This Lent, I am reading the book The Way of Tea and Justice by Becca Stevens with a book group. To be honest, I am not sure it is a book I would have picked up on my own. I am not super passionate about tea; I am more of a coffee drinker myself. Tea always seems to be so labor intensive. When I think about the time it will take to heat the water and then let the tea steep, I usually just move on to something else. I also get a little overwhelmed with all the accoutrement: tea pots, bags verses loose tea, special teacups, etc. A cup of tea just seems to involve the luxury of time – a luxury I have very little of these days.
The funny thing about reading this book has been the fact that my other Lenten discipline has been slowing down and paying more attention to the movement of the Spirit in my life. The irony of being a person who chose a discipline about slowing down and yet has no time to slow down and have a cup of tea is not lost on me! I can only imagine that God is equally amused by my constant inconsistencies and unwillingness to relent and return to God.
The good news about the dual practices is that reading about tea has reminded me of the many occasions that drinking tea has been quite special in my life. As a young adult, my dad introduced me to Earl Gray tea. To this day, something about the smell of bergamot creates an automatic sense of nostalgia and calm. In college, one of my closest friends introduced me to all sorts of teas. She loved the accoutrement of tea – she even had a collection of tiny dishes that were simply meant for holding your used tea bag. We had many a long conversation over cups of tea, and those memories have been flooding back this Lent. And of course, one of my favorite memories from my Choral Pilgrimage in England was the afternoon that I enjoyed high tea with three of my fellow pilgrims. That afternoon hangs in suspension for me as a moment of deep connection with the other pilgrims as well as sacred rest from an otherwise hectic schedule.
Sometimes we choose Lenten disciplines, but sometimes they choose us. I think I had the right idea about slowing down this Lent and being more attentive to the voice of God. But it has been my fellow readers who unintentionally pushed me to keep that work through reading. Though I am certainly enjoying reading about the tea industry and one woman’s quest to bring a sense of justice to her ministry through tea, I am also enjoying the way my reading is bringing me back to God. The time it takes to brew and enjoy a cup of tea has become an apt metaphor for the time that I need to carve out for God. Well played, Holy Spirit. Well played!