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The coffee wasn’t good. Quite honestly, it was bad. Somebody had burned the beans. I could taste soot. Maybe they used soot instead of coffee ground? Whatever they did, this was a bad cup of coffee. I tried to keep a straight face as a I sipped it across from a friend that I have known for years.
Under normal circumstances, it would have been an occasion for me to wax eloquently about the coffee. Or for him to make fun of me for being such a coffee snob. How many times had I heard him say ‘Grant, just shut up and either drink the coffee or not. Don’t push your coffee elitism on me.’ I’m not sure ‘elitism’ and ‘coffee’ should ever be used in the same sentence but the point is well-taken. Normally.
But not today. I sat silently. I resonated deeply with what he was sharing today. Between family issues, job issues, and relationship issues – he felt like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He felt like there were way to many people in his life sucking the life out of him. He loved them all but truth be told, he was exhausted and tired of being the ‘go-to guy’ in all these people’s lives.
The pause at the table wasn’t awkward at all. We both needed the space.
“How do you feed your soul?”
The question came out of my mouth but was directed at us both.
“How do you feed your soul?”
He took a deep breath. “This is where you give me the ‘pastor talk’, right? Read your Bible, pray, Love, Live, Serve, Multiply.”
It is both a blessing and curse having a close friend like this.
“Well…sort of. Not really. Just answer the question like I wasn’t a pastor and instead was a friend you were having coffee with.”
“That’s sort of the problem, bro. I know what I’m supposed to do…I just don’t feel like doing it. I don’t have the energy. My prayers are jokes. I end up repeating the same [stuff*], over and over again.”
He didn’t say ‘stuff’ and it made the sentence all that much clearer and deeper. I give up on the coffee at this point. It’s not good and the conversation is.
“What was your go-to move in basketball?”
He now gives me the ‘what the heck’ look. I explain a bit further. “You know that move you go-to when you are playing against someone who is either better than you or at least forces you to play differently than normal. For me, I had this little baby-hook for guys who were smaller and quicker than me. For guys that were bigger than me, I had a little jab-step, crossover move. What was yours?”
He nodded. He knew this wasn’t really about basketball. “I don’t have one. I mean – I’ve got a couple in basketball but that’s not what we are talking about here.”
Spiritually, we have to find a way to tap into the limitless fountain of resources that are available to us in Christ. Prayer, bible study, reading, worship, service, discipling – all the spiritual disciplines are SUPPOSED to be ways to tap into this fountain.
The problem is that too many times they become things we do, notches on our spiritual to-do list. We see them as tasks, as activities we NEED to be doing instead of strategies that keep us connected to our God.
So all is needed is a perspective change? Not hardly. There are times when nothing works. It feels like nothing works. The outflow of resources exceeds the inflow of refreshment from Christ.
That’s where he was at. Been there. Done that. It’s a constant battle. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s where we are all headed if we don’t have the connection to the source.
How do we keep connected to the source even when we don’t feel like it?
Have a go-to resource. Every time I read My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, it takes me to a deep place. Every time. If I’m stuck or dry, I go here. It helps me re-see the Scriptures. It helps my ears get retuned to the whisperings of Jesus. If you are stuck – find your ‘go-to’ resource. I think it will be helpful.
Get in a gospel.. For me, rereading the gospel of John continues to inspire me. I see something different every time I read it. Sometimes it’s a miracle or a word, a scene – something grabs my heart again and reconnects me. I think it is because the gospels connect us directly to the story of God. We don’t have to figure out setting or time frame. It’s straight story and it connects.
Pray out loud. I’ll admit it. I get lazy in my prayer life at times. I’ll pray in my mind, turn off the radio, get quiet. But then I’ll do it in my head. That’s fine but there is something deeper about giving voice to our prayers. There is something mystical about hearing our prayers out loud. Writing them down also has this same effect.
Pray the Psalms. There are times when you can’t form the words. It just takes too much. Pick a psalm and start praying that psalm…out loud.
Get raw, not polished. I was talking with a friend and I asked them if they were ready to pray. He said – no, you do it. I said – I think it’s going to be better if you do it. He said – I’m so mad right now, I’m not sure God would even hear my prayer. I pushed – “tell you what, just pray right now whatever you are feeling directly to God. No filter. Just let it fly”
What followed was one of the most intense, profanity-laced, angry prayers I have ever heard. Then it changed. It radically changed. It was like listening to a modern-day lament. He started out angry and through the process of being raw with God, He changed his heart. To this day, this person sees this as a marker-moment of his life in Christ.
The larger point – find the fountain. Find the source. Keep looking for that.
And he will meet you there.