Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the “S” Word

August was nearing its end and September was approaching.  Kids were getting ready to put the swimsuits away and get out the school clothes.  The days were still hot and unspeakably humid, but now and again a leaf would break away from a branch and float its lethargic way to the ground through the thick air.  It was a time of great promise, great anticipation.  It was almost here, that one perfect time of year, that one brief season of incredible awesomeness.

Pumpkin Spice Latte season.psl1

Oh, as the days passed I could almost smell that rich pumpkiny aroma, almost feel that velvety gooey goodness on my tongue.  I didn’t care that the closest Starbucks was an hour away; I was pretty sure I was going to be racking up the miles for the next couple of months.  It was almost enough to make me regret that my sister and I had planned our 18-day Italy vacation smack in the middle of PSL season.  (Okay, not almost enough.  Not even a little bit.  Seriously?  I would be in Italy, home of the cappuccino and everything else scrumpdilliumptious.)

So when my niece posted a link on Facebook to an article entitled, “You’ll Never Guess What’s in a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t be Happy),” I thought to myself, oh no you don’t.  I am NOT clicking on that link, and I’m NOT reading any whacko blogger article trying to take down one of life’s little perfections and rain all over my yay-it’s-finally-fall parade.  Humph.

I mean, everything in moderation, right?  And by moderation, I mean drink as many PSL’s as you can drink in September and October and divide that number by 12 and you get a reasonable, moderate monthly average of consumption.

But I kept seeing that article pop up again and again, and it became a little irritating.  I mean, really, people, if we tried to avoid contact with anything that might possibly cause cancer, we’d have to live in a bubble.  But be careful what that bubble is made out of because it can probably cause cancer.  You know what I’m saying?  I’ll bet you’d find that even chocolate (yeah, I said chocolate – how do you like them apples?) would cause cancer if you ate enough of it, except you’d die of diabetes or something else obesity-related before they could figure that out.

I finally gave in and read the article.  Why, you ask?  Because that’s how my stupid brain works.  It’s way too curious for its own good.  (You can read the article here if you want.  I’m not saying you should; if you choose to, you assume full responsibility for the results.  http://foodbabe.com/2014/08/25/starbucks-pumpkin-spice-latte/ )

I wasn’t happy.  Now, I don’t get all freaked out when I read ingredients and can’t pronounce them or don’t know what they are.  I have a childlike (read: way too trusting) faith that people are not trying to poison me.

But the difference this time is that that words “may cause cancer” mean more to me now than they used to.  Because three years ago this month I was diagnosed with cancer.  I had surgery, and I didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation.  Come November, I’ll be three years cancer-free, God willing.  I was one of the lucky ones.

As I read the article, I got a knot in the pit of my stomach.  Because whether or not PSL’s actually would cause cancer in me, why in the world would I take that chance knowing that they contain ingredients that might cause cancer in me?

I know how it feels to hear a doctor say, “You have cancer.”  I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

So I decided, no more Pumpkin Spice Lattes for me.  That’s okay, I can live without them.  Better and longer, apparently, than with them.  It’s okay.  There are other things to look forward to in the fall besides PSL’s (for instance, say …. ITALY!!).

Then yesterday I went to town.  A little pre-Italy shopping (a little more pre-Italy shopping, I should say).  I went into Target, where the first thing that greeted me, and the last thing I saw on the way out, was Starbucks and their great big “It’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Time!” sign.

Nope, I said to myself.  Not interested.

Then I went to Hyvee, and guess what greeted me?  Yep.  Starbucks.  “Pumpkin Spice Latte is Back!”psl2

Nope, I said to myself.  Not interested.  Okay, well, I’m interested.  It smelled pretty awesome.  I saw someone drinking one and they had one of those little whipped cream mustaches with a little pumpkin spice on it and …

Nope.  Not gonna do it.

Then I was driving toward the Outlet Mall and there was guess what?  Yep.  Starbucks.  Big Sign.  Drive Thru crammed with people, all of whom, I was sure, were getting PSL’s.  And I was so interested.  I almost pulled in.  I thought, one time.  One PSL.  I’ve already had like sixty gazillion in my lifetime, is one more really the one that’s gonna kill me?  Not likely.  Just one, and then I’ll be satisfied.  Forever.  For the rest of my life.  Won’t ever be tempted again, because I do know it’s bad for me, and I’m strong enough to resist.  I just haven’t had enough time to steel myself yet, to really get ready to let go.  If I just have one more, indulge myself this one time, it will be like saying goodbye to an old friend.  A farewell.  Closure.

And that’s when it hit me:  Pumpkin Spice Lattes are a whole lot like the “S” word.

Sin.

Before we know better – that is, before we’re Christians, before we’re under the conviction of the Holy Spirit – sin doesn’t seem like sin at all.  Or if it does, we can easily justify it to ourselves and make any wrongness seem quite right.  It’s okay to smoke that pot, because if I were living in Colorado or Washington it’d be legal anyway, and everyone knows that everyone does it.  It’s not like I’m selling it to little kids at the park.  And I need it to take the edge off.  Or, it’s okay to look at porn because it’s just pictures.  It’s art, actually.  That’s it; it’s art, and I’m a connoisseur of good art.  Or, sex outside of marriage is okay because, come on, man, it’s 2014.  Don’t be a dinosaur.

Just the way I could justify consuming all those extra calories of PSL goodness over a very short period by averaging them in my mind over the whole year (too bad my body doesn’t average calories that way, right?).

But as a Christian, I know better.  I understand that sin is sin, and it’s wrong.  And there are consequences.  I used to tell my kids all the time, if you have to justify something, it’s probably not the right thing to do, because you never have to justify right behavior.

But the pull of sin is like the pull of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  Just one more; what can that hurt?  One more joint.  One more drink.  One more illicit rendezvous.  One more good gossip session with the girls.  One more, and then I’ll stop.  God knows my heart.  He knows I really want to quit whatever sin it is that has its particular claw in me.  Besides, even though I know the wages of sin are death, I also know that the gift of God is eternal life, right?  I know that, as a Christian, I’m forgiven, right?

Yes.  Absolutely.  But see, the thing is, even though your – my – sin isn’t going to lead to our spiritual death any longer, it’s still going to hurt us.  Just like drinking that one more Pumpkin Spice Latte isn’t going to kill me, it’s still going to put a little bit more poison into my body.  It’s still going to work its way into the core of my being and destroy me just a little bit more.

And sin works the same way.  It may not kill me, but it works its way into my core and destroys a little bit of me.  Separates me a little bit from God.  Makes me hide in my own Garden of Eden when I hear Him coming.  Makes me cover myself in shame.  Makes me not want to be in His presence.

Yeah.  God, give me the strength to pass on the Pumpkin Spice Lattes in my life.

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