My 2002 Ford Focus (bright blue except for the patches of rust), my first Dell computer in its bag with pockets, and my supply of coffee all had something in common: they were supernaturally maintained by the goodness of God.
My computer and my car were most similar, both old models that simply refused to quit. An occasional anti-virus update, an occasional oil change, and they were fine.
My coffee supply was more than maintained. I don’t brew a lot myself (patronizing McDonald’s, Main Street, and my aunt far too often instead), but I use enough that–were it not for God’s mysterious intervention– I would have had to buy coffee every few months.
I never did. Starting about the time of my mom’s death in 2010 (and even before) I always had a steady supply of coffee gifted to me. I’m not sure that I’ve bought one pound of coffee in the last three years, except maybe for a special event to brew for other people. Instead of buying, I just received. When my supply ran low, God would replenish my barrel–that is, someone else would give me another pound. It almost irritated my friends and my aunt–who, to say it bluntly, did not get coffee from God.
My computer was my most prized possession, not because it was valuable, but because it was my silent companion so long. Especially on my writing trips, my computer was my life vest, always keeping me afloat in new seas. In the bright pockets of the bag, I stored everything: phone, credit cards, paper directories, and keys, so I could exit my car with only my computer, and be self-sufficient. Had someone stolen it, I would have been helpless. Had my motel started on fire (or even my house) it would have been the first thing I would have grabbed.
Shortly after my return from one of these writing trips, my computer, in its bag, vanished without a trace.
I suspect it was stolen from my car in the Hobby Lobby parking lot, but I don’t even know that because I left for a two-day camping trip before missing it. All of my documents were backed up, but none of the countless pictures I had taken, often in lieu of taking notes. All my photos and videos of friends, family, and research were gone. I can’t even find a picture of my computer to include in this blog.
There was something odd about it. Only God knew the extent to which my computer was my most prized possession. Only he knew how to slip it out of my grasp so soundlessly that I would not miss it for two days, by which time it was irretrievable. Only he could have timed the theft when I was at home and could easily replace it.
It had been so pointed, so final, so mysterious and confusing. At the same time, I felt the intense closeness of his presence. I could almost hear him say, “See how well I know you? See how much I care?”
You don’t have me figured out, God told me. I am the one in charge here. I know what I’m doing.
I couldn’t help but agree.
That was Sunday evening, February 5th.
Throughout the next months as I plucked away on my new and impersonal computer, I brewed my coffee from God. I took a night job and began to brew pots at 9pm instead of 9am. I watched the two shiny bags of coffee dwindle, shrinking in my basket of drinks.
Sunday morning, August 12th, I was awake at about 3am. It was my day off, and I headed for the coffee pot.
“Well God, it looks like the barrel has run dry,” I remarked (cheerfully, I think) as the last lonely coffee beans tumbled into my grinder and I pitched both bags in the trash. I had been saving a little of each, because they taste best together. I ground the batch into an aromatic and artistic heap. Just enough for one more big pot.
The “coffee from God” era had been fun, so it was sad to see it end. Perhaps God thought I could afford to buy coffee since I had gotten a job (God, have you forgotten about my student loans?). Or maybe–help!- He was hinting at the benefits of not relying on caffeine, suggesting I give up coffee. (Don’t give me more than I can handle, please God!)
I rinsed the pot, and put the fresh coffee into the filter, and filled my pot with water. I hit the start button, and rushed off to catch the bagel I had been toasting before it got too cold.
I spread my bagel and was in the process of eating it, when I realized that my coffee was not brewing. The light was on, and it was plugged in, but nothing was happening.
Now, this was a cheap pot that I believe I bought at a garage sale 7 or 8 years ago. To the best of my memory, it has worked flawlessly every time I turned it on since then, a bit like my car. And my computer.
It wasn’t working now.
I poked at the water reservoir. How does a coffee maker work anyway? But I knew in my heart that if it didn’t start right away, it wasn’t going to start. It didn’t. Functionally, it had vanished as thoroughly as the computer.
My coffee from God and my coffee maker disappeared from my life the same night.
Am I about to explain this?
I am not. I’m completely confused. I don’t have God figured out, and (eureka!) I like it this way. I wouldn’t respect a God I could explain, or a God who gave me only blessings, or a God who was my size, or a God who asked my permission.
Rather, I’m in awe at the way God gave and sustained these gifts and then took them back. I’m mystified at how they whirled without explanation down a drain I didn’t even know existed. What creativity and irony! I’m shocked that, in the loss of the coffee and pot, I once again felt his presence intensely. I didn’t even know he cared that much about computers and coffee. What a plot twist!
I’m a little worried about my rusty blue Focus that I was hoping would putter on for another year. I’m also sobered by the gentle hint God gave me a few nights later as I drove to work in the dark. As I hurtled down County Road 11 in my trusty car, it was as if God dropped me a gentle hint: this isn’t about coffee and computers.
It’s not? I questioned, like a child who thinks a tool is a toy.
Can you believe that every gift in life and every loss in life is minutely planned by me? What about losses that hurt so bad you can’t breathe? Can you believe the magic of the computer and the coffee? Can you remember that it was their loss that showed my greatness, more than having them? How you liked the gifts when you had them, but loved the Giver when he took them back?
I’m amazed and humbled by a God I can’t understand, measure, or predict. He’s out of this world, brilliant, and strategic. His love is so creative, because his knowledge of each person is so complete.
God’s not uneasy around introverts,
or threatened by extroverts.
He’s not puzzled or frustrated by handicaps, complexity, or scars.
He knows what will
get each person’s attention,
humble them, and
encourage them to serve him.
He forces nothing on us, but he continually seeks us, giving us every chance to choose him.
Those who choose him will do so, not because they need to.
They will serve him because it’s an honor to serve the only Person in our tired and two-faced world who knows us minutely,
loves us completely,
and asks our permission for nothing.