Back in 2013, I started working at a coffee shop in College Station. If you’ve ever met me, you know how strongly I feel about coffee, and this place is largely responsible for that affinity (infatuation? Enthusiasm?). During my training, I had a rough experience involving some hot chocolate that had been left in a shed for a few months, and I found myself oddly inspired by the bleach-fueled cleaning sessions that followed. So inspired, in fact, that I wrote a blog post about it that has stuck with me to this day, though I’d make some changes. This post was titled “Scrubbing Away Sadness,” as is this one, though this post would be more correctly called “Scrubbing Away Sadness (Revisited)” even though I left the original title since very few people have ever read my personal blog.
So, let me tell you a story.
I was not a particularly social child. I spent a lot of time in the library, which didn’t necessarily mean that I had to fail to develop socially, though I happened to do so. I was so cynical throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, believing very strongly that the world was simply tearing itself apart with immorality and that these people were more likely to corrupt me than I was to help them, and this cynicism brought with it a disdain for the world. Everyone was terrible. No exceptions.
Now, I had friends, for sure, and they were exactly the good Christians that I wanted to be around. Surely they wouldn’t bring any moral depravity into my life, or at least not into my scope of vision (which, in all honesty, was what I really wanted). In high school, after my first dating experience came to a quick end, I found myself falling deeper into my cynicism than ever before. It became a spiral of pushing people away because I was lonely, and even though I recognized the foolishness and folly of such a life, I continued to push.
Let’s fast forward a few years later to a point very recent, skipping over the parts of my life where I became more social and less cynical. Earlier today, in fact. I was going through my training at Mugwalls, a local coffee shop that I just started working at, and we were learning how to clean everything. When the manager went to show both of us trainees the back storage room, however, we were greeted with a foul smell from two large containers that, as I was informed, could keep a beverage hot for 18 hours and served 100 people. Amazing! How useful these things were, especially when catering to a huge group. They could do something entirely necessary by design, bringing a wonderful warm drink to many people at a time. However, there was the unfortunate matter of the terrible smell.
As it turned out, these fantastic containers had been used to take hot chocolate to an event in the neighboring town known as “First Friday,” a sort of art festival that takes place in the streets, back in April. But when the event had ended and it was time to bring them back to the store, whomever was in charge neglected to empty and clean them, instead throwing them into the storage room to hold the hot chocolate. Time went on, Texas weather did exactly what you would expect, and it got hot. Like, really hot. Hot chocolate, as you know, has milk in it, which does not take well to being left in a warm room for two months, leaving us to find that awful smell during our training.
What do these two stories have to do with each other? When I was a kid, I had a responsibility, a task. I was supposed to spread love to the world around me, showing everybody that was broken that they had been given the wonderful gift of life and salvation, but instead I kept it locked away, viewing it as my secret. I was full of hot chocolate, but I allowed myself to reside in a warm storage room and sour instead. But do you know what we did after we found those containers? We took them into the kitchen and scrubbed them for the better part of two hours, painstakingly getting every bit of mold and grime out of them. They still had a bit of a smell, but nothing nearly as bad as before, so we let them air out. In much the same way, I spent the latter part of high school trying to break down my cynicism, scraping out the love that had turned to hate over time. For a while, the cynicism and lonesomeness stayed as a ghost, whispering its old message even when I tried to send it away, but as time went on the ghost grew quieter and quieter until I could hardly hear it anymore.
We all have the great potential to love one another and do such fantastic things, especially in Christ. One of the most potent verses in the New Testament is John 13: 34:
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Christ gave us a gift greater than we can possibly imagine. He came, walked with us as one of us, and even death couldn’t overcome Him! Indeed, the message we have is one of hope, love, and joy; how can we possibly keep that as a private sentiment? Christ came and died for all, and His resurrection is free for all people to participate in as well, so we should absolutely want to spread that! If even death could not overcome the love of Christ, why would we possibly believe that our own bitterness or pain could?
Go forth, allowing God to work within you, clearing out any rancid-hot-chocolate thoughts you may have and filling you up anew with the love he showed us through Christ. And as you find yourself renewed, go forward and help renew others.