According to legend, the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, considered to be the father of Chinese agriculture, discovered tea accidentally one day when he was boiling water under the shade of a wild tea tree. A few of the leaves dropped into his pot, tinting the water, and he drank the resulting infusion. Immediately he was overwhelmed with a sense of well-being.
If only it were that easy.
On Sunday, Bryan prayed for a person facing a difficult doctor’s appointment. In his prayer he said, “Lord, that is an appointment none of us would want to be called to, but it’s an appointment you may call us to.” At that moment in prayer, I had an appointment with lectio divina.
Lectio divina is an ancient art practiced by Christians. It is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures that enables the Word of God to become a means of our union with God.
It’s not unlike brewing tea. An excerpt from Scripture steeps in the vessel of the heart. The Holy Spirit then draws forth the flavor of one particular word or phrase to speak directly into the life of an individual. The practice’s intent is to cultivate the ability to drink deeply of the cup of Christ and to hear “with the ear of our hearts.”
When Bryan prayed on that Sunday morning, I was surprised to find that I am not totally deaf.
You see, things have been collecting in my heart over the past few months. The first bits settled when my sister’s cancer returned. Further deposits were made with each new challenge—a blood transfusion, a debilitating fever—until it felt as if a heap of dried matter littered my heart’s chambers. My own set of health issues compounded the effect till, finally, the news of our precious 8-year-old niece’s terminal illness threatened to stop my heart up for good.
Yet something happened that morning. Pure, hot truth poured into me, the words “. . . it’s an appointment you may call us to” steeping the bits slowly. The grace I was experiencing began to infuse with a particular quality the bitter and potentially lethal remnants collected in my heart. God was brewing a tea with the tender leaves of my suffering and the sufferings of those around me. Would I trust him with it?
Jesus had a cup placed before him. He never asked for a different cup—only that he would not have to drink the dregs. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Because of his trust in the Tea Master, we are able to experience the full flavor of grace.
I am learning to appreciate tea. I watch the light refracting through the infused water and think of the very sunlight that withered the leaf. I remind myself to breathe in the aroma that holds all knowledge of its origin. I let my tongue roll over the flavor, tasting each nuance of the soil it was nurtured in. I let the warmth pour through me. I am learning to appreciate that the hardships endured and the tender nurturing received lend character and, in the hands of the Master, are one in the same.
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it” (Mark 14:23).
What is your cup of tea?