Life lessons from a bag of popcorn (Untucked Column #16)

Fairly recently, I had a craving for popcorn. I like that movie butter popcorn. So. I popped the bag in the microwave and set the timer based on what the instructions told me – two and a half minutes on high. About two minutes later, the kitchen and dining room was filled with smoke and stunk so bad. I popped the bag open and lo and behold – a burnt bag of popcorn. I was not going to be denied! I was going to have some popcorn. I get out another bag. This time, though, I didn’t put it on high. I set it for two and a half minutes again (not on high) but this time stood there. (Side note: why is it when you watch something in the microwave it seems to take FOREVER?)

About thirty-seconds into me trying to make sure that I didn’t burn the second bag, I began to think about what was right in front of me. There is no popcorn in that bag. Kernels are in that bag. The potential to become popcorn is in that bag. However, there were several factors at work that were needed to help those kernels reach their fluffy, buttery potential. Stay with me here.

Have you noticed when those kernels actually start popping? Say you set the timer for 3 minutes. Nothing happens for at least the first two minutes. Yet, when the popping gets going it REALLY gets going. What started as a fairly flat, brown bag is now expanding with every popping kernel, to the point that it looks like the bag is going to explode. Initially, it looked like nothing would ever happen but just because we weren’t seeing immediate results didn’t mean that something wasn’t happening. What we see here is an exercise in patience.

Yet, not only does that kernel need time to transform from potential to purpose, it needs the right environment and the right conditions. In this case, in order for those kernels to materialize into their buttery, fluffy amazingness it requires heat. Researchers have found that the ideal temperature to get the most out of that bag of kernels is 356 degrees. Yes, there is actual research on this. Those kernels pop due to interior pressure brought on by the intense heat. As I am watching this process unfold, the truth behind it began to hit me like a ton of bricks to my face.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt the heat? Where you felt the pressure? Where it felt like everything that could come against you did? Where you have been trying to be patient, to be positive, to be faithful, to be steadfast but you wonder just how much more you can take? How much more can you endure? I realized something that evening. Those kernels represent the potential within you, within me. In order for it to transform and materialize into its design and purpose, there is a time of waiting which requires patience and a time of refining, which often times requires intense heat.

If we want that bag of kernels to transform into popcorn so that we can enjoy it, we must allow the heat to do its job and we have to be patient. Are you willing to be patient enough to face the heat to allow the process to play out? Just like popping popcorn in the microwave, there is no magic "popcorn" setting (the popcorn button never pops the popcorn to perfection). You've got to listen as the kernels pop, until the popping is far apart, and then remove the bag.

Have you stopped to consider that the process you may be right in the middle of – the one where it feels and looks like nothing is happening, where nothing is changing – could actually be the point right before transformation begins to happen? The intense heat and pressure you have endured could actually be serving a purpose to help get you to where you need to be next in life?

Perhaps it’s not quite time for you to shine because it’s your time to refine. What happens if you stop the microwave too quickly? The bag of kernels only partially achieved its intended results and purpose. What if you endure just a little longer, knowing that something amazing is waiting on the other side of the process?  

What if what you are going through isn’t meant to destroy you but to develop you? The blessing ahead will always be greater than the battle behind.

Steve Sauceda