Oyster or Marshmallow?

Do you know any human “oysters” or “marshmallows”?  I know a lady who’s a “poster child” for human marshmallows.  Let’s call her Constance.

    Constance orders her entire life around her own comfort.  She lives her carefully cushioned life sparingly, each step calculated to avoid any stubbed toe, scrape or stumble.  She works – but not too hard.  She plays – but not too long.  She eats out routinely because it’s less work than Betty Crocker.  Constance never met a convenience she didn’t like, a couch she couldn’t potato, or a day off she wouldn’t stretch into a career. Pampered, polished and pristine, Constance’s world is All About Me. She takes the path of least resistance, whatever’s easiest and requires the minimum amount of exertion.

The thing is, I like Constance.  Her feathers never get ruffled.  She’s never in a hurry.  Never a sharp or a contrary word.  She never tries to impose her views or opinions on others.  Come to think of it, Constance is pretty much a human marshamallow.  She assumes whatever shape she’s pushed in to for the convenience of the moment.  A mile wide and a quarter inch deep, Constance will probably stay that way because that’s the way she likes it.

But I’ve noticed something about marshmallows.  They’re shallow.  Spongy.  Weak.  When’s the last time you heard, “She’s marshmallow solid”? or “he’s marshmallow sound, through and through”?  The truth is, take a marshmallow out of its nice, neat, comfy bag, and it gets stale right quick.  Next to an open flame, it melts even faster.

That’s why Constance is 50 years old gong on 9.  Why?  Because in her marshmallow life of total comfort, her self-insulation from as much pain, discomfort or difficulty as possible, Constance has stunted her own growth.  So intent on avoiding the slightest inconvenience or Owie, Constanced has managed to short-circuit some of life’s greatest lessons by one of its best teachers: pain.  As Calvin Miller writes:

Like oysters, we believers all react the same way when a hunk of sharp silica enters our shells.  We cry and complain; we even rail against God.  But the pearl is born in the pain, built by coating our adversity with maturity.  As each lesson of life passes, we move on to others.  We glory in knowing that at the core of our best pearls there exists a ragged hurt that once stabbed us with ripping pain.  Then God came.  His grace pearlized our pain with dependency.  Our deep moans gave way to glad Hosannas!  He transformed our hurt into a beautiful, usable ministry.”

Which is exactly why Constance is a likeable but thoroughly spongy marshmallow.  No pain, no gain.  Or in this case, no pearl. 

Now I’m not sugggesting you rush into traffic to get hit by the next bus.  Or choose a wanton, reckless lifestyle that invites unpleasant, painful consequences.  That’s not maturity, that’s stupidity!  I just wonder how Constance – or any of us – will ever produce pearls if we never leave our comfortable cribs? 

**

We’re going to continue and expand upon this theme in a “mini-series” of posts revolving around female friendships – what they are, what they aren’t, how to find a good friend and how to be a good friend.  Feel free to chime in at any point.  See you next time at Giving and Receiving, and Hard to Find, followed by Invisible Christian Women and later, Why I Don’t Do Women’s Retreats.

Laus Deo.

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