(Guest contributor Susan Grunder is back, with a beautiful reflection that invites us to think about our dependencies and about God. So perfect for this point in Lent.) This morning I found myself in a semi-dark kitchen grinding coffee beans. I hate having to grind the beans in the morning (my apologies to all of coffee purists who might be reading). But not having my half-caf in the morning would certainly be worse—for me and for all those around me. This is a first world problem, I know. I have the luxury of fresh coffee beans, clean running water, electricity to light the pre-dawn darkness of my cozy kitchen, and the time to reflect on my coffee addiction.
As a younger woman, coffee wasn’t my drug. I was a Diet Coke girl. In college I could roll out of bed, grab a “DC” and head to class. I’m pretty sure that if I had cut myself during my young adult years, I might have bled Diet Coke, not real, human blood. Diet Coke was my addiction of choice until my first pregnancy. In one fell swoop, all caffeine and artificial sweeteners were instantly removed from my diet. Woe to my poor husband during those first few days without my fix. I hadn’t really considered myself “dependent” or “addicted” to either caffeine or artificial sweeteners. It became readily apparent that I had become dependent upon both and felt their absence. My body “leaned” on them. My daily routine included regular opportunities for fixes that had to be worked around and re-invented or adapted. (Seltzer water is NOT the same as Diet Coke—just in case you were wondering.)
I considered all of this as I waited for my freshly ground coffee to brew. My musings led me to wonder about what other things I’m addicted to or dependent upon. How those addictions or dependencies started with a simple habit. In college, Diet Coke was ubiquitous. Everyone drank it. It was so readily available and so portable. As a parent of small children, coffee was more “grown up,” also readily available, and–thanks to Starbucks and cute, independent coffee shops—sweet, desirable and social. But mostly it came down to habit. I am now a coffee drinker. It started as a habit. It has become part of my identity.
During Lent, we have the opportunity to reboot, reexamine, and reimagine our habits. We can look and see if our habits have become addictions. Do these addictions distract us or tear us down? Let’s face it, caffeine addiction can’t compare to some of the addictions that afflict so many—drugs, alcohol, tobacco, pornography. Professional help, love, support, and true grace are needed to overcome these addictions. But our lesser addictions can weigh us down and pull us away from what is important—our faith, our families, our friendships.
Lent also gives us a chance to look for addictions that empower us and build us up. This year, I gave up listening to the radio in the car. (Only when I’m by myself. My teenager would never forgive me if I imposed radio silence across the board. After all, this is my chosen penitential act, not hers.) The time during my daily commute (30 minutes each way, on average) is now spent in prayer and reflection. This is a new “habit” for me. My hope is that, like my Diet Coke and coffee habits, prayer will become an addiction. For the most part, I think that it is working. If nothing else, I’m certainly swearing at other crazy drivers less than I was. This habit is also helping me to become more conscious of the God’s grace in my life. I start my morning behind the wheel with what could only be called a “litany of thankfulness.” I also feel more connected to the people in my life who are in need of prayer. How often have I told someone that I am thinking and praying for them, and then have promptly forgotten that promise? This habit erases that amnesia. Unlike with my caffeine addiction, I am consciously cultivating a prayer addiction. I want to become dependent upon my time with God.