Iron and Corn Chips.

A while back, I opened my drawers at work and took out a bag of corn chips which were sealed in a ziploc bag. I keep all sorts of random things in my drawers; aspirin, stationery, pictures, sweets in case my blood sugars drop (I have diabetes) chewing gum and multivitamins to name a few.  But on this day, I bit into the corn chip and got a distinct mouthful of minty freshness. Seems a bit wrong, right? Corn chips that taste like mint? Uh uh, no thanks.

It took me a few seconds to work out it was because I had left a pack of newly opened gum in the drawer and the flavour had somehow permeated the plastic sealed bag in which my chips were safely stored. I thought my cheeky snacks were sealed freshly away from any kind of flavour tainting that could occur, so I got a bit of a surprise when I tried a minty corn chip for the first time.

I was pretty amazed in hindsight that the power of the mint flavour had managed to get through a tight sealed bag and completely overthrow the balance of the flavour in the chips. Now every time I open corn chips, I remember how they tasted that one time I experimented on the wild side of mint chips.

It got me to thinking about how this is what people are like. You meet all sorts of people in life, some are minty, some are crunchy, some are sweet, some savoury, some sour. And they’re all good in their own flavoured rights. But there are just some flavours that shouldn’t mix. Like vegemite and chocolate. And it’s not because there’s anything wrong with either flavour, they’re just better when they’re not mixed together or put in an enclosed space with one another.

The bible says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” –  Proverbs 27v17. I have a lot of beautiful friends in my world who are the iron to my iron, who sharpen me and keep me at my best. We are like for like: two of the same elements destined to make sparks and see reactions. I love these friends. We have gone through the dry times, and the floods, and managed to continue to drag each other up and onwards when the going gets tough.

I’ve come to realise that these friends are forged out of conflict most of the time. The people I’m now the closest with, the most ‘sparked’ by are people that at some point or another in our relationship, the point has come where we’ve faced sparks, and chosen to continue sharpening each other. But I’ve also had friends who have proven to be cardboard. Or the mint to my corn chips, so to speak. And those friendships have ended in good time.

It’s not that I’m bitter about any of these. I’m working my best to forgive and move on, even from wounds that happened many years ago now. I’m a slow healer, especially when it comes to matters of trust. But I recognise the good in letting these things go; separating the flavours, so to speak.

See the simple fact is, you just don’t keep some things together. You don’t store bananas with other fruit unless you want the banana to ripen too fast. You don’t keep onions with other vegies, etc, etc. The flavours and the smells permeate, and soon that lovely delicate watermelon you’ve been waiting to enjoy on a hot summers day tastes distinctly of onions. Some things are just better kept apart.

I like to believe this applies for relationships and certain people. And like I said, it’s not because either is ‘wrong’. It’s just because there are certain flavours, and certain environments that don’t produce the best results.

You put mint gum in a drawer with corn chips, you get gross, festy, minty corn chips. You rub an iron rod against a piece of cardboard, the thing gets shreaded. Enough analogies I’m sure you get the point.

Sometimes in churches, workplaces, schools and even our own friendship circles we’re forced to be in confined spaces with other flavours that are overpowering to our own. And vice versa. And sometimes learning to keep things compartmentalised is a necessary part of growing up and learning to be proud of your flavour – even to protect it.

Sometimes your iron will not sharpen another person’s cardboard. And corn chips are not meant to be minty.

It’s all part of being adult enough to say “I’ll keep my corn chips separate, thanks,” and wishing the gum a good life in someone elses drawer.

And you know what? I’m finally starting to learn how to say that.

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