Any chapter that is entitled “Drinking Tea” had me at hello. This is how I became a tea drinker:
Right out of college a friend moved to Scotland as a “short-term cross-cultural worker” with her denom. Part of her three-year assignment was to visit the elderly in their homes. She was my friend, it was Scotland, I had grown up hearing about my Scottish roots. Of course, I visited. Of course.
So, there I was in my first little old Scottish lady’s home and she asked if I put milk or sugar in my tea. I said, “Milk.” And that is the story of how Amy became a tea drinker. To this day, I love my friend, I love Scotland, and I love black tea with milk.
What I loved about this chapter is the ways that Warren understands and encourages savoring as a discipline. Because we are drawn to beautiful things, it is understandable that we respond to gorgeous images on Instagram and perfect projects on Pinterest. But the problem is, instead of inspiring us and pointing us to something bigger, something beyond ourselves, something of God, they point a finger at us and whisper “not enough.”
Warren reminds us that “Pleasure is our deep human response to an encounter with beauty and goodness. In those moments of pleasure—of delight, enjoyment, awe, and revelry—we respond to God impulsively with our very bodies: ‘Yes, we agree! Your creation is very good.'”
I love that our physical response is also a way to engage God.
Even though she is writing from a predominantly North American perspective, when she said, “Our culture’s relationship is complex,” she could have been talking about any culture. Since most of us are from Western cultures, I bet you could relate to the two extremes she referenced: pleasure and pragmatism. “We are hedonistic cynics and gluttonous stoics. We spend endless energy and money seeking pleasure but we are never sated.” And “Pragmatism, another powerful cultural force, can denigrate our desire for beauty and enjoyment.”
I wanted to clap when I read, “A culture formed by the gospel will honor good and right enjoyment, celebration, and sensuousness.” Over the past few months, I have developed a talk that’s been a hit at local writing groups where I’ve given it. In essence, we look at the tension all writers must manage, the tension between craft and heart. Too much craft (good writing) but not enough heart can result in writing that reads like a manual. Too much heart and not enough craft is the sappy (I want to say “crap” but I don’t want to offend) writing that is great for 12 year-old-girls, but not for the rest of us.
We Christians have not been managing the tension well when it comes to beauty and savoring either. But then I read a chapter like this and I have hope. I really do. I know I’m wired to be on the side of optimism, but seriously people, “Coffee [tea!] is born of extravagance, an extravagant God who formed an extravagant people, who formed a craft out of the pleasures of roasted beans and frothed milk.”
She goes on to encourage us that we have the muscles to enjoy life, but we need to use them or they atrophy. “As busy, practical, hurried, and distracted people, we develop habits of inattention and miss these tiny theophanies in our day. But if we are fully alive and whole, no pleasure would be too ordinary or commonplace to stir up adoration.” First of all, I love the phrase tiny theophanies! Second of all, if we have developed the habit of inattention, this gives me hope that we can also develop the habit of attention.
Warrens tells the truth that it takes strength to enjoy the world. It does, but I feel so much more alive on the inside when I do. My day may look exactly the same on the outside. People are annoying or thoughtless, the weather is not ideal, the house is a bit of a natural disaster, and I made another cultural blunder, yet. Yet when I enjoy the world, when I enjoy my world and see the tiny theophanies, I am more alive. I am more me.
And it is not just about me, it is about us. The communal us. I appreciated in this chapter that Warren made space of individual and corporate savoring. This week is American Thanksgiving and while it is rooted in one country’s history, the idea of thankfulness and feasting and savoring go way back.
Which comes more naturally to you, individual or corporate delight? Are you a tea drinker? Or coffee? How did you become one? And what stood out to you in this chapter? I know it may be a full week, but what better time to practice savoring good writing then by commenting and letting us savor your thoughts.
See you in the comments,
P.S. Reading Plan for the upcoming weeks:
Liturgy of the Ordinary— November 27: Chapter 11
December will be short, stand-alone reads and book list posts, so jump in when you can!
December 4th — A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote