A Sip in Time

If you see me around the office, you’ll usually find a cup of coffee somewhere close. I rarely go to any meeting or walk down the hall very far without a cup of coffee in my hand. For that reason, many people assume I love coffee. They would be partly right. I do love a good cup of coffee, but there’s another reason I carry the coffee cup with me.


During my years as a minister, I’ve found out people will walk up to me and ask me all kinds of questions. Some of these questions can be, well, stupid. I know, some say there are no stupid questions, but you and I know better, don’t we? There are questions so frustrating and shallow, so obvious in their answer, that it’s all I can do not to rip someone’s head off with a sarcastic reply or demeaning response.

I know. This isn’t my best moment and I’m not proud of myself. There are those days, however, when someone will walk up and demand something so outrageous it will hit my last nerve in the wrong place, and I’ll be tempted to say something that wouldn’t be helpful to anyone.

That’s when I take a sip of coffee. Taking a sip of coffee makes me look thoughtful, as if I’m giving my response the full weight of thought it deserves. What I may be thinking is, “that’s the dumbest question/remark I’ve ever heard,” but after a sip of coffee, I can respond in a more Christian manner.

I bring this up because I was having a conversation with a friend about how our respective organizations were dealing with the ever-changing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of how the pandemic affected his company and my church, neither one of us have taken our vacations for this year.

And it’s showing.

Both of us are tired of answering questions about who can work from home and who can’t; who has child care issues and who doesn’t; what do we do when we have been exposed to someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 or we think might have tested positive for the illness? What projects are still on? What’s been cancelled? Has it been cancelled or just postponed? Who made that decision?

Both of us confessed to be so worn out and tired of it all, that we were afraid we’ll snap on some unsuspecting person.

So, remember, right now the whole world is having a bad day.

That’s when I remembered all of the articles I had been reading about how COVID-19 was causing all kinds of strain in relationships. Domestic violence is up. Alcohol and drug abuse are up. Marriages are breaking up and road rage is spiking to new levels.

People are stressed, frustrated and angry. One little thing is all that is needed to set people off. When they are set off, they say things they don’t mean and spew months of pent up frustration out on whoever is unlucky enough to be standing in front of them.

Which is why I’m sharing my secret about a cup of coffee. The pandemic has wrecked all of our schedules. We can’t work out the way we used to. We can’t do our hobbies the way we want to. All of the things we used to blow off steam we can’t do right now.

So, what are we supposed to do? If we can’t blow off steam, we have to be sure there’s less pressure building up in the first place.

Which means, prayer and other rituals of soul care are more vital now than ever. COVID has revealed a lot about our society and what’s it’s revealed to most of us is we aren’t as tough as we thought we were.

Second, remember, everyone is as stressed as, if not more than, you are. Single moms are trying to work out their work schedules and care for their children who can’t go to school or day care. Working parents are juggling new realities that seem to change day by day. Careers are in jeopardy. People who thought they’d never lose their job are, well, losing their jobs. Businesses are closing. If you’re a public official – school board member or leader of your local city or town – you’re getting lit from everyone. Children caring for their parents can’t visit them in the retirement home.

So, remember, right now the whole world is having a bad day.

And you and I don’t have the right to make things worse. This is where those “bumper sticker” Bible verses become so important. You know the ones I’m talking about – “Be kind one to another,” “Carry one another’s burdens,” – these are the Bible verses we flippantly toss around in our church’s hallways, but right now, these simple truths are blessings from heaven.

Anyone who’ll walk next to you and help you carry your load for a few minutes. For instance, someone from your church keeps the kids so you can keep your dentist appointment. No big deal, right? Are you kidding? That person is an angel – nothing less than a messenger from God!

Smile, even when you’re wearing a mask. They can see it your eyes. Ask how someone is doing, and then, listen to the answer. Take your time with each other. Everyone is fragile. Everyone is worn out.

And when someone says that one last stupid thing, don’t answer back. Take a sip of coffee. You’ll look thoughtful…and the world will be blessed by your silence.