I live in a small town where artsy folk love to congregate. Strolling the streets, you come upon a number of art galleries, pottery studios, and (of course) coffee shops. One establishment stands out from among the rest: the General Mercantile.
Stopping in to this coffee house is nothing like a Starbucks experience. The centuries-old building still bears the marks of its former life, when it served as a mercantile store in the early 1900s. The inside is furnished with a counter and wooden booths that could have found their way into an old Western starring John Wayne.
But the differences go beyond the look.
When you go to the General Mercantile — or “the Merc” as locals call it — you are prepared to wait. The Merc doesn’t serve drip coffee, but pour-overs, a type of brewing where each cup is made individually. They also serve loose leaf teas and other specialty coffees, but these too take time.
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The shop draws in hipsters, who frequent the Merc because it’s different. You can’t find another shop like it in town or, probably, anywhere in the state. At the Merc, hipsters order their fancy, slow-brewed coffee and congregate with their friends. Some of the loyal patrons of this establishment are known to spend hours chatting and hanging out with anyone who walks through the door.
Hipsters tend to get a bad rap for embracing this “just chillin’” lifestyle. They are accused of spending more time dawdling than working. And it might be a valid complaint in some cases.
But isn’t there something to be said for slowing down and having a good conversation over a cup of slow-brewed coffee? Everything about the Merc invites the customer to take a moment to relax and spend time with friends. It’s not a spot to place an order and hurry on to your next commitment.
In a lot of ways the Merc is an image of Christian prayer.
In the midst of our busy lives we often treat our prayer life like a Starbucks drive-thru instead of a pour-over. We hurry through our prayers or gloss over them as we speed through the day, never taking the time to listen to Jesus.
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We need to approach our prayer life like the patrons of the General Mercantile. They stop in with the intention to relax and enjoy. They bask in the aromas and wonderfully bitter sips. They relish the company of fellow guests.
If we were to approach Our Lord in this way, ready to delight in him, what would we find? He is, after all, our source of being, joy, and happiness. Like the hipsters with their coffee, we should savor the sweetness of his love and mercy and bask in the glory of his presence.
But in order to do this we must be prepared to linger. Prayer isn’t meant for a drive-thru.
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