My first coffee was a Starbucks grande white chocolate mocha. I was a student at Princeton Theological Seminary at the time. One of my co-workers (yes, I was working at the A Little Taste of Cuba cigar parlor at the time, but cigars do not figure into this story) was also a manager at the Starbucks up the street. When he found out I was not a coffee drinker, he was determined to change that fact about me. So he started dropping by on his break with a white chocolate mocha for me. Man, I thought it was amazing! So sweet, chocolate, and smooth! It was not at all what I had thought coffee was like. Of course, I was all about the whipped cream too.
Then one day he came in with a mocha latte for me. Not as sweet, but still very rich. It wasn’t long before that became my go-to coffee over the white chocolate mocha, which now seemed almost too sweet.
A few years later, I was told that you could lose 10-15 pounds in a year, simply by cutting out the cream in my coffee. Given my pleasantly sedentary lifestyle, I thought if it was that easy to take off a few pounds I would do that and gave cream up cold turkey and started drinking my coffee black. It was not easy at first. It tasted bitter so I tried to dull it by using sugar substitutes. As time went on, I started using less and less sweeteners as I learned to enjoy the taste of the coffee. Then, one day, I found myself out of sweeteners and had to drink it straight black. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! In fact, I found I liked it.
It has been a fifteen year journey from that first white chocolate mocha, and while regrettably I have not lost a single pound, I really enjoy a good cup of coffee. It may be hot or iced, but I take it black…preferably with a shot of espresso!
When I think about it, my journey with coffee in many ways has parallels our walk with God. Oftentimes when we first come to faith there is a lot of excitement and sweetness about it. We look forward to meeting with Jesus, reading His Word, and worshiping with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Prayer is sweet and life seems full of promise and good things. It is very “white chocolate mocha.”
But as we mature, God starts to take away the whipped cream and the white chocolate that we had grown so accustomed to. Like switching to a mocha latte, we start to notice a depth and a richness to God and faith that we had not taken notice of before. Sometimes we embrace this change and begin to get more serious about our faith and its challenges. Other times we find ourselves longing for the “good old days” of white chocolate mocha faith when we seemed to be always so excited and caught up in God’s richness.
Then God does something very unexpected, He leads us to times and places where all the chocolate syrups, creamers, and sweeteners of the faith seem to be gone. Reading His Word becomes work. Praying comes hard. The means by which we found God’s blessing in the past are taken away or no longer bear the fruit they once did. We fear something has gone wrong because God seems silent, distant, even disinterested. Our spiritual life seems arid and dry and barren…bitter, like black coffee.
But if we persevere we eventually find that far from leaving us, God was building into our spirits a deeper, truer, purer taste for Him. And we come to the place where we realize that the whipped cream, the chocolate, and the sweeteners were not really Him and therefore not really what our hearts truly desired most. We long for Him. Only Him. When we come to this place, we understand that God was teaching us to love Him over His blessings, to love Him for who He is and not for the pleasant feelings being in His presence often brings, to love Him for who He is and not because we like His plan for us.
Maybe I’ve just had too much coffee….but such are my thoughts today.