In these politically divisive times, there are lots of ways we see our nation divided and categorized: by political party, race, religion, occupation, beverage of choice. Okay, so maybe this last category doesn’t cut as deep a divide as the others, but nonetheless, I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they choose to imbibe. Now there is the classic divide of coffee or tea. People of both persuasions take the process of brewing or steeping, whatever the case might be, pretty seriously. I have seen people approach their coffeemakers, if they are hard core, like priests approaching the altar, especially if they have a French press.

Jim switched from coffee to tea a few years back, due to his battle with gastric reflux. While this was a great disappointment to the kids who had become accustomed to begging a swig or two from his coffee mug each morning, I think he is now in the correct camp for his disposition, not to mention his digestion. I see the coffee drinker as high energy/intense. This is not Jim, who relates much better to the methodical and slower pace of tea drinking.

Allow me to describe the typical process of making a cup of tea in our house. First, heat the water. This is actually a great controversy in our household because Jim much prefers the microwave, while I rely on the electric kettle. Next you forget that you have heated the water (in either way previously described) and you have to start again, because by the time you remember, the water has gotten cold again. After reheating the water, you choose a tea bag and once again walk away, perhaps to wipe a bottom (always a great pre-beverage-consumption activity) or to settle a dispute. Returning to your steeping cup, you realize that once again, it’s cold. After reheating, adding half and half and honey (if you are Jim, you use more honey than Winnie the Pooh) you try to drink it. But wait, it’s too hot. So you leave the tea, and do something else only to come back too late and find that your tea is—say it with me now—cold. So you give it one more zap in the microwave (it now contains enough microwaves to scramble a pacemaker) and drink, burning your tongue with each sip, but you’ve come this far, right? Gee, I don’t’ know why I don’t do that more often. My aversion to this process obviously reveals my issues with patience and instant gratification. I applaud Jim for his perseverance but prefer my beverage consumption not to be an exercise in self-discipline.

So, you might be asking yourself, what do I drink—water? Please. I am among an elite group of drinkers whose beverage of choice is the Polar Pop. Now allow me to enlighten those of you who do not have the honor of living in Indiana. The Polar Pop is a very large, very cold fountain drink. You can only buy it in a limited number of convenient stores in our area, though it has its imitators, like all greats do. You can get a Polar Pop in either brand you prefer, but I, of course, like all distinguished connoisseurs of carbonated beverages, head directly for the Coke side of the dispenser. I quickly fill my Styrofoam (that’s right, not only am I consuming 32 oz. of liquid goodness-knows-what, but it is all contained within a large, non-biodegradable container) with ice and fill with half caf and half decaf Diet Coke. In and out in less than a minute if the line is short, which is good thing because I am usually squeezing the stop in between either dropping off or picking up one of the kids and dropping off or picking up one of the other kids. The size of the drink is definitely a plus because if the kids are present, there is usually a lot sharing going on. If the choice of coffee or tea reflects on the chooser, then what does the Polar Pop reveal about me? Besides the obvious—that I am not as environmentally or health conscious as I ought to be—I think the draw of the Polar Pop for me is the ritual of it. I love the fact that with little variation I can go through the ceremony of getting my Polar Pop in a very orderly and predictable way each time, going to the same gas station and getting the same drink. I get the same style of cup (the cup holder-friendly model) and get cranky if they don’t have the blue straws as opposed to the skinny white ones. (I also drink tea, when I can endure the process, out of the same mug, eat the same cereal for breakfast every morning, and reread books again and again. It’s a sickness, I know.)

In an attempt to pull this post out of the abyss of complete triviality it has thus far been wallowing in, I will say this. There is a natural human tendency to cling to what is visible, that which we can touch and feel and even taste. While my near-obsession with the Polar Pop seems harmless enough, there are days when I suck down Diet Coke like a prayer to heaven, seeking comfort from the familiar. But I think that even in routine, God speaks and does indeed comfort. Otherwise, why would He make the sun rise and fall each day in pretty much the same way and have the seasons follow one another in the same order? If He likes order and routine, why shouldn’t we who are created in His image? Perhaps the draw of routine is part of the Imago Dei, however dimly disguised in the contents of a Styrofoam cup.

3 Responses to “Drinking from the Cup of Ritual”

  1. Lezlie


    I don’t know if you’re right on this one or if you’re bending the truth a little in the case of the styrofoam cup (which we all know is more dangerous than bluntly lying), but I like it! And I’m laughing about it still.

    I appreciate the comment about not wanting your beverage drinking to be an exercise in self-discipline. I’ve tried having a nice cup of tea during Israel’s breakfast. Or maybe just after he eats. Or then again, perhaps his morning nap would work best…but blech! The coldness! The hotness! The (gasp!) microwaving a completely-brewed beverage! I couldn’t take it. Besides. I forgot the sugar. But the sugar is on the tea cart in the dining room and the spoon for it is in the kitchen drawer! And…well, never mind the tea. I think I’ll switch to the one-ingredient, powdered hot chocolate that you put in the microwave. It beeps when it’s done and you only do it once. And it’s nothing to be snobbish about. (Says the girl who brought her french press, hot pot, and ceramic coffee mugs faithfully to her 8:30am class with Dr. Spiegel.) My drinking tells me, once again, I am an all-or-nothing, this-or-its-opposite, sort of person.

  2. julie


    I would not get through the years of butt wiping nd sleep-deprivation without diet pop. It is delicious and fizzy and I DO NOT CARE if it isn’t good for me. There I said it. Wanna know what else? I drank it when I was pregnant! Someone call child protective services!!!

  3. Kaitlyn Dugan


    So I’m in the library here at Gordon-Conwell and I laughed so hard that I was afraid the librarians lingering somewhere were surely going to kick me out. This post was pure gold. And once again, the last sentence always means so much.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)