Monday, December 7, 2015

Coffee Stains {Advent Days 5-7}

It was the typical afternoon crash, especially for a Friday.  Too many late nights combined with too many early mornings had caught up with me and this girl was T.I.R.E.D.  My son had an occupational therapy appointment and I knew that, without a heavy dose of caffeine, I would be snoring in the waiting room.
We had a little time to kill so I took my three homeschoolers to a local coffee shop and got us all a treat.  I doctored my coffee up nicely and led everyone back to the car to drive across town to the Physical Therapy office.  As I sipped my African Skies it kept dripping in my lap.  The drink hole in the plastic lid was lined up with the seam of the cup and coffee was leaking every time I tilted it to my mouth.  I decided to try to turn the lid a little to get the seam on top (stupid me!) and, OOPS, the lid popped off and steaming coffee splattered all over me, all over my jeans and white sweatshirt.  Thankfully it didn't burn my skin but I was a mess and too far from home to turn around and get a change of clothes.  We had exactly fifteen minutes before the appointment so I darted a few blocks past the Physical Therapy office to Old Navy to hopefully find a cheap sweatshirt.
Talk about shopping to beat the clock!  I found a cheap and cute shirt, and grabbed a pair of jeans...even trying them on to be sure they less than ten minutes!  I paid, drove back to the PT office, and darted into the bathroom to change.  I walked out like I had planned to do this all along and stashed my stained and smelly clothes in the car, sitting down calmly to sip my coffee and fight sleep while my boy was in his appointment.

So tonight I was mulling this over and it struck me that there is a lesson in this mundane, coffee-stained story.  

When I came out of the bathroom with my new clothes on, there were different people in the waiting room than had been there when I arrived.  Those who saw me walk in saw the hurried, stinky version of me.  Those who saw me walk out saw me in new clothes...a signature sweatshirt and Rock Star cut jeans.  (High waisted...every over-40 woman's friend!)  They saw me sit quietly to finish the book I had been reading on my Kindle and probably thought I was a calm, laid back person.  They didn't see me yelling for wet-wipes as I drove down the road and hot coffee was steaming off my arms.  They saw the me that I like everyone to see, put-together and calm.

But you know what?  The frazzled coffee-stained mom is more the real me than the one in the new clothes.  Sure, I managed to hide the evidence in a plastic Old Navy bag in my car but those clothes are the ones I have worn for years.  Oversized, frayed and faded.  But when I got home, I still had to deal with the reality that those clothes needed to be washed.  The only other option would be to throw them away.

Do you see where I am going with this?

How often do I put on my calm, new-outfit self and pretend like I don't have coffee (SIN) stained clothes stashed somewhere?  Aren't we all guilty of being perky, bouncy, cheerleader Christians when we are really frazzled, frustrated, and faithless?  Why is it so hard to go out in public with stains?  Could it be because we think we are the only ones with them?

When I saw my friend this morning, a dear sister who I hadn't laid eyes on in person in a couple of years (even though we live in the same town), she quickly expressed concern and frustration with that child of hers who is clearly cut from different cloth than the others.  I saw the weariness in her face and felt so free in her presence because I know exactly what she is dealing with.  Loving someone who can be difficult, worrying that the struggle is the result of faulty parenting and just really wanting a break from the constant battle.  Yes, in her openness about her struggle I was put at ease to be open with mine.  Her lack of fear squelched mine.

This is how it is supposed to be!

When we let our brothers and sisters see our stains, maybe it helps them to reveal their own.  Maybe we are supposed to help each other do our spiritual laundry instead of stashing it in a plastic bag and pretending the smell is not coming from the back of our car.

Maybe, just maybe, this is what is meant by the words of Galatians 6:1-3...
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should
restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

I believe we are to look upon one another's stains with grace.  We are to help each other clean them up gently and make sure we are dealing with our own at the same time so that we don't become condescending.  God wants us to be real, to admit weakness and be strong for our brothers and sisters in their weak places while allowing them to be strong for us in our weak places.  
In this is safety.  In this is community.  In this is found true, Christ-honoring family.

coffee, spill, coffee cup, coffee stain, black coffee, messy, mess, clean up

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