Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Like a Perfect Cup of Coffee

Each January husband and I commit to three weeks of radical dietary changes. The list of restrictions includes coffee and dairy. Only thirteen days into our tortuous plan I announced with great drama, “Life without lattes is barely worth living. I must have coffee with milk and flavoring!”

The world-wide addiction to coffee is staggering. The United States spent $18 billion last year on what is in essence just heated bean water. Entire empires are built on the back of the humble Arabica bean.

No longer is a 25-cent “Cuppa Joe” adequate. People are now defined by the coffee they drink: Black bean/white bean, non-fat/2%/whole/chocolate milk or soy/almond, extra-hot/iced, whip/no whip, flavoring, latte/Americano/Macchiato/Breve/Frappe, and more. Good baristas not only know all the terms, they remember what regular patrons prefer. By the time I roll up to the neighborhood kiosk, mine is usually waiting.

Home brewers have also elevated their game. Grandmother percolated her coffee-- which was somehow enhanced by adding an eggshell to the grounds. Grandfather preferred instant crystals, for which he always responded, “Sanka very much.” Now people are adding (very expensive) Keurigs to their kitchens.

Coffee is a cultural event. Caffeine propels us from our pillows to the workforce. For some it is a relaxing ritual at the end of a good meal. Leaders of the most powerful nations in the world drink it. So do astronauts, migrant workers, heart surgeons, and the homeless who sleep on our streets. To invite someone over for a “cup of coffee” is often the initiation of a friendship.

If coffee drinks could be equated to people, no two cups are ever exactly alike. From the DNA of the bean to the purity of the water and post-brew additives, each one is unique. It is impossible to make the absolutely-same cup a second time. And yet, when true aficionados order at a coffee bar, their preferences represent more than just a hot beverage of choice; they both entertain and define. 

I’ve watched my barista, Sammy for years and there’s one universal problem, a fatal flaw about which Paul wrote over and over. Perfection is impossible.  

The temperature of the brewing water might be a degree too low, or sustained for a minute too long. Not every bean was picked the moment it had ripened into excellence. The flavoring exceeded its optimal shelf life. The milk wasn’t donated by a free-range cow.

Believe me, there’s no worse delay than being in line behind a coffee perfectionist who can taste the date hazelnut flavoring was bottled and won’t leave until the barista re-makes their beverage with a newer one.  

Life is a lot like a cup of coffee. It depends on many variables over which we have no control. Instead of using them to mold our character, most of us hold tightly to our rigid expectations and complain bitterly when no one listens.   

We focus on how well we are served rather than on those Jesus calls us to serve. 

Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

Later, Paul knew when the end of his life was approaching. He had given himself as a “drink offering” for the gospel’s sake. “For me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.” (2 Timothy 4:6-7)

I’ve no doubt that Paul would’ve enjoyed an imperfect cup of coffee… after others had been served the best.