I had a really hard time concentrating in church this week. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
From what I heard, the pastor was talking about John 3:16. You know, THE verse. The one that most of us can recite by heart? Even many people who aren’t Christians know that verse. This pastor was talking about the different kinds of love God has – love for the world, for the trinity, for his creation, and so on. It was a great sermon, I’m sure. I just couldn’t concentrate. When I finally got my focus back on his message, I tuned in to him saying that we all have to share our faith with the world using words. And we have to share it by sharing our struggles and our joys. Again, with words.
So I’m going to share with you one of my current struggles.
Starting with why I had trouble concentrating in church.
It was the girl in front of me. She had a nice, cold, perspiring cup of iced chocolatey coffee sitting under her chair. I wanted desperately to take it from her.
I haven’t had coffee in 25 days. That’s over 600 hours that caffeine has been out of my system and it has been so much harder than I ever thought it would be. If you are about to tune out I urge you to stay with me since I’m supposed to share this struggle with you – according to the only 5 minutes of preaching I heard this week.
When Lent started this year people were talking about what they were going to “give up” and I honestly just didn’t want to participate. Growing up I always saw it as a Catholic thing and I wasn’t Catholic, but since then I’ve been part of Protestant churches that have participated in the Lenten season too. I haven’t ever really done it. I mean, what’s the point of giving something up for 40 days just to start again when it was over? And why should I give anything else up this year? I mean, hasn’t my family done enough giving up already by moving to this country with just a few suitcases? What else, God?
Then one morning, the day after Ash Wednesday, so, Thursday, I went up to my husband’s office to join him in prayer time. I don’t go very often but sometimes I like to feel close to the IJM family so I wanted to participate that day. The office director led a devotional that day talking about how much more we can appreciate Jesus’s sacrifice if we undergo a bit of the temptation and testing He underwent in the desert as we approach Easter. Oh, yeah, that’s Lent again.
I strongly sensed God was telling me to participate this year. But there wasn’t anything that I would be seriously tempted or tested with. I could easily give up facebook or sweets or my favorite sandals or something like that. It had to be something more, God was saying. Something that would in fact be a daily temptation, both physical and emotional. The one and only thing that fit that criteria was caffeine. So right then and there I gave it up. And not just for Lent. Forever. I don’t want to be addicted anymore. I may someday be able to have a cup here and there but I was done with the everyday need.
Life has been so hard since then.
I knew what awaited me physically. For a couple days (while my wise and lucky husband was out of town) I suffered intense headaches, shaky limbs, blurry vision, and irritability that my only God saved my children from with a husband away.
But I had no idea what it would do to my head. I was clueless to the fact that just a mere 5 minutes after I made this commitment I would be in the ONE restaurant in all of Cambodia that makes a decent glass of iced tea. A nice cool glass that doesn’t have some weird lime or pineapple or orange juice mixed into the tea. I wanted it so badly and it was so tempting to give up right then and there.
I didn’t know I would go out to Bible study a week later and as the ladies I met with ordered coffee, I would spend the entire Bible study envisioning kicking the table so hard that their mugs would fall off and break, spilling the coffee all over the floor. Yes, I did see this happen in my mind and it was beautiful.
I had no idea that I would sit in church nearly a month later and not be able to focus on the preaching because my mouth became so dry I started coughing as I yearned for the coffee of a girl in front of me, a girl I barely knew yet wanted to steal her coffee and drink out of her straw get every last sip even if it made that loud sucking noise in the middle of church.
Wow. I wasn’t doing this Lent thing right.
I had emptied my body of coffee and caffeine, but I wasn’t filling it back up with Jesus.
One of my friends emailed me recently “My time with God needs a shot in the arm.” Boy, do I know how she feels. The beautiful thing is, that when we ask Him, He fills us up. Every single time. Jesus says in John 4 that if we drink his water we will never thirst again. He will, however, continue to fill our hearts to overflowing with his Holy Spirit every time we ask. We do need to ask, though.
I guess what I’ve learned - what I'm still learning - from my current struggle is that If I’m going to continue living without a caffeine addiction and try to move past all the crazy psychological stuff happening to me, I’m going to need to ask Jesus for some of that living water, whether it tastes like coffee or not. And it might be good for me to ask Him to refill my cup every single morning.