It promises to make a challenging day better — that combination of caffeine and sugar, all tied up with the festive bow of a red paper cup. It promises a relief from the everyday as if the “season” has arrived and magical feelings will flow from the peppermint mocha I just ordered. It’s hidden in plain view on fashion bloggers’ Instagram accounts.
I don’t even like Starbucks coffee, but it calls to me. Today I gave in. We want something special. A treat. That’s why we pay a ridiculous amount of money for it. We think that the red paper cup holds out relief, or validation, or just respite from the weariness of the daily. As I walk around Target holding my red cup that matches the color of the cart, wearing my skinny jeans tucked into my riding boots, I suddenly can feel that all is right with the world — unless of course my children are howling during this pleasant experience.
Though we’ve been given all good things, so often we use food and drink to make up for our lack. We buy and consume to fill up our own scarcity. It’s the American way, or the American dream, at least. Sweets or alcohol or caffeine or any number of “comfort foods” promise something that they can never deliver. They promise that everything is going to be okay; that holding on to a red coffee cup makes up for the harried morning where you yelled at your kids to get their coat on and out the door; that it makes up for your lack of inspiration at work; that it will help get your through the monotony of your desk job; that you deserve it because you need it.
It’s true, we are all needy. But a red paper cup can never fill our holes — it can never fill up our sadness, or confusion, or lostness that we feel when we think that surely by now we should have this life thing a bit better figured out. But we keep reaching for the same things — polite socially sanctioned forms of addiction — because they feed our desire (if only for a moment) to be told we’re okay. That we still love you even though you yell or are bored or just plain exhausted.
But instead of telling our stories to one another where we confess and yearn for redemption, we buy Starbucks holiday drinks. I do it, too. Perhaps because it’s easier to fork over $4 than to take the time to look deeply within ourselves and see our need for repentance and restoration. Perhaps because caffeine and sugar make us feel good again, if only momentarily, and so we buy so we can forget all the bad feelings and guilt and shame. By all means, go and enjoy your red cup, but do it with someone and decide to share and be vulnerable while you sip your mocha. Because we can never be made right as we cling to things to cover up our shame — whether it’s excuses, or our own reputation, or a coffee cup; we can only be made right when we own up to our brokenness, see it for what it is, and ask for grace in the midst of the mess.
That’s why we’re all here anyway.
This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you.