Prior to moving to Minnesota, where winter weather is discouragingly cold and dark, I hated grapefruit because they were too sour and bitter. I couldn’t understand why people would eat grapefruit, when any reasonable person would have to heap spoonfuls of sugar on top just to swallow. It was a rare, generous moment when I would even buy them at the grocery store for my husband.
But that all changed on some dark, cold day in the heart of my first Minnesota winter. On that day, I found myself looking at the fruit bowl on our kitchen table and, wonder of wonders, craving the last grapefruit that sat there amidst the bananas and apples. I gobbled it up, and immediately wanted more. It was delicious to me, and like all those crazies before me, I found myself squeezing it at the end to catch every drop of its goodness. It is my unscientific and unconfirmed theory that my summer-starved body was craving whatever sun-enriched nutrients the grapefruit contained. In short, I now eat grapefruit on a regular basis, and can hardly recall what it was like not to know and love its tart, rich taste.
This grapefruit conversion is to me a parable of what I have experienced in other areas of my life. It is an example of something once bitter becoming sweet due to the Lord’s hand in my life. I, like many people, unfortunately have divorced parents, which was a great challenge to me when I was young. I have therefore always identified with the account of Jacob (son of Lehi) in the Book of Mormon. Jacob’s father tells him, “[I]n thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow. . . . Nevertheless, Jacob . . . thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:1-2, p. 56)
I never envisioned my parents getting back together, necessarily, but it always felt to me that something was irretrievably lost. Quite simply, I was torn between two sides, because despite my great love for both of them, it was not possible for me to have Dad in one hand and Mom in the other. I do not wish to diminish the rich blessings I did have when I was young: I have been very blessed to have two parents who love me and who have made great sacrifices for my welfare and benefit. But I must acknowledge that for a long time, there was an uncured sadness wedged in my heart for my broken family. Casting blame, imagining what should have been, and leaving home were some of my coping strategies, none of which cured the hurt.
I am humbled to report, as I now reflect on it, that I feel none of that old ache – that indeed it has been swallowed up through the power of Christ’s atonement. Without going into all the details (though truly God was there in all the minute details), let me mention a few things that I have learned.
First, there is a fine line between faith in Jesus Christ and the works we must do to prove our faith. It was not enough for me to hurl my burden at Christ in tearful prayer, vigorously asserting that “I have faith,” and expect Him to take it away. True, “all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23), and it is by faith that you are “made whole” (Matthew 9:22). And there is always comfort on the other side of a faithful prayer. But I was never truly relieved from the burden I bore until I learned to share a yoke with Christ Himself. It has primarily been while losing myself in the course of service, including church service and a full-time mission, that I have found the most peace and reassurance through Christ. And just so you don’t worry: this yoke of obedience and discipleship is “easy,” and the burden “light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Second, it is a simple truth that God, who is Master of the universe and Father to our souls, will “not suffer [us] to be tempted above that [we] are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that [we] may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) I have never doubted, nor been given reason to doubt, that God knew my suffering, expected me to be faithful in spite of it all, and made it possible for me to bear my burden without disintegrating into despair and rebellion.
And third, the most wonderful, delicious fruits are borne of adversity, if we endure it well! Jacob’s father taught him that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” so that we might know the bitter from the sweet. (2 Nephi 2: 11-15) And do we not all know the taste of bitterness?! But Christ’s miracle – which hopefully gives new life to our sometimes sad, sleepy, or stony hearts – is that joy is borne of bitterness, life springs out of barrenness, and weakness becomes strength. It happens in many ways. In my life, my family has been made whole in ways I never thought possible, as have I. Where there was anger and resentment, there have been new beginnings and feelings of peace, understanding, and hope.
I am forever grateful for Christ, grateful that He drank of the bitter cup and did not shrink. I marvel that, as grapefruit is delicious to me because it allows me to taste sunshine in the middle of winter, so are the fruits of my childhood heartache delicious to me because they have resulted in my conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this fruit, which is "desirable above all other fruit," that most often is found in the midst of our longest, most bitter winters. (1 Nephi 8:12)