Coffee and Existential Dread

I’m walking through the streets of Berlin on a cold spring day.

“Turn right. Now left. Keep going. Now right again.”

The voice is anything but a voice. It’s a feeling… something in my head… my heart… God.

For months I have been engaging with the Holy on this personal level, inviting Him into everything, especially a spring Saturday morning where I’m looking for a cute coffee shop to read and journal like every other basic Christian white girl. “I just love coffee and the Word.”

As crazy as it sounds, He had done it before. A few months back I was led to this coffee shop that was built into the walls of a sunken garden. The moment was so precious. A fountain. Roses. A tasty cup of coffee. All in a hidden location. The moment smelt of mystery and destiny.

Now, I was off again, trying to trust that “still small voice,” but this time, I was lost.

All around stood huge brutalist buildings, none of which had a cafe for me to shelter from the cold. Block after block, complex after complex, and nothing.

My heart began to sink and anxiety filled my chest.

Then, the haunting thought crept up from the depths of my subconscious:

“Maybe this voice is just myself. Maybe I’m making this whole thing up.”

And just like a knot in a beautifully woven sweater, in the smallest most insignificant moment, my faith began to unravel.

Surely if one lost latte was enough to make my faith crumble, we can safely assume it probably wasn’t a faith worth saving, but this wasn’t that simple.

Years of build up had come bursting forth because of one final, gentle exhale.

Pastors passionately rebuking me for sin, all while having an affair.

Leadership refusing to disciple me but happy to leverage my talents for their egos.

Missionaries boldly screaming at me to have more faith and lie about what’s in the Bible.

Starving children attending the church of a fat pastor.

An Indian women weeping in her wheelchair as I prayed for a new leg she had lost, whimpering through breaths, “Why won’t God give me my leg back?”

The latte was too much.

Maybe this was all one big manipulative scheme that had existed for thousands of years to make people obey the whims of leaders. Maybe I’ve been wrong about my faith. Maybe this was all a lie.

And it all came crashing down.

It’s been nearly eight years since that moment, and not a day goes by that I wrestle with trusting God.

The same questions that awoke over a cup of coffee continue to haunt me:

Is He there? Does He exist? Can He be trusted? Or am I utterly alone?

And, to be honest, I don’t know. At times I have felt sweet relief, a fresh warm wind that curls around my hair, caressing me with hope. Other times, I’m lost in the depths of my despondence, screaming into a cave with not even a reverberating echo, a sound-proofed studio, my please absorb into the foam of existential uncertainty.

And if He’s not there, I need to take care of myself. If He won’t look out for me, I need to remain vigilant.

I need to struggle, alone. I need to fight, by myself.

And this shows up everywhere.

I take personal inventory and find a job that will be stable and pay my bills rather than dreaming and risking. I get on dating and hookup apps in an attempt to find a partner or not feel alone for a few minutes because not having a God is only made more painful by not having a partner to walk this earth with.

I feel so alone in any attempt at walking through this life.

I miss the days of dreams. I miss the days of trust. But how does one put the sand back in a broken hourglass? And just like that hourglass, I feel like my time is running out. 20-somethings are allowed the luxury of existential dread. A 30-year-old is not. I’ve got to get my shit together, find a career I’m passionate about, know what I believe, and have a partner to journey this life together with like yesterday.

The anxiety of it all is exhausting. I miss that “still small voice.” I miss His leading. I’m tempted to trust one more time, to risk one more time. But what if there’s no coffee at the end of this spring day? Can my heart take another disappointment? Because hope deferred is more painful than hopelessness, and I’m caught in the tension.

2 responses to “Coffee and Existential Dread”

  1. This resonated and resembled the longing I’ve felt so many times for a mystery and “divine appointments,” which happen(ed) so frequently, and still do, but ache for more. This is that spiritual longing that cannot usually be satisfied by asking for something specific, it’s not just the coffee, it’s the moment of hope and victory after the struggle; it’s so fleeting- but very real. Thank you for sharing your experience of it, and, as I approach 34, existential questions and taking risks for the sake of my heart touching the divine sour without reaching with them.

  2. Brandon, I’m 41 and still have these same tormenting thoughts run through my brain. Our paths are different, our journey’s couldn’t be more opposite and yet same, same, SAME!!! Ahhhh! The conclusion that I have come to is I don’t need to understand. I need to continue the good fight. Facing obstacles in the church is a given, because it’s made up of PEOPLE. We are all a mess, some more than others… there was only ever 1 perfect human and he was also totally GOD! I am not so spiritually mature as to say “it’s just a matter of this or that” or even diligent enough to consistently “give it to Jesus and have faith”. What I do know without a shadow of doubt is the struggle is real. The struggle is hard, the struggle makes us battle weary. Equally I know that the version of me that strains to live for HIM is a better version of me. The part of me that craves to be obedient may be at war with my fleshy rebellion 100% of the time, and yet when the spirit in me wins I sleep soundly at night. God is SO real, crisis or not I know that you know. The crisis you feel is the spirit vs. flesh. We all have it, we all fail to live up to the standard at some point (or repeatedly in some cases, this girl right here!!) it’s called spiritual warfare and frankly it’s a mother fucker. Love you kiddo.

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