Disheveled Theologian: 'Polly put the kettle on;
It’s snowing. Again. And that makes me want a cup of tea.
Tea is in my blood, though it took me 40 years to be comfortable with that. I have mentioned before that my Grandma and Grandpa Fraser came from Scotland. And, like any true member of the United Kingdom, they took their tea drinking very seriously. It’s a way of life there. It’s “Tea” with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “Cure-all”.
My mother had this hard-wired into her brain. This was proven when her cousin and her family came as houseguests to visit us on Orcas Island, Wash., many years ago. Living on an island means that people like to come for a visit. (Strange how few people come to visit me on the prairie.) Whenever we were expecting company, Mom’s hearing became acute. Every tiny sound from outside was a car, and every car was filled with the expected loved-ones. Which, to be fair, living on a seldom-used dirt road as we did, was often true. Finally we heard a real car, and it was really them. We went running down the gravel path, Mom’s arms open wide.
Hugs were exchanged (translation: we kids blushed awkwardly) and then, immediately following the words, “You must be so tired,” (they’d driven all the way from Maine), Mom said, “Come in for a cup of tea”.
The cousins burst out in laughter. “We knew it!” they cried. “We knew it!”
Cue a bemused look on Mom’s face.
One of the cousins explained. “We took bets that, if you were a true Fraser, you’d offer us tea first thing.” Everyone laughed, everyone understood. And the kettle was hurriedly filled.
Yes, tea is a cure-all. But then there was me: the oddball in the family. As a second-generation American, the tea-lust had been diluted. Apparently Dad’s German blood was still at war against the Allies in this case. I grew up not understanding Mom’s need for a cup of tea in the middle of the morning, a cup of tea in the afternoon, a cup of tea before bed. I didn’t like the stuff. Not even a little bit. And I felt, though I never said it, that there must be something wrong with me. Did I really belong in this family?
My ineptitude with tea was proven on our honeymoon in Victoria, B.C. when Colin and I visited my great aunt. She, being a good Scot, offered us tea. Wanting to be polite, I accepted. I proceeded to then pour in both milk and lemon — which, as any person with half a culinary brain can tell you, is nothing more or less than a curdled mess. Tea was relegated to the “gross” category in my mind. (My dear Aunt Jenny never knew of my foolish behavior that day and, unless she’s reading this from heaven, she never will.)
But somewhere along the line in the past 22 and a half years of marriage, I grew up. I embraced my inner Scot. I accepted my fate.
Now I drink tea often, black or with milk, Jasmine or Darjeeling, herbal or caffeinated. I drink it all. Not as obsessively as my mother, mind you, but I no longer worry that I was perhaps switched at birth with someone from a non-tea drinking family.
I guess what I’m saying is, I finally fit in. I belong. I have conformed.
Which is neither positive nor negative. It will not change the world or change my life. I have not given up my ideals to obey some family directive, which the act of conforming can sometimes imply. If this was a case of conforming to the world, conforming to ways and habits and patterns which are contrary to the Word of God, then it wouldn’t be so good. You see, God calls us to be set apart, to be different, to be non-conformers. He wants us to conform to his pattern. To his rules. To drink his tea … not the world’s.
That’s not always easy. Sometimes we make nothing more or less than a curdled mess of things. But it’s always the right choice to do things God’s way.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 NIV
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.