Now, if you have been around me lately, and you see the glass of tea above, you will assume that the missing ingredient is sugar. You would be correct, partially. There’s a little more to the story.
For the last year a glass of sweetened tea has not been consumed by myself. Realizing that I was going to have to make some long term health choices, I decided to abandon sugar in drinks, and out the door went sweet tea. But, I still needed my caffeine, and I turned to unsweetened coffee and unsweetened tea.
The adjustment has not been that difficult and I still indulge in a latte at least every other week. However, my desire for no sugar in my tea revealed something about myself that I would rather forget; I didn’t use to care about unsweetened tea. More clearly, I didn’t worry about whether or not there was any available.
About 11 years ago I began a rotation cooking on Wednesday nights for our church suppers. I have the wonderful ability to get sidetracked and forget things that are a regular occurrence or need. Invariably, as the dinner hour approached I would become consumed with completing some task and would become urgently busy.
Our pastor, Derwin, would graciously inquire as to whether or not I needed anything. I would usually tell him no, but he would hang around and soon enough find something that needed to be done and he would quietly do it.
On more than once occasion he would ask me whether or not I had made any unsweetened tea. As I noted above, I normally forget routine tasks, and this would be one that had been lost in the shuffle. Shamefully, I can remember on more than one occasion telling him that we just wouldn’t have any unsweetened tea that night, and reassuring him that it wasn’t a big deal. I’m sure that I reminded him of how few people drank it, as well as the possibility that none of them might be in attendance that night.
I don’t remember him ever arguing with me, but I certainly remember him quietly making the tea; unsweetened.
The missing ingredient in my life that this exposed is referred to in the King James Bible as ‘tender-hearted.’ Our more common term today would be compassion.
We often think of compassion as having pity, but it is so much more than that. Compassion is a willingness to put ourselves into the position of the other. It is to remove blame and shame and assume their need as your own.
This isn’t fun to talk about. Not because it is some big deal and whether or not some of those folks are going to come after me about their tea, but because it reveals a self-obsession or self-serving attitude about myself.
I now make unsweetened tea without fail, but I have to admit there have been a few times that the mayo hasn’t been put out when we’ve had hotdogs. I still need to daily engage in compassionate living. Here’s a few things Jesus said about compassion.
Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”
The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”
Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”
So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.
They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.