Monday, February 26, 2007

Temptation, Thy Name is Coffee

"A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is... A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in." --C.S. Lewis

That Clive Staples! How does he always manage to take a common struggle or widely-accepted premise and turn it over on all sides and finally pin it to the mat like an agile wrestler? He is my favorite heavy-weight.

Temptation is what my English teacher would have called a round, complex character, not a flat, black/white character, but a nuanced, sly, cunning, prismatic, beautiful character.

For example, should you try to tempt me today to go shopping for a beautiful new diamond bracelet, I would smile at you, shake my head and forget it. Out of the question, no problemo.

However, should you tempt me today with even a stale packet of instant generic COFFEE, I might nervously shift from one foot to the other, lick my lips and throw my palm over my eye to stop the twitch. I might be thinkin' your proposal over. Seriously.

Why? Because I decided to fast coffee for Lent. Now, I'm not a coffee addict. I'm not a coffee snob. But I have a morning routine that includes one mandatory cup in 1 of 3 special mugs. Can I just tell you that not only am I missing that early-bird cup, but I am thinking about coffee all day long!

Well, I bought some green tea to help "take the edge off." Yeow. One sip and the edge was back on ... my teeth. I've been adding lemon and promising myself every sip is zapping bad free radicals. It was going fairly well until my 17 year-old son questioned me, "Should you really be having that tea? I mean, is it really fasting if you give yourself a substitute?"

Thirty seconds of ominous silence and then, my answer: "Should you really be badgering your java junkie mom about her spirituality when she controls your car keys, TiVo and food supply? I mean, is it really sane for you to still be standing right there in front of me right now?"

I think you see the depths temptation can drag one into.

I'm noticing coffee everywhere. I agreed to meet a friend to talk at a coffee shop, forgetting my fast until the aroma immediately began seducing me. By the time I left, I was so whipped up for coffee I thought a mug of Joe was going to tear my cloak as I ran out the door, a la Joseph escaping Mrs. Potiphar.

I work in a building with a coffee shop. When the manager has that morning brew going, my feet feel like they're leaving the ground and fluttering like butterfly wings toward the coffee bar.

I went to church Sunday morning and realized there would be no coffee for me.

It's still cold here. Tonight at Bible study some lady gingerly held her Starbucks cup to warm her hands and sipped it the WHOLE time. The topic was predestination, and all I could think about was how that blessed lady with the coffee was like the elect and I was like ... uh, I couldn't concentrate enough to complete the analogy. That's bad.

Commercials, blogs with coffee in their names ... it's everywhere.

AAhh, Temptation, be ye flat or complex--I am thankful for you. Not joyous, just humbly thankful. You keep me from the sheltered life C.S. Lewis spoke about. You remind me of how weak I am and how much I need a Savior. You underscore that I am capable of not only the imminent sin I might commit, but every sin. You uncover my selfishness and rebelliousness. You connect me to a long history and large community--humanity. You make me compassionate toward others who are being tempted. You keep me on my feet, watching for your subtlety and guile--urging me to take bad shortcuts to get to good goals such as satisfaction, intimacy and comfort.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, specifically to throw himself off the mountain and have his kingdom come right then and there without suffering, he refused the shortcut. He chose the life he had been given, even with its suffering, showing us that it is possible to say no to temptation in order to say "Yes, I will sacrifice; I will obey," to the Father.

A cup of coffee is a small, small thing to forego. But I am re-visiting some big, big lessons every time I reach for an empty mug. The Holy Spirit meets us where we are, and lately, we are meeting over coffee, or the lack thereof, and I am coming away satisfied.


Mommy, the Human Napkin said...

Wow, Linda! You've given me something to think about this morning...

Hot cocoa, my friend. Hot cocoa.

Susanne said...

Umm, did my comment go through?

Linda said...

no susanne, I missed it.

samurai said...

Oh how sweet the lesson and growth - but only after you have journeyed through the fire.

May God continue to give you the strength and endurance to come through this time of trial.

Magnanimity said...

One of your top blogs.

Thanks for the heart food!


Kim said...

This was excellent! I'm down to 1/2 cup each morning....I am just cutting back because I want to...but I do enjoy a decaf latte as often as possible!


Melanie said...


I had never thought of tempation in this light. Thank you. Excellent writing, by the way!

Clemntine said...

That Lewis quote is one of my favorites, and I hadn't thought of it in a while. Thanks for the reminder.

A very insightful post, this. I read it twice to wring all the good out of it.


Karen said...

Wow. Fabulous post. I found your blog through Kim at Lifesong. I have always loved CS Lewis and that quote is a favorite.

Sandy said...

Giving up coffee, sugar, chocolate ... whatever we feel has a strong-hold on us, made me wonder if we could give up blogging in the same way!

Great post!

Susan said...


That is a beautiful, beautiful post!! I love that you are learning such BIG lessons from your "small thing"...

May God continue to bless this time for you.

:-) Susan

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful reminder of how much we need God for guidance and discipline. I am fasting from quite a few things this lent and it has been a true blessing to rely on God when my body is feeling weak and withdrawing. I pray that this time is a time of growth in Him or you and that you recognize how much victory you have through Christ! Be blessed :) "gchyayles"

William said...

I am sure glad to kow that someone else is enjoying this coffee free lenten season with me. It has been a lonely journey but a good cup of java is just 7 days away.

Many Blessings - Great blog

William T Chaney Jr

William said...

Great Blog

Many Blessings

William T Chaney Jr