Here I sit with two of my favorite things; bright warm sunlight and dark hot coffee. It still seems odd to call coffee “a favorite thing.” For forty-six of my almost forty-seven years I liked only one thing about coffee … the smell. Earthlings breathe 78.09% Nitrogen, 20.95% Oxygen and a .93% cocktail of argon and other trace gases. The atmosphere of my memories is coffee: coffee and gasoline at work with my dad, coffee and grease at the small-town diner, coffee and humidified wallpaper in my mother’s kitchen … these are the scents of childhood.
Despite all those good connections, I’ve never really liked coffee. I couldn’t get past the taste. Periodically my taste buds would dangle one toe in the dark waters, but they never had any desire to swim in the stuff. Once when a friend was marveling over the “best cup of coffee he’d ever tasted,” I tried it again … I was rewarded with the same bitter experience I’d had with every other cup.
My relationship with coffee changed drastically in May of 2011. Now I can’t pass a Target Store without wanting to stop … not because I like their trendy merchandise, but because I know they have a Starbucks. I not only like coffee, I like dark Sumatran! One barista heard my conversion story and exclaimed, “Wow, you like went from novice to coffee-snob overnight!”
So … why the change? As my wife and I started down the road toward serving God oversees, we began reading books on missions. One book, commenting on cultural sensitivity, mentioned that in some societies it’s a great offense to refuse a cup of coffee. Knowing that we’d likely be ministering to multiple ethnicities I thought, “I should at least learn to tolerate the taste of coffee.” So, while attending the Missionary Assessment Center, I had my first full cup of coffee. I remember two things about the experience; the intriguing name of the blend (Velvet Hammer) and the incredible sense of mental alertness that followed. I turned to Sue and exclaimed … “This is how people get so much done!” I’ve pretty much loved coffee ever since.
What do you make of the fact that I had to feel the effects of coffee before I learned to like the taste? You probably think that I have a highly addictive personality. Well … I don’t … at least no more so than the other 56% of U.S. citizen who like/need several cups every day. We can call my therapist later … we have something more important to talk about.
I grew up liking the idea of obedience. It was part of the atmosphere of Christianity. In my church it wafted through the air, carried aloft by the strains of songs like “Trust and Obey.” We all loved the smell of obedience … it was the taste we couldn’t stomach. Obedience, we feared, would taste bitter, like sacrifice or deprivation. I say “we feared” the taste, because many of us never seriously tried obedience.
I heard a preacher who didn’t drink coffee say he used to walk around on Sundays holding a Styrofoam cup. He didn’t have any intention of drinking coffee … but he wanted to fit in. We like to talk about submission to God’s will, but stop somewhere short of total immersion. We do all that’s convenient or palatable, but stop short of total abandonment to the will of our Creator. I know I’m being hard on you … US … but sing through this much loved chorus and check it against the reality of your life:I will worship with all of my heart I will praise You with all of my strength I will seek You all of my days And I will follow all of Your ways I will give You all my worship I will give You all my praise You alone I long to worship You alone are worthy of my praise I will bow down and Hail You as king And I will serve You, give You everything I will lift up my eyes to Your throne And I will trust You … trust You alone
Okay … let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. We love to sing this song … and we even want to mean it. How can we close the gap on obedience so we can sing this song with greater integrity?
Obedience is making our will subservient to the will of God. The human heart is rebellious by nature and will not like the taste of obedience. Drink a steaming hot cup of obedience anyway! Whatever you clearly know of God’s will for your life … act on that! Then act on the next thing. Obedience is an acquired taste! There is a growing excitement that comes with following God, an intimacy that only comes from repeatedly saying, “Yes Lord!” When you feel the effects of obedience in your relationship with God … you will begin to thirst for it. Don’t let your fear of surrender keep you from the one embrace that alone brings peace and security.
The old hymn got it right …We never can prove The delights of His love Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows And the joy He bestows Are for them who will trust and obey … Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!
For further reflection: Matthew 5:6 and 1 Peter 1:13-2:3