This story is one I’ve found helpful at the times in my life when things seemed uncertain and I found myself seeking greater understanding about how I was reacting to things going on around me.
I’m sorry that I don’t know the author because I’d like to give him or her credit, but I trust it is divinely inspired, as it has been shared repeatedly for years.
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up; she was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose. She thought God had forgotten her.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
In about 20 minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
She asked her daughter, “Tell me what you see.”
“Carrots, eggs and coffee,” the daughter replied.
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and noted they were soft.
The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.
Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she first smelled, and then tasted, its rich aroma.
The daughter asked, “What does it mean?”
Her mother said each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.
The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting in the boiling water, its inside became hardened, too. The ground coffee beans were unique. After they were in the boiling water, they changed the water.
“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
“Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?” her mother asked. “Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
“Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.
When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
The coffee changed the water – that’s what some might call God, others the Christ Consciousness, The Divine or Spirit.
We are changed when we fully embrace the divine within us. We think differently and act differently.
One of my friends, the Rev. Phil Price from Peace Memorial UCC in Palos Park, Ill., said, “The world says that if you are afraid of something, silence it, shame it, ridicule it, mock it. And then if none of that works, kill it. God’s solution goes something like this: If you fear something, understand that love casts out all fear. God challenges us to love our neighbors, not just the nice ones who look and act like us, but the ones who are very different from us in language, beliefs, customs and nationalities.”
The Native American people look to the four directions to fully experience Great Spirit. Our Jewish friends look to the teaching of the prophets for an understanding of God. Buddhists embrace the practice of silence and meditation as they seek to increase their awareness of their oneness with everyone and everything. The spiritual paths we know as Islam, Hinduism and New Age Thought are all based in love and in listening to the whispers of our heart and soul.
Regardless of one’s spiritual path, to be like the coffee bean that changes the boiling water it is exposed to, we are called to step out with courage and answer the call of our heart and soul to make the difference in the world that we are called to make. May it be so.
Today’s Insights was written by the Rev. Linda Gunter, an ordained interfaith minister. She is the CEO of Peace Village, and is the former CEO of Hospice at Home in Southwest Michigan. She has been a guest minister at churches throughout Southwest Michigan. Insights is written by area clergy to give different viewpoints on a variety of topics. It is published each Saturday in cooperation with the Berrien County Association of Churches. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of member churches.
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