The idea behind reading tea leaves is that the patterns of sediment have a meaningful relationship (not a causal relationship) to events in the natural world. The tea-leaf reader uses intuition to interpret the relationship between the leaves in the bottom of the cup and the circumstances likely to occur to the drinker of the cup.
Lest you think I have gone off the deep end and am promoting any version of witchcraft, divination, or fortune-telling, bear with me, I am going somewhere totally different with this!
Of course, I usually use teabags anyway, which mean there are rarely leaves in the bottom of my cup.
When I put a bag of tea in hot water I expect tea to come from it. I simply won’t get anything different because tea leaves are in the bag. I can certainly read those leaves and interpret a causal relationship.
teabag + hot water = tea
You could even do a little experiment to prove it. If you put a teabag in water, you’ll make tea. If you put one of those little coffee bags in water, you’ll make coffee. If you put raspberry leaves in one of those little bags, you’ll get water infused with raspberry leaves.
I do like to watch the water when I first add a teabag. I love the tiny golden swirl of the tea as it just begins to seep out of the bag. I enjoy the slowly darkening color. I love the aroma wafting through the air. I love the warmth of the cup in my hands.
Sometimes I wonder if others enjoy watching what seeps out of me when I am in hot water.
When I experience heat, what seeps out?
Does the aroma of Christ fill the air?
Do people experience warmth around me?
How I respond to heat is an excellent indicator of what is inside my heart.
Julia’s heart + hot water = Julia’s words, thoughts, and deeds
Hot water often shows up as…
- kids running late
- a plugged toilet
- a look or word from my husband I read as insensitive (sometimes I’m as good at reading his looks as I am at reading tea leaves…)
- the computer crashes
- an oven fire
- disappointing news
- an eye roll (why do eye rolls drive me crazy?)
- a flat tire
- a sick child
- a false accusation
- a poorly timed puddle on the floor under a toddler (really, is there a good time?)
- lack of sleep
- lack of beef
- a long wait in the doctor’s waiting room
- a friend hurt by sin
- an uncharitable judgment about my husband (pastor’s wives often hear these from well-meaning congregants)
- an over-full schedule
- a canceled lunch date
I could go on and on and on. Heat shows up in my days a lot.
How I choose to respond to the heat reveals what is in my heart.
I am sad to say a lot of the time it reveals idolatry, selfishness, bitterness, anger, self-righteousness, and judgment.
I therefore… urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:1-3, 31-32
Is my heart so full of the peace of Christ, of his forgiveness, of his calling that grace seeps out of me when I am under pressure?
I had the heart-rending privilege of watching a godly man in the final stages of brain cancer several years ago. It was a time so precious – it inspired worship and joy in the midst of great grief and sorrow. In the final weeks, days, hours and minutes of his life, as his mind lost clarity and he failed to understand who we were and what was happening, hymns and scripture seeped out. He struggled to form sentences of his own, but he could call to mind the words of Christ. He was so full of grace and mercy and scripture and kindness and goodness and song and wisdom and hope that the aroma of Christ filled the room – even as he suffered great pain and the humiliation that comes with others caring for your every physical need.
He got to the place of grace because he’d trained his heart and mind so thoroughly for seventy-some-odd years. When he could no longer hold the reins, his heart and mind new the way home.
I want to live like that. I want to show grace under pressure.
But the truth is in the teabag, right? And my heart-tea doesn’t taste very good, sometimes.
Right now I could very easily feel condemned. Heat in my life regularly reveals a heart packed with sin.
Condemnation is the work of the devil, who wants me to drink my cup of sin. Condemnation wants me to hide my sin with guilt and shame – and threatens to expose my sin to increase my shame. Condemnation offers despair and it weighs me down with lies, defeat, and discouragement. Condemnation uses my tea to point me toward to a hopeless future.
Satan would like nothing more than to defeat me with the evidence I find in my cup. After all, he prowls around like a lion searching for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), right?
But scripture teaches there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).
There is a huge difference between being convicted of sin and being condemned by sin. Conviction is the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who lives in my heart and sees all that sin even before it seeps. Conviction shines light on my sin so I can see its cruel chains. Conviction offers hope and motivates me to repent, to seek truth, to train and practice grace. Conviction uses my tea to point me toward Christ.
My sweet friend who died such a horrible and grace-filled death didn’t get to that place in an instant. It took the better part of his seventy-some-odd years to get there. He learned well, and taught me with words and by example, what it is to live convicted by the Holy Spirit. It is in the sweet place of conviction I find hope.
Please – don’t look at your tea and see the future.