Disclaimer: This post is nearly three times longer than my typical posts. I’ve had several folks reach out and ask how we are doing, and haven’t really had the words to express. I know people everywhere are having to deal with the challenges of their present reality in their own unique way. Countless others have even greater unknowns and their circumstances are far worse and more frightening than ours. So if you should decide to read on, just know that you’re entering into the arena of my mind where I wrestle with my own thoughts. I’m not going for a Pulitzer Prize (there are typos, and tons of them), I’m processing.
4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” – Genesis 22:4 & 5
Its 4 a.m.
My alarm went off, just as it has nearly every day for the past 8 1/2 years. Truth is, I was awake before it went off this morning. I tossed and turned restlessly through the night, drifting off here and there, long enough for a sporadic dream or two. Every time I woke up I found myself in what I wish was a dream, a bad one, that would end, and I would wake up and breathe a sigh of relief and go about my day like I have for the past 8 1/2 years.
But that’s not the case.
In a little while, I’ll head down to Cadence and put a sign on the door that let’s folks know that we are “closed until further notice.” The mayor of our city, issued an executive order yesterday closing non-essential businesses in Chattanooga, because of COVID-19. While I, and countless others, could argue that coffee is essential to the well being of all Chattanoogans, every where, I don’t think this is an argument I would win. Truth is, the executive order doesn’t necessarily close coffee shops, restaurants and bars, as far as I can tell. But in my heart I know that this is the right step, it is what is necessary, what I’m supposed to do.
I don’t want to.
Some people know our story. Some don’t. The story of how Cadence started as a “what if” idea more than ten years ago, and eventually became a reality that was, quite literally, handed to Kristia and I. Actually given to us by a generous couple, our original business partners who made the initial capital investment to open Cadence in 2011. We ran it together for our first three years, and as their life circumstances changed, they stepped away and literally handed us the keys, never asking for a penny of return on their investment.
That’s unheard of, I know.
But so much of Cadence’s story has been quite “unheard of.” Time after time over these past 8 1/2 years God has given us huge blessings, opportunities, and even miracles. And through the night I reflected on every one of them. Saying to myself, as I’ve said so many times before, “God gave this business to us, He’s going to take care of it.”
I know He will.
My struggle this morning isn’t really doubt. At least I don’t think it is. I’ve thought a lot about Abraham in the Bible over the past few hours. God gave him a son, Isaac. Isaac was an “unlikely” in Abraham & Sarah’s life, just as unlikely as Cadence has been for Kristia and I. We came to Chattanooga to plant a church, not run a business. I graduated with a degree in Sociology. I am, by far, the least qualified to run a coffee shop. I love coffee, but I’m not nearly the coffee snob that everyone thinks I should be. But God. God gave us Cadence, unlikely as we may be, just like He gave Isaac to an unlikely old couple. Then, years after Isaac was born, God challenged Abraham to lay Isaac on an altar, to offer him as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed. Or at least he got as far as lifting a knife over his son’s young body, until God stopped him, and provided a ram in a nearby thicket as the actual sacrifice, and well . . . the rest is history.
I wonder if Abraham slept much the night before he put Isaac on the altar. I wonder if he shed a tear in the dark hours of the night, knowing what he would be expected to do the next day. I wonder if he had that sick feeling in his stomach, you know the one that precedes doing something that you know you have to do, but dread doing it. I wonder how he held it together. Did he ask God “why?” I have so many questions. Especially now, as I find myself laying my Isaac on the altar.
I keep waiting to hear the ram in the thicket. To wake up and hear that the COVID-19 has been stopped, dead in its tracks, that everyone will get a two week quarantine / vacay and then life will go back to normal.
But that’s not happening.
I’m so so so thankful for the people who have supported Cadence through pay it forwards and Venmo donations, and I’m sure there are others who would probably step forward when the time comes to help us get back on our feet. Maybe that’ll be our ram.
But this Isaac is more than a coffee shop. Cadence has always been more than just a coffee shop. So much more. It hass been a gathering place, a modern day well, where I’ve made new friends and invested in people’s lives. It brought Gene, and George, and Clayton, and Paul, and Ronnie, and Moses, and Joshua, and Raymond, and Gary, and “the other Gary (the drunk one),” and Brian, and Gage, and Gail (the sweet one who wears hats on Fridays), and “the other Gayle” (who’s just a little bit scary), and Sam, and Robin, and Tom and Lamont, and Kacey, and Michael, and Leslie, and Tasha, and Molly, and Jarrod, and Jennifer, and Chase, and Scottie, and Jessica, and Michelle, and Bunnie and Kristen, and Ray and Sarah, and Mick, and Tyler, and Cody, and Jacob, and our current staff and volunteers and literally hundreds more.
Its been the Monday through Saturday extension of the church God brought us to Chattanooga to plant. Its been ground zero for RiverChurch to engage in market place ministry. Its been the trenches that our church family stepped into and locked arms with Kristia and myself to care for the people that would come stumbling through our doors.
Its been the place where our kids have grown up. Standing behind the counter, barely able to see over it. The place where they’ve pretended to take care of customers and to make their latte’s. Its been the place that Kristia and I would go sit sometimes after hours and just talk, dream, laugh & pray.
Cadence has been so much more than a coffee shop. But today, it is our Isaac. Today, I must lay this beautiful, unlikely, gift that God has given us on the altar, and trust. . . simply trust that He knows what He’s doing. That He will provide a ram.
I’ll never know if Abraham slept much the night before he took Isaac to the altar, or if he shed any tears, asked any questions or had that sick feeling in his stomach. There’s a lot of unknowns right now. I’m asking the same questions everyone else is asking. I don’t know if our business will be able to open back up after this. The future has always been unknown, but in this season of COVID-19 it seems especially shrouded in a thick fog of mystery.
So yeah, there is a lot I don’t know.
But . . .
I know God.
I know that He has a plan. I know that He knows what He’s doing. I know that He is good. I know that if He asks me to lay Isaac on the altar, that He has a reason. I know that He can provide a ram. I know that if He doesn’t, that He is still good. I know that this life, this business, this calling, all of it came from Him. He gives. He takes away. He restores. He gives back. He resurrects.
So. . . in a little while we will go hang the sign on our door that says “until further notice.”
We will trust in what we do know.
We will trust that what we do know is greater than what we don’t.
And like Abraham, we will walk in obedience, and faith, and trust and . . .
We will worship!