Learning Surrender from Lemons
When life hands me lemons, just about the last thing I want to hear is make lemonade. It feels trite. How could watering down the problem and masking the bitterness with sugar or artificial sweetener possibly be a good solution? You see, I never wanted this lemon in the first place. And I certainly didn’t thirst for lemonade.
The disappointments of this life seem to sneak up on us when we least expect them. These lemons derail our plans, let us down, and leave us wounded. They point out the fact that we are not in control. From my experience, it’s difficult to accept these lemons that come along because they are unwanted. They were not part of the plan.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a time like this in the past, or amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, you find yourself here now. Maybe you’ve lost your job and are uncertain how you will make ends meet. Maybe after years of hard work for your degree, you can’t seem to land a job in your field. Maybe a relationship has ended or you’ve lost someone you love. For me, it was an unexpected breakup of a long-term relationship. This experience disrupted my plans. I wouldn’t be getting married and starting a family like I had previously expected and greatly desired. Instead, I was left with heartache and what felt like a very uncertain future.
I’ve been meditating a lot on this moment, the difficulty in processing it, and the goodness that has and continues to come from it. Most of all, I have realized the importance of surrender, especially in times when we don’t get what we want. By surrendering our pain and surrendering our plans, we can open ourselves up to God’s Will for our lives.
Surrender the pain | Lemons sting
Anyone who has ever sliced a lemon with a cut on their hand knows that lemons can sting. They can exacerbate wounds that are already present.
This disappointment came out of nowhere, and it hurt. I needed to acknowledge that this experience had indeed wounded me in order to begin the process of healing. One of the most helpful things a friend said to me during this time was to allow myself to feel the hurt and to take it to prayer.
In prayer, we can invite Jesus into our wounds and unite our sufferings with His sufferings on the Cross. The Divine Physician wants to bring you healing and hope. Ask for it. Invite Jesus into your heart. In doing so, I found that the Lord was able to use this new cut on the surface to bring healing to deeper wounds I hadn’t realized still needed mending.
In the midst of the hurt and suffering, let’s remember that we have a heavenly Father who loves us, and we are His beloved daughters. Root yourself in this truth. He will not abandon you in your pain, and He will give you the grace you need to get through this tough time. Lean on the people in your life that you trust, and seek out professional help if you need it. You are not in this alone. Surrender your burdens, and surrender your pain.
Surrender your plan | Accepting the lemon
Somehow now, despite your best efforts and all of your planning, you did not end up with what you wanted. Instead, you have a lemon and must accept this new reality.
As a type-A planner, I’ve always been a fan of checklists and setting goals. After the breakup, it was difficult to let go of my plan of getting married and starting a family. Marriage was something I had dreamed of since I was a little girl. At the same time, it was very clear to me that the Lord did not want this relationship for me and I needed to trust Him.
I found it helpful to recall other times in life where God had been faithful. Right after undergrad, I had a lot of trouble finding my first job. We were deep in a recession, and I spent day after day at my kitchen table applying to jobs, only to receive a continuous stream of rejection letters. There was so much work that went into my architecture degree. My plan to work in an architecture office made sense, and it felt like I was being called down that path. But it just wasn’t coming together.
Through this experience earlier in life, I had to come to terms with not being in control of my perfectly planned timeline. Life is messy. Just because it didn’t work out the way I planned, didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be good. After about 6 months of applying for jobs, I ended up getting a great job in an architecture-related field that opened me up to a whole new skillset. This time would be no different. I was once again reminded that I was not the one in control.
It’s easier to grasp onto my plans than to face the uncertainty of a new reality. However, in doing so, it’s easy to become slaves of the past, wrapped up in what could have been. Only once we surrender our plans, can we find the freedom that the Lord offers us. It may be scary to relinquish control, but the Lord tells us again and again in scripture to be not afraid. Surrender your plan.
Open yourself to God’s plan | A new recipe
Lemonade is not the only good option for a lemon. Perhaps the zest will flavor some scones or the juice will brighten a beautiful salad.
God would certainly lead me through this new period of uncertainty, just like He had before. During this trial, prayers of gratitude and of surrender were powerful ways to cultivate hope and trust in the Lord.
Jesus, I trust in You.
I would get past this new disappointment, even if I didn’t understand how that would happen. God had never abandoned me before, and I knew He would not abandon me now. Times of trial are great opportunities for spiritual growth, chances to mature in personal holiness. When we surrender our pain and surrender our plans, we create the space for God to work in our lives.
I’m sure that this disappointment will not be the last, but I am confident that I will be given the grace that is required along the way. Although God has not yet revealed to me the next step in my vocational journey, I trust that this experience will flavor whatever He calls me to in the future. The bitterness of these lemons will be transformed into something beautiful in the recipe that God only knows. Open yourself to God’s plan.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
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Lauren Nelson works as an architect in Washington, DC. She earned her graduate degree at the University of Virginia, where she developed a passion for design and strategic problem solving. Outside of work, she enjoys volunteering at her church, baking new recipes, and hosting brunch for her friends.