Are we all a little “over steeped”?

When I am telling someone about my faith identity and my upbringing I often say that I was raised Methodist, but was steeped in the Baptist waters. Though we grew up going to the United Methodist Church, the community around me was deeply steeped in the traditions and the beliefs of the Baptist denomination. My brain works in such a way that I really love a good analogy. It helps me to make connections and overthink things thoroughly. I invite you to stick with me through this analogy of tea leaves and over steeping.

For anyone who drinks tea, you know that there is a proper amount of time to steep the infuser depending on the kind of leaves you have. It does not take a tea connoisseur to know when your tea has been over steeped. It is bitter, and no matter how much water or sweetener you add, it doesn’t fix it, it just makes it tolerable. The same goes for burnt coffee or an espresso shot that was pulled for a few seconds too long or too short.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a little (or a lot) over steeped and it’s only Monday. The election week took all of my attention when it came to the television, and now, a few days later, I am back constantly refreshing my socials in search of… well... I guess disappointment? I am finding that we are all steeping ourselves in news and stories that satisfy our own needs. Any news that challenges our opinions, we then deem fake.

What if what we ingest is not tea itself, but rather the leaves in our infuser? What if we are the tea? The good news is that we can be redeemed of bitterness, of being burned, of pulling, and sourness. The real question though, is how do we make sure that we have a robust flavor profile worthy of a new Guy Fieri show all about tea leaves?

After last week’s election we know that our voting population is split, and if your social media feed looks like mine, we have all been hurt, and are not strangers to grief. We all can agree that there is work to be done. We are looking for safe places to lick our wounds and to be comforted. But how do we keep ourselves educated in a time where “fake news” is rampant? How do we trust our neighbors when we’ve seen their cards through their yard signs and their Facebook posts? All of the tea!

Though I don’t have answers, I have a little hope and a tea infuser. For me, I commit to gathering tea leaves, and doing so so that they stay fresh. If something doesn’t feel or taste quite right, I commit to the work of seeking spiritual council, and faithful googling. I will read things that I don’t agree with, and will do internal searching as to why that might be. I will make and keep friends that challenge my ideas, and keep me sharp. I will have good self care. I will sip lots of tea.

With a new year, and in the midst of a pandemic where so many of us are physically distanced, we have an opportunity to start fresh. We get to pour our bitter tea out, grab a new infuser, and decide what kinds of leaves to fill it with. I hope you will join me. Let’s wash out those favorite coffee mugs and give ourselves and our neighbors another chance.

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Ashley Sutherland

Ashley Sutherland

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Princeton Theological Seminary, MDiv/MACEF 2020 Aspiring advocate, learner, and United Methodist. she/her/hers