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Pour Some Grace In Your Morning Coffee

“I’m late!”

What a way to start the day. You have a meeting at 9am, a thirty-minute drive into work, and here you are at 8:20 pants-less and unshaven.

Where on most mornings your routine includes a relaxed wakeup, healthy breakfast, and hot cup of coffee, your ritual has been violently shaken by your pounding heart as you hastily trim all non-essential actions in order to make it to your car in the next ten minutes.

After a successful triage, you’re on the road and making good time. You’re a bit uncomfortable and irritated having had to skip breakfast. You are halfway to work and starting to settle. Slowly your mind gravitates to the coffee shop around the corner from your office. A debate begins, as you feel two warring realities at odds within you: one fighting to be on time for your presentation, the other fighting to fulfill the coffee fix. “They’ll understand if I am a little late,” you think. “Stan is always about five minutes late to these things himself. I’d be doing him a favor. After all, I’ve never been late before, and certainly am deserving of a pass on this one. I’m only human.”

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I told them I was stuck in traffic, but really I was running latte.

“Sorry everyone,” You say as you walk in fifteen minutes late with jumbled papers and coffee in hand. Then comes the justification and passing of accountability. “It’s been one of those mornings.”

According to urban dictionary, you have just “Run Latte.”

Now most of us can nod our heads, chuckle, and say, “Yep, been there before.” Those that can will likely look at the above character and be willing to throw him or her a little mercy as well. That being said, I think all can agree that if we were sitting in that conference room we’d be slightly irritated with the late start, especially upon seeing the steaming cup of coffee in hand.

Our lives are filled with such attachments: those little routines, fixes, or phobias that have become entrenched in our brains that we battle to preserve. For some people it’s coffee, the morning radio, or checking their Facebook page every hour. For me, there is a need to always optimize my time, leading me to always be a few minutes late and leaving little space and appreciation for relaxation and prayer. When the removal or deprivation of these attachments, as harmless or even virtuous as they may seem, leads to anxiety, disrespect to others, and selfish decisions, it begs the following question:

“Am I truly free?”

In his book, Addiction and Grace, late psychiatrist Dr. Gerald May describes the nature of attachments on a neurological, spiritual, and theological level. Through his lens, the character who was running latte had more than just a battle of wills going on (May would likely claim that “willpower” had the smallest vote in determining which decision would ultimately win). There was a biological/neurological struggle raging from the moment this character woke up, and an entrenched psychological routine reinforced by millions of well-worn neuro-pathways that were demanding to be acknowledged and fed.

Despite our strong tendency toward attachment, the human person desires FREEDOM! In our heart of hearts we all experience a desire to be truly selfless. Yet, all our actions seem to be clouded with selfish pursuits. We may endorse a friend’s book in order to build its credibility, yet there is a hope that our endorsement will drive fans to our website shopping cart. We may wash the dishes out of love for our spouse, but in the back of our mind hope that the small chore will give us the TV remote for the evening. We hate to see our most loving acts whittled down to a game of tit-for-tat, yet it seems impossible to truly love another unconditionally in a life full of attachments. Dale Carnegie said it best in is book, How to Win Friends and Influence People: there are two motivations that drive a person’s actions; the noble cause, and the real cause.

Here enter grace, the only source of freedom from attachments. God’s gift of grace is God’s gift of Himself. He is not an object we can grasp or understand, therefore impossible to be attached to. Yet somehow, God’s gift of grace has the power to displace finite attachment and order our longings toward an infinite pursuit somehow fully receivable through grace. Our attachments are replaced with a mystical submission to a mystery, in which we discover peace, joy, and ultimate freedom. This is the discovery of the saints, and a freedom all are called to experience. Yes, with grace, and only with grace, true freedom is possible.

In this Lenten Season, we enter a time of grace to release our attachments and open our hearts to God. This process will be a struggle, but it is the struggle that makes the gift of grace worth all the more. Freedom only comes through detachment, and detachment only comes through grace. Grace can only be a gift, and our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Ask, and in God’s perfect timing, you shall receive, and his grace is sufficient.

Light up the darkness!

Matt Ingold