We have this little ritual, West and I, of making coffee for one another. Sometimes he makes it (usually after lunch), and sometimes I do (our morning cuppa, following the school run); but the process is the same for each of us: rinse out our little Bialetti espresso maker, fill with fresh water, spoon the coffee grounds over the metal filter, screw the top back on, and place it on the stovetop to heat up while we microwave the two cups of milk for our lattes. Mmmmm. Rich, delicious, and – most importantly – caffeinated!
The coffee-preparation process is the same, but there’s one slight variation in the finished product each of us receives: whoever gets the second cup also gets a bit of ‘sludge’ from the coffee grounds. It’s a very slightly finer cup for whomever gets the first pour. Knowing this is the case, I make sure that West gets the first pour.
Oh, I know I could make it even. I could do a little pour into each cup, back and forth and back again, to make sure that neither of us gets the dregs on our own. I could. But then neither of us would get the pure ‘first pour’, either. And, in truth, I don’t really mind the dregs. I know, too, that when West makes the coffee, he reserves the second pour for himself and gives me the finer cup. It balances out.
When you think about it, it’s not just with coffee that there’s a ‘first pour’ and ‘the dregs’; our time, our energy, our families – with each of these things we have a choice to make, whether we realise it or not, about where we’re going to bestow this superior ‘first pour’.
If I’m working on an article or some other writing, it’s easy to be consumed by it; so focused on the words and ideas swirling around in my head that every other bit of input is a frustrating distraction. In truth, it’s like that anytime I’m wrestling with ideas – even if I’m internally trying to figure out how to better nurture my children and be more patient with them, I’ll be swatting them away and growling at them while I’m trying to think it through. How’s that for irony?! There are definitely times that I need to lock myself away to sort out the ideas, set down the phrases, and complete a writing task; but at other times I really have to train myself to view the thoughts (and worries) as a distraction, rather than seeing my kids that way. Sometimes, at the very least, my kids should get the ‘first pour’ of my energy, focus, and attention; my children as individuals and my family as a group – not just concepts, ideas, theories and debates about the concept of ‘parenting’.
Likewise, when life and lists crowd in and there doesn’t seem to be time for anything, let alone a sacred, quiet space in time to read the Bible, pray, or meditate, where does my ‘first pour’ go? Likely, every little thing gets a drip of my best; the dregs, if anything, are what’s left for the pursuit of spiritual growth and nurture.
And although when I make a coffee I put myself second – with little to no detriment – I can see that it’s not healthy for us to always leave ourselves just the dregs of our time and energy. Sometimes we need to make sure that we get the sustaining, superior, beneficial ‘first pour’ as well – not to short-change those we love, but to ensure that we function as healthy, fulfilled, and functional human beings. When I start to feel like I’m pouring into too many cups, I know that the result will be unsatisfying – and unsatisfactory – for all of them. I need to give myself the first pour – step back from things, renew my energy, regain my perspective, and then I’m fresh to make a new batch.
This isn’t a new idea. In the Bible, one of God’s requirements of the Jews was that they would bring Him their ‘first fruits’ as an offering. He also required them to sacrifice their best before Him; an unblemished lamb (sound familiar?), amongst other things. Sure, these are Old Testament practices, but they’re ones whose essence remains useful to observe today: what we do for God should be what we do first; and what we bring to God should be our best. It shouldn’t be that church is what we fit in if we haven’t got anything better to do on a Sunday. It shouldn’t be that sleep, activities, and TV crowd in and replace our time praying and reading the Bible. (It shouldn’t be the case, but I’ll raise my hand first – I find time to vege in front of Netflix almost every night, and yet I can’t seem to establish a regular quiet time routine for reading the Bible and meditating on God’s word…).
I think it’s worth considering, from time to time. Who’s getting the first pour in your life? Do you need to change the order of cups?