Grace Like Coffee & Sleep ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Grace Like Coffee & Sleep

Strong espresso

I became enthused when it occurred to me that God’s grace could, in a shallow sense, be compared to coffee in its effects. Grace, the inexplicable lightening of my spirit, lifting of mental cares, soothing of anger or confusion, sudden arrival of peace—it’s a little bit like the happy aura that follows a mug of well-brewed coffee, preferably dark, preferably from somewhere on the African continent.

The grace which God gives can act like a quick upper, a shot in the arm (or a surge in the blood veins via the throat), when we discover that Christ has made us capable of doing something or loving someone that we simply couldn’t have a moment before.

Of course, I quickly realized that the Coffee Perspective on the grace of God, while admittedly frivolous, also fails to cover all the bases.

For example: Once we come to know Jesus, we can’t go a minute without grace. In reality, the fact that we met Christ at all was dependent on grace. Grace began the relationship, and grace maintains it—every friendship between man and God is powered purely by grace. For the analogy to work, then, I would have to do more than have a couple cups of joe a day. I would have to swim in it.

And not only that. I would have to be drinking it from the cradle to the grave, and this just doesn’t happen. Not even Aidan started drinking coffee until, I think, week three.

Another caveat would have to do with the potential for substance abuse. When your blood type is predominantly coffee, you have overdone it. With grace, on the other hand, there can be no
wrong chronic dependence, debilitating no over-use. The more the better.

I am on my way to total addiction, I hope.

As the shortcomings of the Coffee Perspective became evident, I realized that I could correct many of the problems by making the grace metaphor two-fold. What if I said, Grace is like coffee…and sleep. Ha!

By affirming two essentials that seemed diametrically opposed to most people, I had found a way out of my dilemma. (This has, incidentally, been a favorite method in theology throughout history, and one that we cannot dispense with, as people who have met this God-man.)

Grace is like sleep. As I thought about it, I realized that the Coffee Perspective was almost screaming for a complementing metaphor, and this was it. When it comes to God’s enabling, healing grace, some people need an upper and others (like me) need to learn to rest.

Grace teaches us how to rest. God gives a mysterious comfort, a non-anxiety, an attitude of spiritual relaxation to his people. As C.S. Lewis says, “They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from.” Some of us, of course, spend this time rushing around wondering what trivial thing we should be accomplishing next, which is why we need not more coffee, but real rest.

Adoption by the Father, acceptance in his kingdom, security in Christ, the approval of a heavenly audience—the love of God—these things create a spiritual rest that will sink deep hooks in us if we will let it. Of course, this sounds like we are admitting we are tired.

I've observed that “I'm tired but getting by, you know” seems to be the stylish thing to say these days—but the admission of a need for this grace-sleep would be more like acknowledging that your chronic driven-ness had pushed you near the point of death. And this is hardly stylish. The medical instructions for swallowing grace state that a large glass of humility should be at your elbow.

My cursory search for grace metaphors has revealed something about myself that I suspect is true of a lot of people. We’d rather drink more coffee than learn to rest. Our culture likes caffeine much more than sleep. We'd prefer not to think too deeply about or look too closely at our ourselves.

Therefore it follows that we’d prefer to think of grace as empowering us to run races, win battles, accomplish great things, instead of in its primary capacity: to make us see that we are children who have been, and always will be, brought near to Christ through a child-like trust and not by our spiritual savvy.

We need both slumber and bravado. Grace is like coffee and sleep. I just suspect that in my life, the rest needs more emphasis. My pulse needs to slow, not accelerate. To rest in Christ is to go against the grain of almost everything that I have taught me.

But sleep I will. Addiction to grace demands it.


This post was catalyzed, with the help of strong coffee, by a message by John Vanderhorst, "Grace - God's Provision for Every Need" (April 9, 2006).

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Will Robison said...

Wow. Sleep and Coffee. I am in shock. I think you just described the human condition. No wonder there's a Starbucks on every corner and people can't remember how they survived before without all that coffee. We've amped up our society so much that we couldn't slow down if we tried. Coffee will give way to other stimulants just to keep up. All we really need is sleep. May God grant us the grace to figure that out.

Andy said...

In my case, substitute "blogging" for "coffee".

"We'd rather blog that learn to rest."

Especially on weekends.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife