Sometimes life is a complete mystery, and we are confused when we try to understand it. The last five years of my life have been very curious ones. A lot of things haven’t made sense to me, but as time has progressed, much of it has come together to create a new and wonderful picture.
It was 7 AM in late August of 2014 in my Alabama hometown. Heat and humidity filled the air. My spirit felt hot and humid as well. My 17 year-old son dropped me at the coffee shop on his way to school in his unairconditioned car. This was not unusual, since our family was now sharing a car. I wandered in and sat at the bar, needing that cup of whatever to wake me up and get me going. The morning sunlight poured in the window as the barista poured my Americano. It was tough getting up these days. Difficult circumstances seemed unending. I was thankful for an inexpensive $2 “pick-me-up” and for air-conditioning on this sweltering morning. Gentle music played in the background and settled my soul. I stared out the window, unnoticed and deep in thought. Then I turned to watch the barista as a long line began to form. Each customer waited patiently for his specially ordered drink to start the day.
My mind began to wander and ponder our family’s current life. How did we get here? Just five short years ago, in the world’s eyes, we had it all. We were the typical family of six living the American dream. We had built our dream house and started a new development and resale real estate venture. Life was good. We weren’t living lavishly, but we were living comfortably. We had so many hopes and dreams ahead, and it seemed as if all the details were falling into place.
As the next year progressed, our real estate ventures did not. You see, this was the beginning of our economy’s decline, and many families, along with ours, began to lose everything. It started with the value of all of our properties plummeting. We were worried but felt sure the market would recover before we were in too much danger financially. Next, we found ourselves using our personal savings to pay bills and more. All I can say is that it was like an hourglass. The sands of our life were falling, falling, and running out. We couldn’t turn the hourglass over, and the sand just kept falling. Our marriage became strained as striving to survive completely depleted us. My husband began looking for work even as the job market was crashing. He became depressed, and I became angry. This was not my life. It just couldn’t be. Before we knew it, we were putting our dream house on the market after living there only five years. We began looking for a rental house and scraping together money to pay the bills. Odd jobs like yard work, catering, and cutting hair kept us afloat during those years. We found things we could sell on eBay, and we even sold a car. Our kids increased hours in their jobs and were able to support themselves in many ways.
I would wake up most days wondering how we would get by. It had happened so fast, almost overnight, and it shocked me. We were broke, needy, and desperate. But I never gave up hope that something would change as we continued struggling to make ends meet. My hope never died.
Then, our life changed. My husband got a job as a barista at the local coffee shop. I never in my wildest dreams thought my husband would be a barista at the age of 50. It was uncomfortable for me. I was all about impressing others and worrying about what they thought of my family and me. All of the things that I thought brought meaning to life, including our reputation, were now gone. I was at the end.
Six months later, I sat at the bar watching my husband serve coffee. He knew his routine as well as his regular customers’. They didn’t even have to tell him their order. He would make their drink while talking with them and making them feel special. Isn’t that a wonderful way to start your day. . .feeling special? He was gentle and kind as he took care of each individual. He was smiling. He was happy. . .maybe happier than I had ever seen him. What? After 28 years of marriage? Yes, he had a contented look on his face. In that moment, I knew that he was okay, I was okay, and actually, we might be in a better place than we had ever been before. In that moment, I saw my husband filled with purpose, filled with passion, and filled with mission. Everything suddenly became clear. We had been given a “gift” we hadn’t asked for, but now one that I would never send back. Our former life had been taken away but then been restored with new meaning and richness. In that moment, I truly felt free from the entanglements of our culture that tell us meaning is found in wealth. I was able to be free and relax like never before. What if it’s really true, that at 50 years old we’ve not yet seen our best days? Oh my word! I almost couldn’t believe how I felt. The amount of hope I had in that moment was immeasurable!
You see, my husband, the barista, was discovering something. Day by day, drink by drink, he was discovering the true meaning of life, the true meaning which had been hidden underneath the wealth surrounding us. We had begun to define life by stuff instead of by relationships. He began to find passion and purpose that he had never known before in being a barista. He loves people and taking care of them. He loves mornings, and he loves coffee! I have never seen him so fulfilled in all of his life. And, in that moment, I was discovering something as well. You see, I already had the privilege of being his partner, and now I was watching a new life of purpose and meaning unfold for him. What a picture! All of a sudden, I was thankful for the adventure. You see, it’s true that it is really not about the destination; it’s about the journey. We were forever changed, and I was grateful. We were learning to be free.
If the Son of God has set you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36