Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness.” John 1:16
Sweet tea…oh yes, the drink of the south. I was raised in the deep south and both food and drink were especially important. To most southerners, including me, food was never just food, it was the great comforter—the billboard along the highway of life that said, “it’s gonna be ok.” Growing up, whenever I was sad or happy or maybe a little blue, food was my friend. And what is good food without something good to wash it down? And down south…that must be “sweet tea.” For clarity sweet tea is not brownish, tan water with some sugar or sweetener thrown in. No, sweet tea is brewed, a southern tradition and creation, and when it is done right, well, it’s downright heavenly. When it is done wrong, you end up with sweet brown water.
Sweet tea is not like wine. I’ve heard that wine needs time to age to become fine. That is not true with southern sweet tea. You see good, sweet tea has a short life span. Some would say hours, but no true southerner would say days. If sweet tea is done right, it turns to syrup overnight. Leave a pitcher in the refrigerator till the next day and it becomes a whole different animal. Good, sweet tea is meant to be drank in the moment. You may well sip it, but don’t take too long.
I discovered another kind of sweet tea from another part of the world. When the folks in West Africa drink their version of sweet tea, well, it is an event. First, it is served hot and not cold. Second, it is strong…VERY strong. They brew their tea in a very small pot, with a little water, a lot of tea and over a small coal fired burner. When it comes to a strong boil, they add boatloads of sugar…and I am not kidding. They scoop and scoop and scoop some more. The final result is one of the strongest and sweetest things you can imagine. Trust me, if you weren’t diabetic before you started, you will be by the time you finish. They say their tea is sweet like life and bitter like death.
The way they present their tea is also special. The host will go to great lengths (no pun intended) to pour his or her tea from pot to cup or glass from great heights. The distance a person can pour their tea and not miss the cup is almost a matter of national pride. A famous one-liner is, “I can pour my tea from the back of a camel on a very windy day.” It is a cultural thing…it is a people thing. You see good, sweet tea does that. It brings people together. Whether it is a front porch in South Georgia, or a mat spread on the sands of the Sahara, tea…sweet tea, brings people together.
Today, in a time when there seems to be so much to pull us apart, maybe we all just need to sit down and have a good glass of sweet tea. For our friends in West Africa, it is just a necessity. Go see someone and tea will be offered and, tea will be shared. It builds relationships, it opens the door of communication. Maybe that is one reason why my Momma and Daddy shared a cup of coffee every day when he came home from work. Maybe that is the reason we should do the same. Often when people talk instead of yelling, things change. It is true in government, and it is true in church and it is true in homes.
I’m sure there are lots of reasons why things are so fragmented today and I’m also sure that a glass of sweet tea, no matter how good, won’t solve everything. However, I do know something that might. That is a couple of teaspoons of grace. Just like sugar tames the bitterness of the tea, so grace can tame a temper or temper a difficult situation. Tempered steel is made stronger by the process of applying heat. In the same way, relationships and people are made stronger by applying grace. And we have grace to share because the Bible says that from His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.
So, when’s the last time you just sat down with a friend, or an adversary for that matter, and had some good, sweet tea mixed with a little grace? You might be surprised to learn that the gulf between the both of you is not as great as you think. It is certainly not so wide that grace can’t span the gap and trust me, no, trust Him—there is always grace enough. As always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne