This year, I gave up coffee for Lent. (If you don't know what Lent is, you can read more about it here.) I'm not Catholic or Lutheran or Anglican. I'm Baptist. So it may seem odd to you that I participate in Lent, but it's something I started observing as a religion student at Belmont, and it helps me get my heart and mind focused and ready for Easter every year, so I've kept it up.
If you know anything about me at all, you probably know that coffee is very near and dear to my heart. I've had some wonderful friends over the years that have introduced me to quaint coffee shops and styles of brewing coffee and how espresso is actually a lot like wine in that you can taste different hints of flavors depending on the origin of the coffee beans or how it's processed. Coffee fascinates me, and I love it dearly. I didn't give up coffee for Lent to punish myself. I gave up coffee for Lent because of what coffee represented to me. Coffee had become an escape - a quick fix - an addiction. I had at least one cup every morning, but most of the time I'd have another cup or two in the afternoon or evening. I stopped drinking soft drinks almost three years ago, so coffee has been my main source of caffeine.
I am the proud owner of a Starbucks Rewards Card that has my name and "Member since 2011" stamped on the front of its shiny gold surface. I've used it so often that it's starting to show the effects of being swiped through a card reader over and over and over--sometimes multiple times a day. Not only was I essentially using coffee like a drug, I was also being irresponsible with my money by spending so much of it on coffee every month. Did you know that you can reload your Starbucks card online or from an app on your smart phone? You can. It's very easy. Too easy. After $25 here and $10 there, I was just drinking my paychecks away. If you read that sentence alone, you'd think I was talking about alcohol. Nope. Still coffee. Are you starting to see the problem I had? Kind of ridiculous. IT'S JUST COFFEE. I told myself that I didn't need it. I could live without it. But many afternoons, I'd find myself in the drive-thru on the way home from work. I'm not in college anymore. I have a normal, grown up, day job. It is not necessary for me to stay up past midnight. Ever. I don't need coffee at 5pm. Or 7pm.
Long story short, I gave up coffee because I had to. You don't have to be addicted to prescription medicine or illegal drugs or alcohol to be a "user and abuser". You can abuse anything (or anyone) by relying on them at all. If I want to really follow Jesus, I rely on Him. That's all. The end. I don't rely on anything or anyone else. Not even myself. Without Jesus, I am nothing. Without Jesus, I can do nothing. I am incapable of fixing things on my own--no matter how many times I try, I cannot do it. The good news is, Jesus already fixed it when He died in my place and then defeated death with His resurrection! (Happy Easter!) So really it's pretty stupid of me to try and fix things that Jesus already fixed. I'm doing WAY more work than I need to do. What I didn't realize was that I was using coffee as a means to fuel my pride. I was trying to control everything and handle everything by staying awake. That's so unhealthy. It's not just bad for my body, but also for my mind, my heart, my soul, my relationships, my sanity. I didn't realize any of this until I cut coffee out of my life.
The first couple of days were difficult. If you've ever given up anything addictive, you know that your body goes through withdrawals. Weaning yourself off of coffee means caffeine headaches. Good news though. Water helps. A lot. And sleep helps. And they don't last forever. Now is probably a good time to mention that I did not give up caffeine in general for Lent. Just coffee. So I still drank iced tea and hot tea and ate chocolate. (Side note: I gave up chocolate for Lent two years ago. That ship has sailed. Thankyouverymuch.) I'm 2 days post-Easter and 3 days post-Lent, and I've had approximately 4 cups of coffee since Sunday morning. I thought about not going back to it at all, but God has healed my heart in this situation. I'll spare you the tearful details, but it has been A JOURNEY. Aren't all good things part of a journey? It's definitely not over yet, but my perspective of it--of life--is different. Who knew coffee could have that kind of impact?
Drinking just tea and water for the last 6 weeks or so is what caused a shift in my perspective, and HERE is where you'll find the meaning of this post's title (...are you excited??). I like words. Let's play a word game. When you hear the word "coffee", what do you think of? Here's what I think of: energy, speed, heat, being frantic, rushing, green mermaid ladies. Next question. When you hear the word "tea", what do you think of? Here's my list: calm, warm, time, space, pretty things, refreshing. Do you see a difference? I'm not saying that drinking coffee means you're frantic or in a hurry. Coffee can be refreshing. When I think of times I've met my friends for coffee, I think of times of refreshment and restoration and soul-filling conversation. My problem wasn't with coffee. Coffee is not the bad guy here. My problem was in my heart. Whenever I felt frantic or out of control, I would turn inward to fix the problem, using coffee as fuel. What I should ALWAYS do instead is turn to Jesus. Turning to Jesus can mean more than one thing. Sometimes it's just getting alone with my Bible, my journal and a pen and spending time in God's Word. Sometimes it's going for a walk outside where I can enjoy God's creation. Sometimes it's allowing people who care ABOUT me to care FOR me. Sometimes it's asking people who are smarter than I am for help. And sometimes those situations involve coffee. Or tea. Or water. Or juice. Or ice cream. But turning to Jesus NEVER looks like me handling anything on my own.
Trying to do life alone is not what God intended for us. It's actually dangerous. God designed us for community--both with Him and with other people. In the Amplified version of the Bible, 1 Peter 5:6-7 says:
Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation]
under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all]
on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.
Isn't that wonderful? God cares FOR me and ABOUT me. Like I said before, Jesus already finished the work on the cross. There's no work left to be done. I just have to let go and trust Him. We have the easiest jobs in the world, but so often we make things more difficult than they are. The featured blog at (in)courage today is about letting go of our worries. We carry things around that God has offered to take from us and carry for us. We are dumb, y'all. That's dumb! God is bigger than any of our problems or concerns or worries or insecurities, and (bonus!) He wants to take care of us and carry it for us! Can we just let Him?
I'm committing to not trying to fix anything on my own. Because I can't. There is nothing too big or too small for God. I can't tell you what to do because I don't know your story. I haven't lived it. But I can tell you that it's not worth trying to carry burdens on your own. I don't have any answers to give you, so let me just encourage you. Jesus is there. Waiting patiently for us to trust Him. He will handle the hard things. Sometimes it seems hard to let go, but honestly it ends up being so much easier and so much better than holding on.
So let go with me? Choose the calm over the storm. It's not about the coffee or the tea. It's about the state of our hearts and who we're relying on. Choose the calm.