A friend of mine once shared an anecdote with me. There were twin brothers, one who was a notorious pessimist and another who was a perpetual optimist. The pessimistic brother was able to find the negatives in any and all situations. The optimistic brother, on the other hand, was able to find the positives even in the worst of scenarios.
One day the parents of these brothers decided to test just how extreme these attitudes. The twins’ birthday was coming up and they decided to give them each a gift. They gave the pessimistic brother a shiny new red bicycle, with a beautiful white bow tied to the front. When he saw the bike, the pessimistic brother began to wail. The parents could not understand why the brother was crying. This brother was upset because he wanted a blue bike, not a red one. His disappointment about the color was so great that he could not stop crying over the gift.
When it came time for the optimistic brother to receive his gift, the parents took him to a room in a separate part of the house. When this brother opened the door, he was greeted by an aggravating stench. The room was full of manure. For his birthday gift, the parent had bought him a pile of horse poop. Without hesitation, the brother’s face lit up and he eagerly ran into the room, digging into the pile of manure enthusiastically. His confused parents asked, “How can you be so happy about a room full of poop?” The boy quickly responded, “With so much horse poop, there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
Perhaps some of us can relate the attitudes that the boys exhibited with different people that we may have met throughout our lives. Many of us know the pessimistic person who can find the wrong in anything. We may also know the optimist who somehow manages to find something to be grateful for no matter what the circumstances. As Christians, it’s not simply a matter of being an optimistic person. We are called to place our trust in the Lord and know that he works every circumstance for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
A few years ago I found myself in an impossible situation. At 23 years old I was facing deportation to Mexico, a country I had not visited in almost two decades and where I knew no family or friends. After numerous visits to attorneys and thousands of dollars spent on fees I was told there was nothing I could do but wait for the inevitable: the day when an immigration judge would officially declare me deportable and give me three months to vacate the country.
I would love to say that in that moment I quoted scripture and held fast to the promises of God, hopeful and grateful like the little boy looking for the pony. But in all honesty that’s not how I felt. I questioned God. I cried. I doubted. I asked, “why?” I thought of all the reasons why it was unfair that this was happening to me. I thought of all the people who “deserved” to be deported more than I did. I was angry. I was scared. But most of all, I was confused. What “good” could possibly come of my situation?
Reflecting on it now, I am in awe of God’s mercy and grace in spite of my many flaws and imperfections. Little did I know that God would use my situation to catapult me into a national speaking platform where I would share about my experiences as an immigrant and why immigration laws needed to change. Little did I know that I would get to speak to Congressmen, leaders, even the president of the United States and talk about my struggles and the struggles of many like myself in my community. Little did I know that I would face immigration court for five years and miraculously win my impossible case every single time. Little did I know that there was a pony in the poop.
Today, I am a permanent resident and I have the satisfaction of knowing that my story helped re-shaped immigration policy that currently has enabled 2 million undocumented youth to apply for work permits and driver’s licenses. But most importantly, I’ve learned to trust God, even in the darkest of situations. I’ve learned that the Bible isn’t just empty promises or poetic-sounding quotes. The Bible is true and living and active. God’s promises are alive, and he indeed is at work for our good, even when we cannot see it.
So it’s not that we are blind optimist, carelessly wondering through the world. As Christians, we are optimistic because of the hope that is Christ Jesus and we are joyful not out of naivety, but out of the knowledge that, “if God is for us, who can be against us!?” We aren’t looking for a non-existent pony. We just know that the God we trust can take the worst of situations and make something beautiful. So no matter where I am in life I choose to trust my God. I choose to run into the situation, get my hands dirty and rejoice in the Lord always. There’s a pony in there somewhere.
Benita Holguin is a middle school math teacher who loves God and is completely convinced that He is amazing beyond what can be expressed with mere words. She is married to the love of her life, Josue, and travels with him to minister in word and music throughout their home state of Texas.