If you’re like me, you spend some time each week standing in line to order your favorite coffee drink. But, if you’re also like me, you’ve discovered the coffee shop isn’t really selling coffee. Their success isn’t built on the coffee, no matter how good it is. What they’re really selling is relationship and community.
It’s certainly not news that we’ve become a society of individuals who go tearing here and there, enslaved by schedules, appointments, obligations and the incessant expectations of the SoCal lifestyle. What’s more, we’ve become addicted to it. We live for the pace, the frantic adrenaline-laced feeling that if we’re going to make it we have to hurry, make the light, work through lunch, multi-task, and eat 80 percent of our meals in the car. We’ve effectively squeezed the joy of unscheduled, relaxed time out of our lives and bought into the myth that the busy life is the best life.
But, deep down we know we’re tired of measuring the quality of our lives by the number of tasks we complete. And we’re conflicted about it. We desperately want to be shakers and movers who are super-successful. But we also sense our souls long to find a significance that busy-ness seems incapable of producing. Our driven lives are busy, but we really wish they were blessed.
And so we find ourselves drawn to the coffee shop. The baristas know our names, and even our favorite drinks. If it’s Wednesday morning it must be a grande Americano with an extra shot! We enjoy seeing the same people from time to time and hearing about the simple things that make up everyday life. It’s here we feel what life is supposed to be. We seem to matter because of who we are rather than just because of what we do.
And whether we recognize it or not, the coffee shop is doling out community, with or without cream. They’ve built a refuge from the ticking clock and filled it with relationship. If we’re honest, the coffee has simply become an excuse to come to the oasis for a few minutes to be refreshed by the most profound of human experiences … relationship.
But what the coffee shop industry has discovered is actually a very old maxim. The best things in life come, not from what we accomplish but from who we are, who we’re with, and who we all are becoming. And when someone recognizes and appreciates us for who we are, it can become intoxicating, and we come back for more coffee.
Am I overselling this? Perhaps, but you all intuitively recognize at least some truth in this, and you resonate with it even if you never enjoy a cup o’ joe. Our schedules keep getting more hectic even as our lives become less satisfying. Something is out of sync.
What’s missing is the care and feeding of our souls, and truthfully, even the best coffee shop experience can provide only the shallowest nourishment. What we need is to recognize what God has always known. We are creatures with a consistent need of both rest and relationship. Ancient Israel was commanded to set aside an entire day per week – the Sabbath — to rest and reflect on their relationship to God. And while we are no longer under the Old Testament law, having been freed in Christ, I have found great benefit in putting a little Sabbath into every day. Sometimes it is sitting in my backyard with my wife, enjoying the sunset and an hour of delightful conversation. At other times it is throwing out a topic and engaging friends in a profitable discourse. Whatever the venue, there is nothing so refreshing as letting time go, and rediscovering the joy of relationship.
As a busy, driven person, I know how hard it is to relax, slow down, and let go of my “to-do” list. But when I do, I draw nearer to my God, and nearer to those he has gathered around me, by his grace.
After all, good friends and time to enjoy them may be our greatest accomplishment of all.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” moves to Sundays on July 29.