Like Milk and Lemon Juice

In a fit of fierce independence and in need of a fresh start, I moved alone to the East Coast in my mid-20s. Recently divorced, I had learned to take myself on dates rather than waiting for a "knight" in polished fiberglass to sweep me away to experience life.  Walking the Freedom trail, visiting the historic Oyster House, wandering aimlessly in cramped used bookstores near Harvard ... I had learned to enjoy such things unchaperoned. It is safe to say I was proud of my ability to be on my own. I didn't need a man or a even a girl squad to safely get out of my apartment and navigate everything the big city of Boston had to offer.

Photo by todd kent at Unsplash

Several of my excursions took me to Cambridge - the home of Harvard. I've always enjoyed tea and had recently acquired a gadget at work for steeping the loose-leaf variety. So one rare day that I wasn't working, attending classes, or interning - I took the T across the river in search of MEM Tea. Mind you, this was just before we began carrying GPS in our pockets. My pride in my ability to navigate by myself to new and interesting places wasn't entirely baseless.

This also being before we carried photos, so I don't have any but those burned into my memory. Upon opening the door to the shop, a sophisticated dream greeted me. An array of warmly grey cubbies filled the wall, so vast that a library ladder rested in its track to one side. Neatly labeled tins rested in each cubicle, waiting to express their unique aromas. I selected a few to bring back to my apartment, and ordered a cup to enjoy while I studied. Look at me, being an adult doing adult things!

Photo by Marisa Harris at Unsplash

When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom. 
- Proverbs 11:2

When the baristo brought my tea, he asked if I would like milk or lemon. When I said both, he looked mildly taken aback. A smirk curled in one corner of his mouth as he informed this novice adult that if I used both it would curdle.

"I like it that way."

My impulsive and haughty self answered for me before I even had a moment to think. There I sat, embarrassed that I was not sophisticated enough to know that the lemon would curdle the milk. And to "cover" (ie: further) my embarrassment I told him I liked my tea with curdled milk. Now he just looked irritated. I'm sure my East Texas accent really solidified his impression of me in that moment.

Not to be disproven, I arrogantly took it a step further. I couldn't let it rest at quietly using one and not the other. Oh no! I stubbornly poured generous dollops of both into my very first cup of oolong. True to his word, the milk instantly curdled. And I drank that blessed cup of tea to the last drop. (Thankfully I eventually gave oolong another try and to this day it is one of my favorites.)

But I did not enjoy that cup of tea. Someone who knew better tried to warn me, and I pridefully did not heed them and stubbornly forged ahead into known consequences. An ounce of humility would have made those few ounces of tea a most pleasant experience. Instead I sat trying not to bely the feelings rumbling in my belly with the expressions washing over my face with each sip. It felt like I drank a gallon rather than a demur teacup full.

Through insolence comes nothing but strife,
But wisdom is with those who receive counsel. 
- Proverbs 13:10

This is exactly what pride does for me when I don't listen to God's gentle warnings about what doing things my own way will result in. I end up swallowing an unappetizing swill of my own making and pretending I like it. My credibility is watered down. The good things He would have given me are tainted.

I want to slow down and act with humility and trust. Be willing to listen to and obey His advice. Because nothing is quite so bitter as taking something He meant for good and spoiling it. Pride and wisdom go together about like milk and lemon juice - they don't.

Photo by Sugarman Joe at Unsplash

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord,
and He will exalt you. 
- James 4:10

* I will add this caveat. If you feel that you are staring into stomach-clenching cup full of undrinkable, congealed mess ... know this: He can redeem anything. As it turns out, if a recipe calls for buttermilk, you can mix lemon juice or vinegar into regular milk as a substitute. He knew what you would pour that cream He gave you into, and He can do something completely different but equally as good with the "mess" you have made of it.