Accepting the sweet and the bitter

In his book We Go On, John Onwuchekwa shares a story about how we drink coffee - and relates that to life.

He says,

A lot of folks treat life like a cup of coffee. They don’t want to taste the bitterness. They even want to pretend it isn’t there. So, they reach for accomplishments, relationships, and work—anything to make life sweeter, or at least less bitter. And before they know it, life becomes the equivalent of a “coffee-flavored” beverage. It’s not really life, like it’s not really coffee. It’s just “life-flavored.” They want it sweet or not at all. But why shouldn’t you just choose to mask the bitterness? What are you really missing? Fullness of life. Complexity. Uniqueness of flavor. Story. History. Homeland. This isn’t me just trying to sell you on coffee—I want to sell you on a different way to see life. So, what about those who only see coffee as a means to an end?

They don’t care about the flavor; they care about the caffeine. That’s like living in the future tense. It’s always the next thing. And the sweeter it goes down, the better—that way you don’t have to pay too much attention to it. It doesn’t distract you. It just gets you where you want to go. But that’s not life either. That’s out of touch with the present. That’s missing out on the gift.

Coffee, like life, is about receiving the bitterness and the sweetness together. It demands patience (27).

Now I don’t think that John is saying that evil is good. Far from it! Rather, it’s an observation that life has good times and hard times.

We can dodge this, or attempt to be present to our lives in the presence of God.

As he says,

But to live in the present tense, to pay attention to what is before you and to accept that life is both bitter and sweet? That’s a blessing.

I found his reflections encouraging.

First, I like coffee - both the bitter and sweet parts of it. I prefer to drink espresso without anything added so I can savor the entire richness of the flavors from a simple bean.

Second, this metaphor helped me to see the hidden value in the bitterness of life. Again, I don’t want to do anything to justify abuse, trauma, or evil. God is opposed to these, full stop.

And, even in a world marred by evil, there is a hopeful question that can sometimes be asked (timing is everything): how is God eventually going to work good?

What helps you be present to the ups and downs of everyday life?