My dad has an old Air Force buddy, Arnold, that farms in South Dakota. We visited them a few times when I was a kid. Back then, visiting a great big working farm was a real treat. They had chickens and cows, ducks and geese and all kinds of farm machinery parked all over the place. A young guy like me could find a new adventure everywhere he turned. One morning I got up out of bed and went down to the kitchen where Norma, Arnold’s wife, was making breakfast. She had a strange-looking contraption made of glass with a metal lid that had wooden paddles inside. I asked her what it was and was told it was a butter churn. She was going to make the butter to use that morning. I didn’t realize that butter wasn’t just naturally taken from the cow in the form of sticks and just wrapped in wax paper and shoved into a box before being sold. It had to be processed from the raw milk first. I thought this was all really cool and asked if I could do the churning. Norma gladly delegated this chore to me and away I went churning like a fool. I had the intention of being the fastest, most efficient churner this world has ever seen. Unfortunately after what seemed like years of churning there was still only cream in the jar. I kept churning, switching arms when one arm would get too tired. I would check over and over and still the whole thing seemed to have not changed at all. I didn’t understand. What was going on? I gave up and tried to pass the churn off to someone else but mom and Norma were busy doing other things. Norma told me, “Nope. You are finishing it.” There didn’t seem to be any room in her position for argument so I slowly churned, thinking that I would eventually die here with my hand on the handle of this cruel torture device.
Norma finished what she was doing and turned to me and grabbed the churn and opened it. “Thanks, Mike! You did a great job.” Somewhere along the line the cream had turned to butter and buttermilk and I was so busy being tortured and sulking about my plight that I hadn’t noticed that it had finally turned. As we ate and people asked for butter to be passed to be put on toast and pancakes I proudly proclaimed I had made the butter, even though I had wanted to give up and hated most of the whole process. People commented on how great the butter was even though it tasted just like all the other butter that had come from that old-fashioned churn.
I would have never gotten that butter made if Norma hadn’t told me, “Nope.” Sometimes “Nope” is the best thing I can hear. Many times I pray to God to take away the trial I am going through and it seems like He just says “Nope.” I begin to do something that seems like a great idea at the time, push ahead and look at my progress and see none. So, I whine and cry that I can’t do it and ask Him to find someone else, to take away my pain, to let me go rest. I don’t realize that every minute, every hour, every day I am closer and closer to making butter.
James 1:12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
I don’t see the crown of life being built as I endure, I can’t check on its progress while I am struggling. It is just there at the end and that’s that.
Romans 8:17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
I must push ahead and accept “Nope” when God gives me this answer. He knows that sometimes that is what it takes for me to finish what I have started. I will someday see that all of the heartache, all of the pain, all of the discouragement, all of my failings and disappointments are just cuts and scrapes on the journey to what is to come. What is to come is beyond imagination, beyond measure and beyond time and space.
1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.
God, help me accept the times you refuse to give me what I want. Help me to trust that you will guide me to where I need to be, give me what I need to have and that there is an end to this suffering. None of what I go through is for nothing. It all changes me so that I can be more like you. Amen.