Bitter or Sweet

By Randy Heacock, Interim LEADership Minister

In the family in which I was raised, going to the theater was not acceptable. The one exception that was granted was to see “Mary Poppins” for a friend’s birthday party.   The line, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” I have never forgotten. As a kid, the idea of taking nasty tasting medicine in order to feel better had little value. However, mix that same medicine with a little sweetness and somehow it was doable.

I grew up using my fair share of sugar. A good bowl of cereal ended with drinking the milk from the bowl with its clumps of sugar. I married into a Mennonite family who loves to bake and sugar was not sprinkled, but rather dumped into the homemade applesauce.    Even fresh strawberries needed a little touch of sugar to bring out the flavor. No Mennonite gathering seems complete without food in general and specifically sweet baked goods. It seems many of us have a pretty large sweet tooth.

As much as I love sweets, I draw the line with coffee.  I like it black. No sugar and no flavored creams. Though I love ice cream, I do not like any coffee flavors.  Coffee is best when bitter.   When a friend recently heard of my preference to keep sweetener out of my coffee, he commented that it fits my personality and pastoral approach.  Perhaps this should offend me but his explanation seemed accurate.   He suggested that I do not sugar-coat my observations and understandings. My friend affirmed me for being bitter and for providing space in which others can share of life’s bitterness.

An old movie, my love of sweets, and coffee preference seems like an odd combination to write about. However, it has given me much to think on. While I do not strive to be bitter, I do wish to be open to the bitter truth God has for me.  I want to find ways to lower my defenses regarding what others say about me to hear the truth they offer.  I long to expand my palate to those experiences that may not seem sugar-coated.  I hope to increase my ability to sit with others in their bitterness without needing to eat shoe fly pie.

I am pretty sure I will keep enjoying sweets.  I pray I can grow to embrace bitter as being equally good.  I believe it is time for a good cup of coffee!