I felt an uneasy feeling of guilt, the stillest of smallest voices, as I pushed the top down on my AeroPress. The delicious aroma of rich, fresh coffee filled the cold morning air with a warmth that welcomed the new day and reminded me that I could indeed survive out here in the kitchen, away from the comfort of my bed. I sat down in my favorite chair, clutching that hot coffee mug as though it’s contents held the secret to life. Ahhh, my precious…
I wondered about that still, small voice that had recently made me feel uneasy about enjoying something so simple as a cup of joe. It had been tugging at me for a week or so. Was it some weird Puritanical urge to feel guilty at anything that brings pleasure? Maybe I should just suffer through the morning with some boring black tea to build character. No, that wasn’t it. Was I feeling guilty because I was worried about the caffeine when I am pregnant? No, my midwife gave me the green light to have one cup of coffee. Maybe it was because it was Lent, and although it’s not my practice to observe Lent, perhaps I was feeling that I should be doing so? Nope, that wasn’t it.
After a few mornings of feeling funny about drinking coffee and knowing well the source of that still, small voice, I finally asked God – what’s up?
Do I need to give up my morning cup?
Yes, you do.
Ok, for how long?
I can do that! I’m pretty sure that Lent thing is 40 days, so I’m getting off the hook easy!
Five days was how long it took for me to learn what I needed to. The lesson had nothing to do with coffee itself. It was about where I draw my strength from and where I lean when I am stretched thin and challenged. I think it’s one of the most important lessons I’ve recently learned because it spoke to the heart of my identity, showing me what I reach for to feel strong and capable.
I’m not going to say that being a mom is the hardest job ever, but for me, it has challenged me to grow (in sometimes painful ways) in a way that nothing else ever has. My sweet baby boy is now almost two, and although I LOVE him more that words can say, these days I have many moments of exasperation and of… well, not totally liking him. Anyone with a toddler knows that everything is a phase. The sweet, happy charmer one day can become a tiny tyrant the next, leaving you pulling at your hair and either praying for patience or cussing under your breath. The week I laid aside coffee happened to fall on a very intense week with the little guy, and dad was out of town on a work trip, so I was left to handle the midnight tantrums and public daytime meltdowns on my own. I really needed that flipping cup of coffee… or a dirty martini, but again, I’m pregnant, so that wasn’t happening. I had been reaching for the cup of coffee like it was my well-spring of life. I gratefully slurped down the hot liquid, knowing and trusting that it would turn my tired, pregnant brain back on, giving me super-powers to get the day going, despite that fact that inside I felt weak, tired, selfish, and not enough.
Under the illusion that my sacred cup of coffee was bolstering me up, I became weaker in my inner being, in my spirit. “IF I start the day with a good cup of coffee, I can handle everything with grace.” Of course I rationally know that’s not true. Coffee may perk my brain up, but it does nothing to strengthen my spirit. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, where my true strength comes from. And yet I forget to turn there so easily. I so easily replace a vibrant, life-giving relationship with my Creator with cheap tricks, a quick fix, and crutches. As I came to understand the heart of my coffee issue, my eyes where opened to the other areas in my life where I misplace my security and strength:
If I always have a well-stocked kitchen full of only organic, whole foods.
If I know how to sprout my own grains and ferment my own sauerkraut.
If I learn everything there is to know about health and wellness.
If we have “X” amount of money in savings.
Then I’ll feel strong and capable. Then my family will be healthy and safe. Then I will feel happy and content.
Of course, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with putting an emphasis on drinking great coffee or eating clean or staying healthy or cooking well (or whatever your thing is). But we have to be honest with ourselves when our dependency on them becomes too heavy. I’m not talking chemical or physical dependency, I’m talking spiritual dependency. Our spirits have a much higher capacity to shape our outlook on life and our responses than any crutch we can dream up. And it’s easier to ignore our spiritual “health” when we are looking in the wrong places for help.
What’s your crutch or your cheap fix? How can you let it go, even just for a time, to discover or remember the richness of your true source of strength and power?
PS As a note of encouragement to other moms with little ones, since I wrote this post, Aiden had already moved on to a more enjoyable, easier phase. If you’re in a tough spot, this too will pass!!