By Dene Ward
Popcorn is our snack of choice when watching ball games. We make it the old fashioned way-bacon grease in a large saucepan, bulk popcorn from a large plastic bag, and salt. Heat it over high heat, shaking the pan until it stops popping. The stuff out of the microwave cannot begin to compare.
We still wind up with what the industry calls “old maids,” kernels that have not popped. Usually it’s the kernel’s fault, not the popper’s.
They tell me that popcorn kernels are the only grain with a hard moisture-proof hull. That means that not only can moisture not get into the kernel, but the moisture inside the kernel cannot get out either. As you heat them, the steam inside increases until the pressure reaches 135 psi and the heat 180 degrees Celsius (356 for us non-scientists). At that point, the starch inside the kernel gelatinizes, becoming soft and pliable. When the hull explodes the steam expands the starch and proteins into the airy foam we know as popcorn.
I found two theories about old maids. One is that there is not enough moisture in the kernel to begin with; the other is that the hull develops a leak, acting as a release valve so that pressure cannot build enough for the “explosion.” Either way, the kernels just sit there and scorch, becoming harder and drier as they cook.
Isn’t that what happens when we undergo trials? Some of us use the experience to flower into a stronger, wiser, more pleasant personality. Others of us sit there and scorch in the heat until we dry up completely, no use for God or his people, let alone ourselves. The resulting bitterness is reflected in the cynical way we view the world, the way we continue to wallow in the misery of our losses, and the impenetrable barrier we raise whenever anyone tries to help us. As Israel said when they had forsaken God for idols and knew they would be punished, Our bones have dried up, our hope is lost, we are clean cut off, Ezek 37:11. When we refuse to seek God in our day of trouble, when we forget the blessings he has given us even though we deserved none, that is the result.
But God can help even the hopeless. He can bring us back from despair. He can make our hearts blossom in the heat of trial if we remember the lesson about priorities, about what really counts in the end. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable, 1 Cor 15:19, and that is exactly where we find ourselves if we allow anything in this life to steal our faith in God.
Trials are not pleasant; they are not meant to be. They are meant to create something new in us, something stronger and more spiritual. When, instead, we become hard and bitter, we are like the old maids in a bag of popcorn, and when the popcorn fizzles, it’s the popcorn’s fault.
For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor 4:17, 18.