A couple of years ago, a friend put me onto this new local cafe. They simply sold awesome coffee along with a couple of snack options. I always got a car spot and a table. I got to the know the owners. They happened to be Christians. I told a number of friends about it. ‘I have this great cafe’ you should check out’, I’d say.
About six months into my regular consumption of their soy flat whites, I noticed a change to their menu.
They started selling milkshakes and toasted sandwiches – enter, the noisy blender and different clientele. They started cooking bacon and egg rolls for tradesmen on their way to work. Enter, the greasy BBQ out front and the lack of parking in the mornings. Profits went up. More staff were hired. We moved from milk crates to actual seats. The couple that owned the cafe were very happy, but… I wasn’t. I mean, their coffee was still the best, but their menu diversification was, well, an inconvenience. I don’t really like milkshakes, toasted sandwiches or bacon and egg rolls. I wanted to old place back. I kept thinking, ‘Do what you used to do!’. I started going less often.
One day, when I stopped by for a takeaway coffee, the owner served me. With a smile she said, ‘Hey Dave, good to see you. We don’t see you as much. How-ya-goin?’. I took a breath and honestly replied, ‘Well, I like your coffee. It’s still the best but I don’t like anything else on the menu. Since you guys increased your menu, so much changed. And, well, I just like the way you were before – plus all the BBQ stuff and milkshakes are… well… not that healthy at all. The cholesterol in that stuff is a killer. Eating those rolls and all that milk sent my uncle into an early grave, you know. Plus, the noise and the lack of parking is just, you know… Not all diversification in business is good, like if you learn about McDonalds and Apple, they increased and then reduced their offer so maybe you should… I dunno….’ She was taken back a little. She replied, ‘Well, ummm…..
So, I’ll leave the story there, because it’s fictional. Yep, made it up for illustration purposes. Sorry to leave you hanging. I wanted to present some thoughts.
Firstly, the cafe was never mine, even though I called it ‘my cafe’. Ever notice how often we say things like ‘My football team’, or ‘My pastor’, ‘My local pub’? Like we own them or something. The cafe owners had the right to say ‘my cafe’, because it is theirs. And because it’s theirs… you guessed it, they can make the changes they want! They don’t owe me anything. They were very happy with the way things were going after the expansion. In fact, they always wanted a thriving business that did more than just good coffee. Perhaps, I was being to possessive.
Secondly, the coffee didn’t change. I just needed to decide whether or not the other things, which I took for granted – like parking, seating, menu and noise were worth leaving for. I may have realised that I actually value more things than good coffee and take my patronage elsewhere. My choice entirely. We do this often, right?
Thirdly, the cafe owner didn’t ask for my opinion on the cafe. She asked how I was going. (which, in Australia, is just a polite hello). I was the one who moved in and imposed my values. I was the one who masked my masked my frustration as if it was a business model concern. My false sense of power (possessiveness) remained unchecked and in front of three waiting customers, I vented my unsolicited opinion.
Here’s the takeaway (no pun intended), when you and I go through seasons of change, or reveal more potential, or experiment with different ways of being, you’ll have people that simply don’t like it. They get concerned. They may fret because they imagined you a different way. A safe and predictable kind of way. They may well have become possessive of the version of you that suited them, without knowing it. We do this with people all the time, it’s what makes for a lot of celebrity and Political commentary. And for some, this will come out in the need to let you know their disappointment, even when the it wasn’t asked for. This is normal. In fact, when you see the resistance to change presented, you know it’s happening and significant (thank you change management theories). The crowd will be quick to categorise, read between the lines, go to worse-case scenario – because that’s simply the easiest thing to do (habit). Long conversations and unconditional love (not agreement, or condonement) is the reserved realm of safe intimate family and friends.
Whether you are increasing your menu, by trying new things. Or reducing it, by stopping things. Or doing a complete overhaul, beginning with a deconstruction. I think our collective personal challenge is this; can we walk with kindness, love, humility and patience with ourselves and others? Are we willing to ask sincere questions, and listen to understand? Are we willing to acknowledge the log in our own eyes that cloud our vision of one another, then withhold judgement and lean in beyond quick fear-based conclusions and love the other? Are we willing to let those who simply prefer the ‘old way cafe’ to go elsewhere as they please?
In the coming months, you are likely to see me ‘expand my menu’ here on social media. A couple of days ago I posted a couple of White House photos along with a small musing. The commentary volume and content was close to what occured last year when I posted how proud I was of my daughter who made her way to a climate change march. Oh man, what an eye-opener! Last year, I wrote a blog about parenting, violence and penal substitutionary atonement – that was interesting!. Years ago, I had a 9 minute video go viral. It was a blessing over women who’d been spiritually abused and oppressed in the church. Again, lots of push-back amidst the freedom it brought so many. (I still remember the lady who stood up in the middle of the message that preceded that prayer and shouted at me claiming God was not her mother.)
Here’s the thing, I’m at the point where I either just forget this unpredictable beast, that is social media, or I push forward and expand the menu. Those who know Nat and I personally, know that we have hearts for the oppressed, marginalised, voiceless, poor and misunderstood. We care about our planet. We value education. Justice and inequality matter to us. Our kids, their education, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing matter to us. We’ll rent the home we live in and drive older cars so our kids can go to a particular school, get braces, see psychologists and visit the chiropractor. These are our values. They don’t have to be yours. And for those Politically-vigilant readers, if it helps you to categorise me as a left-wing liberal, go ahead, that’s your reductionist label/judgement, not mine. Ultimately, I want to be a follower of the way of Jesus, not just a categorical or popular Christian. And I’m likely to be on a rocky pilgrimage to what it means to walk like this forever.