Warning: If you ever converse with me in a coffee shop, there is a strong possibility that something you say will become a “musing.” Here is yet another reflection on a coffee shop conversation. Yes, I love coffee, but what I love more are the insights that arise from people gathered around the coffee, even when I don’t like what people say. What I love is how God speaks to us, and teaches us, in the everyday world of lattes — and cupcakes.
I had spent two hours in front of the computer screen in my office, typing then deleting four different ideas for blog posts. It was time for a change of scenery and caffeine, so I packed my computer and headed to a local spot well-known for its cupcakes. If anything could cure an occasional bout of writer’s block, I had great faith in their coffee and sweets. I ordered a cupcake with cinnamon and cream cheese and pecans and all kinds of sugar sure to inspire.
After eating half of the cupcake, my fingers were flying, and the words were flowing. The blog post was done in less than an hour, and I wanted to hug the baker. I was proofreading the post when an acquaintance walked in. After casual greetings, he pointed to the cupcake.
“Be careful now. That’ll go straight to your hips.”
My face grew hot as he walked away. My urge to hug the baker was quickly becoming one to slap the customer. With that one statement, I felt a brief but distinct rush of emotions around food, body image, self worth, exercise, and health. I folded my arms across my chest and sank into the chair. The more I mulled over his words, the I angrier I became. The more I replayed the conversation, the more questions I asked myself.
I was allowing two sentences from someone I barely knew to control my emotions.
Until that point, I’d been enjoying three of God’s greatest blessings: coffee, sugar, and writing. I had been smiling, laughing, eating, talking, typing, and sipping. I’d been sitting up with good posture. Then, words changed everything.
I’ve written in the past about the power of words (“When It’s None of Your Business,” “What Not to Say to a Single Clergywoman,” and “A Time To Shut Up”). I believe it’s one of the most important topics we can discuss. Words, especially those that directly speak to body image, can cause great help or harm. We should be very intentional and sensitive in our interactions with each other. We also may need to speak up at times for change to become a reality. For more on that topic, I encourage you to read those past posts.
When it came to the cupcake commentary, though, I also made a mistake. I wouldn’t let go of the words. I held on to them. I meditated on them. I sat with them and brooded on them for a few minutes. I was allowing someone’s words define who I was instead of resting in my confidence as a child of God. We’ve all been victims of people’s words. We’ve also, hopefully, been blessed recipients of people’s words. We may not be able to choose what is said to us, but we all have the free will to choose how to respond.
In the Bible, we read of God’s people being bombarded with negative words far worse than what I experienced. Noah was called crazy for building an ark. Moses, whom God used to save the Israelites, was constantly the target of the people’s complaints. Jesus was falsely accused of blasphemy and demon possession. Yet, they persevered. Though the words must have stung, they responded in grace. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can face the world’s words with the same grace that Christ has given us.
Eventually, I sat up and resumed proofreading the piece I’d written. My smile returned. I sat up straight again. I focused my attention on what was right in front of me instead of dwelling on what was in the past. I picked up my fork and finished the cupcake.
all good things to each of you,
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.