I’ve been complaining for weeks that my coffee has lost its flavor. As an owner of a Kuerig coffee maker, the manufacturer expected me to descale the rascal at least once a month. I remember doing it one time about three years ago. With this most recent and sudden disappearance of my precious morning coffee of adequate flavor, I went on a descaling rampage, using an entire gallon of white vinegar to no avail.
I reassessed the situation. So did my husband, who was anxious to muffle my incessant whining about the blandness of this important daily experience. He took the initiative and purchased an all-in-one machine that both grinds and brews a single cup in one step. I tried it. Several times actually, with each attempt adjusting the amount of coffee beans upward, desperate to recreate that familiar and somewhat satisfying experience. He ended up taking it back and returning with a French Press.
Initially I thought to myself, “Oh, woe is me. I don’t want to work that hard.” Out of desperation I tried, following the instructions included in the box. I brewed one bitter cup after another, doctoring each with two packages of sweetener and a healthy dose of hazelnut flavoring just to reach a basic level of drinkability. I needed the caffeine, all right? I knew I couldn’t go on this way, so I considered consulting with Google about my problem.
Of course, I immediately found some guidance. I had no idea how complicated it is to make a good cup of coffee. There are lots of steps and things to know, more than I was happy to deal with. But…there was the missing flavor and I wanted it back! So, humbling myself as best I could as a person who often can’t be bothered with inefficiencies and over-engineered circumstances (and feel quite smug about it too!), I decided to give it a go.
And I failed. Even though the instructions said to use purified water and to avoid grinding the coffee beans too fine, I used tap water and let the grinder’s setting for “coarse” do its thing. I also guessed at how long the coffee had steeped before I pushed down the plunger instead of following Google’s instructions and setting a timer. I guessed wrong. The coffee was bland and muddy at the bottom with a bitter undertone. I really thought I could get away with the shortcuts. I mean, how much difference could a little compromise for efficiency’s sake really make, right?
The next day I tried again. This time I used more coffee, thinking more coffee would give me more flavor. I got the same result except the coffee was kind of thick.
The third day I felt frustrated enough to return to my friend Google’s detailed instructions. I used purified water, ground the beans in bursts; checking between each pulse to see whether the brown pile still looked like breadcrumbs instead of sand, and let the boiling water cool for one minute after the whistle blew. Now I’m into it. It’s like a project that needs a carefully crafted plan including a task list complete with timings. The result was better. Still not much flavor but the bitterness had disappeared. I realized I’d gotten the ratio of coffee beans to water completely wrong. And it made a big difference. I would do better tomorrow.
On the fourth day, I went back to Google’s instructions and did everything to the letter. At the end of the 4-minute steeping period, I could smell a wonderful aroma as I pushed the plunger in anticipation of my first good cup of coffee in weeks. Now don’t get too excited. The flavor was still lacking, but it might have been the medium roast beans we’d mistakenly selected from the wrong shelf at Costco. Ingredients are very important (or so says Google).
Coincidentally, I’ve been reading about sins of the temper. Thinking I’m all about seeking the Kingdom with my whole heart, mind, and strength, I fell back on my heels, experiencing a “Hey…wait a minute” moment. A little setup will help.
First, we judge most sins by their outward form. It’s easy to make judgments about the behavior of people as falling into the category of “sins of passion.” It’s not so easy to do that with “sins of temper” because those sins are not as gross or overtly offensive as sins of passion. We tend to put sins on a scale, ranking them by saying things like, “Hey, at least I haven’t murdered anyone.”
The second part of my setup looks at the story of the prodigal son and the older brother. For years, the older brother had worked hard and performed his duties each day, feeling good about his accomplishments as he walked home. But the night his younger brother returned, he could hear the music and going-on of a celebration as he approached the house. As my daughter would say, “He was triggered.” He felt no joy at his younger brother’s homecoming. After all, his little brother had gone off and squandered his inheritance on loose living and irresponsible choices. The older was understandably resentful and angry at the unfairness, and would not go into the house.
So what happened? The older brother had stopped short. His sense of responsibility for his own character ended around a narrow set of daily duties for which he expected both credit and reward, especially after so many years of diligent effort. When he encountered the celebration of his brother’s return, he felt betrayed. In terms of outward appearances, he’d been a loyal son to his father, admirable in his commitment, and respected for his work ethic. But inside, he’d stopped short. That night, everything inside of him came together and scorched his soul: jealousy, anger, pride, lack of love, cruelty, self-righteousness, sulkiness, touchiness, and doggedness were all mixed up together into one ill temper.
Third, and most important, these are often considered “acceptable” sins of temper, bringing laughter and winks that silence the protestors and gloss over the reality of ill temper’s destructive powers. We call it “only temper,” diminishing its significance, and leaving it to live in our soul, allowing it to build in its cumulative power that one day will appear in all of its ugliness, only because at some point we stopped short of pursuing the good.
I have been guilty of this, justifying my “temper” as the way God made me, the understandable result of bad experiences, and the fault of others. I’ve stopped short and I didn’t even know it, sort of like Jacob who wrestled with the angel and then, after living as a scoundrel for so many years, looked up and said, “God is in this place and I did not know it.” I also had a match with an angel who taught me what it takes to avoid the bitter taste in a cup of coffee. It took a lot of focus and hard work; more than I ever thought was necessary. I still haven’t reached the right flavor, but, like pursuing a change to your own temperament, these things take practice and time. It’s a good thing for me that God is in this place. He has a way of getting things done, and done well.
 The subtle fluids from a dozen sins have come together for once, and now they are scorching his soul. Jealousy, anger, pride, lack of love, cruelty, self-righteousness, sulkiness, touchiness, doggedness, all mixed up together into one ill temper.
Drummond, Henry (2014-09-12). Ideal Life, The: Listening For God’s Voice, Discerning His Leading (Kindle Locations 92-93). Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.
 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”