More than one hundred years ago the fields of northeastern France were a no man’s land. As WWI (1914–1918) raged on, the ground became so heavily bombarded with artillery shells, bullets, and bombs that not a tree—nor even a blade of grass—was left.
A Dangerous Potato
After the war, farmers were eager to return the land to grow wheat, beans, and potatoes—as well as planting vineyards. Of course, in the decades that followed this was a risky business. The ground was still strewn with unexploded ordnance. Plows kept turning up live bombs and artillery rounds. And, from time to time, one would hear of a farmer who was killed by one of these.
Would you believe that even today, deadly munitions still turn up? It happened in the strangest way just a few days ago. A potato chip factory in Hong Kong unbundled a sack of potatoes and guess what they found inside? Among the dirt-colored potatoes was a dirt-encrusted German hand grenade—still as potent as ever. Personnel contacted the police, who detonated the grenade using a water cannon.
It turns out that the company’s supply of potatoes came from a farm in France—which had once been a battlefield. Farmers in France had mistaken the spherical hand grenade for a potato. Even after a century of plowing and cultivation, the danger still existed for the farm to send out something deadly rather than something nourishing.
As I read this story, it reminded me of something typical of human behavior. It is a natural desire in all of us to turn our painful experiences into something beneficial and productive. We want our adversity to be purposeful. We want our pain to become someone else’s gain. Just as those French farmers were eager to turn a battlefield into a potato farm, we want to turn our “war experience” into a productive garden.
But there is a very grave danger here. Very often we do not give ourselves adequate time to process our pain before embarking on a career as a motivational speaker. We’re still too close to the event that broke our hearts or damaged our faith. And there’s still a lot of unexploded ordnance in our hearts. Consequently, from our experience, we pass along hand grenades instead of potatoes.
Hurt from Battles
I recall a time while I was pastoring a small church in West Texas. We had a thriving ministry among Hispanic members of the community, predominantly children and youth. But they outnumbered the regular members of the congregation and this stirred up some ill will.
At this time, we had been befriended by an older minister and his wife. I suspect that, over the years, this couple had taken more than their share of abuse from parishioners. And many of their wounds had gone untended.
When we shared our struggles with them, they gave us some rather unsound advice. And I suspect they were speaking from their own pain. Still hurting from their own fierce battles, they urged us to take a heavy-handed approach. “Don’t let them push you around! You’re the pastor! You stand your ground!” Though meaning well, our advisors were still fighting an old battle—but now through us. Instead of handing us potatoes, they were giving us grenades.
It wasn’t what I needed to hear at the time. I believe a gentler approach to the situation would have saved the ministry we started and permitted us to stay on at that church. But because of my overreaction to the opposition, we lost a lot of support and had to eventually leave the church.
I’ve seen it many times since. It often happens when a spurned woman now believes her calling in life is to warn all wives about how evil their husbands are. I saw it often in the military. Embittered NCOs would advise their soldiers to “ditch” their wives rather than work to save their marriage. Those NCOs were still stewing over their own marital breakup and were in no frame of mind to be advising others.
Before we try to use our pain for the “benefit” of others, we need to get some healing for ourselves. We need to nurture our wounded hearts on God’s love, spend time in God’s loving embrace, and find the path out of our pain. Only then can we show the way of recovery to others. Otherwise, our advice to them will be toxic.
Paul the apostle told us, “God comforts us in all our affliction so we can help others in similar affliction with the very comfort we received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Let’s find that divine comfort first before we try to help others.
Dear Father in heaven, please heal my wounded heart and fill it with Your love. Grant, O God, that my words will bring help and healing to the souls of others. Amen.
In article photos: A Sailor stacks potatoes at the Feeding South Florida food drive during Fleet Week Port Everglades. by Official U.S. Navy Page licensed under U.S. Gov Works
Information from: https://www.livescience.com/64679-wwi-hand-grenade-potatoes.html