I love coffee shops. It’s the whole relaxed, bohemian ambience. Where you can temporarily escape the helter shelter of life. Flick through the Sunday papers, get caught up with friends or just sit back and watch the world go by. The comfy chairs, the free wifi. Yes I love coffee shops.
What’s more I love the smell of coffee, the look and texture of the coffee beans. I am fascinated by the various metal devices the baristas operate so effortlessly. I love the look of coffee. The way it swirls in the cup, the effect that the various creams and marshmallows have when piled on top. It is an artform. Some of them look almost too good to drink. And the exotic names – cappuccino, macchiato, mocha. The more convoluted the better as far as I’m concerned. ‘Can I have a venti iced skinny espresso triple whipped cream with caramel drizzle please?’.
There’s just one slight problem when it comes to my love affair with all things coffee. The taste. Nope, can’t stand the stuff. You name it I hate it. Coffee cake, coffee sweets, coffee anything has me retching and diving for the nearest basin. I can gag for Ireland when it comes to the taste of coffee. I am a coffee shop fraud, an imposter. I am that 15 year old in the Nirvana t shirt who has never heard of Kurt Cobain.
Yet how I’ve tried when out with work colleagues (Fionnuala hates coffee too so we are rarely in coffee shops together). I’ve tried to stomach the taste for the greater good. I’ve winced and gurned in vain as I’ve battled to keep down the weakest latte that you can buy. I’ve attempted to mask the taste with various syrups, creams and flavourings. But all to no avail. Coffee is my frenemy. Or Frappuchenemy….
So I sit in the coffee shop with all the beautiful people weighed down with the guilt and shame that I am not one of them. Green with envy as they sip and slurp their favourite beverages. As I fraudulently pretend that my gingerbread flavoured steamed milk is in fact a skinny latte. I am an outsider. I do not fit in. They are Rachel and Ross. I want to be Chandler but I’m not even Joey. I am Gunther.
Have you ever sat in a church and felt the same. Surrounded by happy, smiley people whose lives are going exactly as they planned them. Perfect families, perfect lives, perfect everything. While you feel broken, useless and irredeemable. You haven’t read your Bible in nearly a month. You screamed at the kids earlier today. You are jealous of the new car that your upwardly mobile neighbour has just purchased.
You are no good. You will never be like these people. You are a joke. May as well get up and leave now. Before they find out what you are really like. A hopeless, pathetic mess.
That’s the lie. That’s what Satan wants you to believe. He’s not called The Deceiver for nothing. He’s a master at it. Dragging you down and beating you up. But the truth is that you do belong there. Look a little closer. Look beneath the surface. Those beautiful, perfect people sitting all around you are quite the opposite. They are just as broken and hopeless as you feel. Beneath the veneer we are all struggling. All looking for that one thing that will fill the gaping hole inside us.
People spend their entire lives trying to fill it. With money, with sex, with power. They are doomed to fail. Because only God can fill a God-sized hole. So when you stand before Him weighed down with your past then know that you are in exactly the right place. And you have just as much right to be there as anybody else. You are not a fraud. You are just a real person. As beat up and confused as the rest of us are by life.
God sees the real you. He knows where you need help and healing. While your local coffee shop offers you a plethora of choice, Christianity offers you just the one. Jesus. Because his way leads to truth and life.
My name is Stephen and I hate coffee. But I love Jesus.
Matthew 11:30 – ‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
What is your favourite coffee? Or are you a coffee fraud like me?
Have you ever sat in a church and felt like you didn’t belong there?
Who is your favourite character from friends?