The uncontrollable, untamable cry of the soul.
It was an ordinary Tuesday. Mandy’s day to herself—all to herself. And she kept to herself. Too many friends had left too many hurts and too many scars—too many times to count.
She remembered some of the good times. Her fondest memories were the simple moments at their favorite coffee shop. But those times were also the most painful—painful reminders of being cast out, alone, forgotten or ignored.
But this ordinary Tuesday was far from ordinary.
She’d planned for it to be her last. She’d planned every detail perfectly. She laughed at the idea that anyone might miss her as she sat staring at her soon-to-be last cup of coffee. The morning rush was over. The baristas were talking amongst themselves.
Mandy curled up in the well-worn comfy chair by the window. Head leaning against the glass. Staring at a distant world that had abandoned her. Even the Tufted Titmouse just outside the window didn’t notice her. He tapped at the tiny seed he’d braced between his claws, lifting his head to watch for predators. But Mandy was no threat. Mandy was invisible.
Or so she thought—until the chair behind her squeaked across the floor and a deep, rustic voice said, “Sorry if I startled you.” His dark eyes and gentle smile warmed her soul. “Mind if I sit?”
She glanced at his coffee and waved a feeble do-what-you-want gesture. No smile. Not even a word.
“I can sit somewhere else if it’s a problem. Are you waiting for someone?” Mandy shook her head and stared outside at the tiny bird tapping his tiny seed. She felt smaller than the bird—more like the seed. Tap tap tap—the world just drilled away at her until she cracked, then they stole everything good from inside her, and discarded her—an empty shell.
Now she even hated the bird.
The man slid his chair closer and sat beside her. She glanced up at him. Not much to look at, but his face seemed kind as he sipped his coffee, smiled, and watched the Titmouse tapping away at his breakfast. “Amazing what you can learn from a little bird.”
Mandy sipped her coffee. Acid turning in her stomach. As the man talked, she wished she’d brought her pills—all of her pills.
It couldn’t end soon enough.
Discarded and forgotten by family and friends and even her coworkers, she was ready for all of it to go away. She would down the whole bottle and fall into forever sleep.
But she couldn't do it at their cafe. She and her ex had spent many a Saturday morning sharing coffee and laughter in that same chair. Two lovers snuggled together. She’d shared her deepest secrets with her best friend, shared a scone with anyone who wanted to join her, but when she'd cheated on her ex with a braggart, it all ended. Her second life. Her marriage. Her friendships. Even her mother’s respect faded. The life she knew, the life she loved, the life she’d taken for granted was over.
So, it might as well be really over.
The man's voice broke her trance. “Got it all figured out?”
“Huh?” She lifted her head, startled that he was still there. She frowned. “Got what figured out?”
“All of it." He shrugged and smiled. Lifted his coffee and pointed out the window. "Your eyes are looking past everything. You’re coffee has lost its steam, but it’s not even half empty. You look to me like you're thinking about the whole world and wondering where you fit.”
Half-intrigued, half-creeped out, she said, “Is it any of your business?”
“The world or what’s going on in your head?”
She’d made sure to take a few days off from work. No one would expect to see her until the following Wednesday. No one would interrupt her. No one would find her.
Except this stranger. He seemed to come from nowhere and was in no hurry to leave.
She pretended to ignore him and looked out the window again, but his reflection sat beside her, sipping coffee and watching her. His reflection looked at hers, and she stretched out her left hand and lay it on her knee to display the painful memory of her fairytale turned into divorce. She had never removed her wedding band. If nothing else it told other men she was off limits.
She lied and said, "I'm meeting my husband here soon."
"Mmm." He sipped his coffee and nodded. But he was still there.
Mandy felt a sudden uneasy tingling. Her mouth felt dry, and her heart beat faster. "I think I should go."
The stranger raised his hands as if to stop her. "Please don't do it."
His eyes bore through her and nervousness turned to a nightmarish blend of terror and wonder. She wanted this last cup of coffee to make it easier. One last fond memory. One last time in the chair they'd shared. One last moment of warmth with her favorite..."
"You like the white chocolate mocha." His eyebrow raised as if to say, "Don't you." And it wasn't a question.
Dry lips and tongue made it difficult to speak. "Like I said, I should be going."
He stood and stepped back giving her room to head toward the door, but she stood there. Shaking inside. Screaming inside for nerve enough to say something, run away, or end it all like she'd planned.
As she took that first step, he stretched out his hand and took her cup. "Let me get you a fresh coffee."
She sighed and slumped back into the chair. "I could use another cup."
He smiled and nodded—and soon came back with stainless steel tumbler. As he handed it to her, he said, "You'll never have lukewarm coffee ever again."
He sat beside her once again, and he smiled at the huge diamond on her left ring finger. He lifted her hand and held it.
As she looked at the ring, tears filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. He held her trembling hand, and she loved the warmth, but she felt so dirty, so undeserving, so unlovely and unlovable. Her life had been a lie—a series of lies. And she lied even now. She wasn't married, but her ring told the man and the world otherwise.
He gently squeezed her hand and said, "Wouldn't you love a bottomless cup of coffee that never loses its warmth, never loses its flavor, never too bold or too weak, never makes you sweat or makes your heart race, but it feels so good, so comfortable. Heaven in your hands, warming the body and the soul."
"There's no such thing," she said.
He took a deep breath and looked out the window. The little Titmouse was still tapping away at one seed after another. Never satisfied but never worried—never giving up—never going away. "I enjoy watching the birds, don't you?"
She nodded and he continued. "By our standards, this little guy doesn't have much to look forward to—a short life, harsh, unpredictable conditions, but he is resilient. He stays at it and never gives up."
"What are you saying?"
"You look like you're ready to give up. You sipped that coffee like it was your last cup—ever."
Mandy glared at him. "So what if it is? It's none of your business. Besides, I told you I'm waiting to meet my husband."
"You also told me you should be going. But you've nowhere to go—do you?"
She looked into his eyes. She wanted to look away—run away, but she could feel him speaking to her heart as if he knew she came here for her last-ever cup of coffee. He didn't say a word, but she could hear his voice like a whisper in her mind. "You chose this spot because you and your husband—ex-husband used to come here together. Those were beautiful times—simple times—the kind you want to always remember. The kind that warm your soul—until the soul grows cold. And you can never forget those times—even if you wished you could. You can cherish them, or they can haunt you."
Mandy set down her cup and lowered her head into her hands. Crying turned to sobbing. Her body shook.
She felt his hand on her shoulder. Love poured into her thirsty heart.
"Don't cry. Mandy, you've seen yourself through the wrong eyes. Women who've judged you. Men who've used you. Wives who've scorned you. Pastors who've given up. Doctors who've seen a diagnosis but didn't see you."
He reached for her other hand and held her hands in his. "Look through my eyes.”
Who was this stranger that could read her thoughts and snatch her life from the edge of death?
In the fourth chapter of The Book of John, you can read the story of Jesus sitting down to talk with the Samaritan woman as she drew water from the well. I've often wondered what that story would look like today. Where I live, we don't draw water from wells, but we do go to Starbucks.
And when I hold a warm cup of my favorite brew, it feels like a warm taste of heaven.
And so, I imagine Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman as she is sipping her coffee in the early afternoon—hiding from her used-to-be friends and all who would judge her. When Jesus—a stranger—happens upon her and turns her life upside down. Her heart overflows. She leaves the coffee shop never to thirst again. The coffee no longer matters. She's taken a sip of real life—life that never ends—joy that never ends.
The uncontrollable, untamable cry of her soul is worship.