Coffee Cup Theology: is it about me?

By Cindy Koch

Sometimes I find it comforting to tuck a little Bible verse away, you know, one of those that you can pull out when you are having a bad day. I have even Google searched bible themes before, like “comfort” or “patience” just so the eternal wisdom of God could enlighten my specific situation. Just yesterday I looked down at my prettiest coffee cup in the wee hours of my cranky morning, and there was a tiny slice of inspiration sealed into that ceramic vessel of joy. “God is in her, she shall not fall” (Psalm 46:5).

Delighted, I flipped open my Bible. Psalm 46 is one of my favorites, and I didn’t quite remember this empowering verse off the top of my head. The word of God is a vast sea of instruction and knowledge of which I have only skimmed the surface. I am continually humbled in my quest for understanding: how deep is the wisdom and mercy of God! How unsearchable are His ways! I was excited to come across another piece of the puzzle of our gracious Almighty God.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).

Oh that’s right, this is the terrifying psalm. The psalmist is watching God’s creation disintegrate before his very eyes. Everything is changing and raging. Mountains are melting and falling into the heart of the sea. The earth is moving, tumbling; the waters are raging and spinning. The whole world, the whole creation, is being changed, not in a good way. Desolations, wars, judgements… this is the backdrop for Psalm 46.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High” (Psalm 46:4). In contrast to the unpredictable waters of death and turmoil, there is a calm river. This water comforts the city of God. This water sustains the city even as the world rages. This water is a life-giving stream for the city.

Here is where my coffee cup picked up. Reading along in my Bible, surely this was a proper translation. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:5). But following the story of raging waters and calm comfort, I was a little confused how I suddenly and personally entered into the story. My coffee cup pointed this verse directly at me. It spoke to me, the female coffee drinker, as if I were the “her” featured in this verse. I initially understood this verse to mean, “God is in me and I will not fall.” But in the Word of God, the “her” is referring to the female noun “city.” God is in the midst of the City of God. The City of God will not be moved.

Maybe this is a tiny point, too small to wonder about. But I don’t think it is. As I read the psalm and sipped on my coffee, I wondered what the other women who take comfort in this coffee cup rhetoric understood it to mean. In the Psalm, this battle is not mine to fight. It is a description of a scary world overcome by the calm. God has chosen to dwell in the middle of her, the City, and he surely and truly is there. The City stands in opposition to the unrest. The City will never be moved, because God is there. I am protected because I am part of a bigger reality, a member of the City of God which will not be overcome.

But if I remove the original context of the psalm, I must look for signs that God is in me, personally. That brings up a few more disconcerting questions. How do I know for sure that God is really in me? Do I feel it? Must I experience some sort of change in my life? If God is in me, and I do fall, what does that mean? Did I never have God in me to begin with? If I do fall, is God’s Word not true? Suddenly, the external promise of God, ultimate hope and comfort, is turned internal. My coffee cup leaves it up to me wondering if, how, when. My coffee cup begs for proof, prosperity, success so I don’t fall. Fortunately, this verse is really not about me.

Psalm 46 and all the other great promises of God happen outside of us. He sent a Savior that has unlocked the door to the City of God. By his blood, he gives us the key to live there, forever. Crucified with Christ in baptism we were buried with Jesus, resurrected to new life. Here, part of the eternal City, we have been chosen for comfort and calm, forgiveness and everlasting life, even though everything else falls apart. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:5).

I wouldn’t change one word of the Psalm on my coffee cup, but it’s so much more than just about me.