I work at a coffee shop this summer, and every day an entire cast of characters walks through our small jingly door and into my life.
So many of them are like little shots of espresso or a warm hug on a hard day.
There’s Sue, the old yet sprightly lady who routinely drinks 3 cups of coffee before 9 am. When she learned my name was Maddie, she exclaimed that her “granddaughter’s name was also Maddie!” and hasn’t failed to remind me of that fact every single day since. She sits at the table closest to the door, goes to the bathroom about 13 times, and speaks to every single person who walks into the shop.
Joe, the lawyer who wears suspenders and button up striped shirts and tortoise rimmed glasses, grabs his unsweetened iced tea and hides behind the door to get work done. And yet, as I go to the back for more cups or coffee or milk he will stop me to chat, smiling and asking me about myself, and I simply do not have the heart to tell him I’m on the clock.
Marla shows up every day at 4:00 pm, dark hair under a bandana and hat. Her face is worn and weathered, lined with years of life. She always puts $1.75 down on the counter to get her mug full of coffee, yet often falls asleep on the table without taking a sip. She doesn’t say much, but she is always there. And one time, we almost got her to dance.
And yet there are some souls that walk past my barista counter from time to time that break my heart.
Derek, can’t be older than a teenager, drugged up every day, begging people for money.
Laura, lines on her face, entire life in a bag across her shoulder. Comes in every day for water and monopolizes a table for her crossword puzzles.
The man who’s name I do not know. He speaks incoherently and smells like he hasn’t showered in a year, which I believe to be true. Sometimes he has money, sometimes not, but we give him a glass of milk and he walks out the front door.
It can be hard for me, crossing paths with these people. I wonder how they got here, the story life has painted on their hearts. Some know Jesus, I can see it by the vibrancy and life in their eyes. But many are dead, and as I steam milk or pour coffee I have to pray so that I don’t carry a load that is not mine to bear.
No customer, however, has implanted herself on my heart the way one did today.
I didn’t see her at first. A woman came in and began to order, speaking to my coworker and glancing up at the menu board. I was taking a quick break, lost in thought and waiting to make the drink the woman wanted.
But she never quite finished, because suddenly a shriek erupted from behind her, the unmistakeable cries of a newborn baby, scratchy and raw. The woman looked apologetically at us and turned around quickly to uncover what I now saw as a stroller. Her face became gentle as she bent over and slowly lifted out a nugget of a child, pink-clad, red and wrinkly, eyes scrunched and fists clenched.
And as her daughter cried she rocked her, right in the middle of the coffee shop, as if she had all the time in the world. Up and down and back and forth, and eventually the little girl found a stillness, all 12 pounds of her going slack and laying her head on the chest of her mama.
And she was quiet, wrapped in the warm arms of the woman she trusts more than anything she has ever known in this world.
I’ve seen crying babies before, but for the first time I put myself into the head of one. Small, undeveloped eyes, completely dependent on the ones that love her, this little girl cried because she needed help. Maybe she was hungry or too hot, or maybe the world just became a little too big for her.
And I realized that so often that’s me. Something hurts down inside of me and I can’t quite figure out what it is. The world is overwhelming, my eyes can’t see clearly. I need help taking something off or putting something on or being filled with life giving food. But I can’t do it on my own, completely dependent on the One who hears my cries.
I have heard stories of babies that don’t cry. Left alone, in an orphanage, they learn that crying does no good, that no one who hears will do anything about it. And so they stay silent.
And yet this child cried because she knew her mother would come and scoop her up and hold her close, no matter where she was.
Friends, it stuck to my heart. We have a God who HEARS. He is a Good Father, the kind that holds us close and brings us to his chest, stroking us and telling us that He will never let go. No matter what this dark world throws at us, we will never be torn from His clutches.
Lately, I need reminded of this everyday. Multiple times a day. Because I’m in a season where I can’t see where I’m going, and I can’t feed myself food that sustains. I need my Dad. I need Him to hold me close and tell me that it’s going to be OK. That no matter where I go or how lonely I get He will never leave me.
I am Moses, waiting 40 years in a desert. I am Abraham, called into lands completely unknown. I am Rahab, fighting labels given by this world and instead choosing to see myself as a Child of God. I am Joshua, clinging to God’s call to be courageous. I am Paul, longing for Heaven and feeling the weight the world we live in. I am that child, crying to be drawn into the arms of comfort.
And I am the scoffer, spitting at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth, nailing Him to a cross.
Lord, forgive me. Fill me to overflowing with your Life. Hold me as I cry, and don’t let go when the tears fade. I need You.
Oh, how I need You.