the promise of fast cash and new sights, I’d joined up with two friends and signed on to sell books door to door. My friends went home during sales school. I was all alone. I went to work and made this discovery: no one likes a door to door salesman. My first day was miserable.

“Hello, I’m Max…” Slam.

“Hello, I’m Max…” Slam.

“Hello, I’m Max…” Slam.

Day number two wasn’t any better. I was lower than a snake’s belly. At lunch, I dragged myself into a diner, nursed my bruised ego and ate a hamburger. As I was paying my bill, I spotted a display of magnetized, rubberized truisms adjacent to the cash register. One was yellow, shaped like a lemon and contained these words: “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”

The slogan was folksy, corny, and homespun. But I had never heard it. And it was just enough to convince me to keep at the job. I bought the magnet and affixed it to the dashboard of my ’73 Plymouth Duster. Whenever I got discouraged, I would rub my thumb over the rubber lemon and remind myself: “I can make myself miserable or I can make myself some lemonade.”

People still slammed doors and I still wondered what in the world I was doing so far from home. But I survived.

It’s been forty years since that day in the diner. Much has changed. But this much hasn’t: life still gives lemons.

Of course, my prospects of a miserable summer are nothing compared to the lemons you’ve been handed. Just this week, I spoke with an elderly woman whose husband has been diagnosed with dementia. She needs to take away his car keys. I spoke with a young mom of a newborn who can’t remember her last good night of sleep. She wonders if she has what it takes to raise kids. I spoke to a middle-aged man who is reeling from the consequences of a divorce. He wonders if he’ll ever have a happy family.

Life still gives lemons. Life gives lemons to good people, bad people, old people, all people. Life comes with lemons.

But we don’t have to suck on them.

The Apostle Paul has a better idea. “…you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Philippians 4:8)

What lemons have fallen into your world? Suck on them and you’ll turn sour. Adhere to Paul’s words, and you’ll find the lemonade refreshing.

© Max Lucado, August 2016