I’m a Cup
As I was getting ready for work last Friday, I looked at the coffee cup in my hand and thought to myself; “Why did I pick this cup?” I looked at the twenty odd cups scattered throughout my cupboard, dishwasher and sink, and realized that while they were all coffee cups, each one had a specific purpose, and it depended solely on which ones were clean at any given point in time to determine which one was used. As I was thinking of this, the lyrics from the Paul Coleman Trio song “Fill my Cup” started playing in my head; “Fill my cup to the top with running water call me out and show me how.”
Now I have my favorite cups, the big white one I use first thing in the morning, because no matter how tired I am, I can always get the cream to coffee ratio just right, and the coffee lasts all the way up until I have to walk out the door. Then I use my ceramic travel mug, it fits perfectly in the cup holder in my car, and doesn’t spill a drop and it also lasts right up until I have to clock in and start working. And if either of them is dirty, then I either have to wash them, or I have several smaller cups that aren’t perfect for the job, but they will do it nicely. I also have my favorite soup mug, my wife has her favorite coffee mug and hot tea cup, and then there is the cup my daughter uses for her hot chocolate.
As Christian’s we are very much like those cups, each one of us has a unique purpose which God has created us for, and as such, we are all useful for furthering His Kingdom when we remain holy; which is nothing more than being clean and set apart for His use. The word holy is used nearly 700 times in Scriptures to define, the Holiness of God, the Holy Spirit, His temple, the food used in sacrificial offerings and the utensils used to prepare it, a holy war, the holy land, His holy mountain, His holy angels, and the Holy Child. The word is also used to describe us, we are Gods holy saints, holy ones, holy people, holy prophets and a score of other terms to tell us we are to be set apart for Him and His purpose.
Both the Hebrew word (qodesh) and the Greek work (hagios), for holy indicate something that is set apart and clean, ready for use. God specifically tells His people to ‘be holy’, or ‘consecrate’ themselves before He does something with or for them. Right before He gives them the Decologue in Leviticus 19:2, He commands then to, “be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (NASB95)
As Christians we need to get in the dishwasher on a regular basis, to be buffeted by the water and scoured by the washing of His word. By going on our faces before God, reading and meditating on His word, focusing our minds on Him and turning from whatever thoughts or actions might hinder us from being effectively used. The Lord wants us clean, and sometimes that cleansing is not pleasant. The crud of the day needs to be blasted off of us with high-pressure water jets, and hard scrubbed away with stiff bristles, and we fear the pain. Sometimes we are on the sink and aware we are dirty, but other times, we are in the cupboard, so we figure we’re fine, it’s when we are taken out, our stains become visible, and we must be put aside. Just because you once were put in the cupboard doesn’t mean you are clean now.
Coffee cups are as diverse as people, and no matter how careful the construction, not one is perfect. Some are made of high grade porcelain, others from lower grade ceramics, while others are made from metal or plastic. Over time the imperfections become visible; hairline cracks develop from years of use with hot and cold liquids, because of contaminants, or thin spots in the glaze may discolor or pick up stains that never completely wash out to the same color as the rest of the cup. Rough handling of cups adds to this, producing chips, cracks or dents, and because of these blemishes, the cups can be seen as having little to no intrinsic value and are then hidden in the back of the cupboard or cast away. I’m glad God doesn’t view our blemishes this way, He puts a value in us that defies our failings, and I experienced something that shed some light on this.
For a period of time my mother-in-law shared the same house with my wife and I, and when we moved in together we only had a few little cups that came in a dish set we were given as a wedding present and some plastic travel mugs. I never really liked using those cups, because the holes in the handles were too small for my fingers and they held such a small amount of coffee, and the travel mugs left a weird aftertaste, but this is what we had. My mother-in-law on the other hand, had very beautiful large coffee cups, and she let us use them, even stacking them up in our cupboard. I found out something about my mother-in-law, she refuses to drink out of a chipped coffee cup. One day I found a beautiful lavender and cream colored cup with a pink and purple floral design on it in the cupboard, when I asked my wife about it, she said her mother had given it to me. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but while drinking out of it one day I discovered a small chip in the rim. My mother-in-law fearing I had damaged her cup was letting me know to be more careful.
I hadn’t used that cup before she gave it to me, but with the cup already slightly chipped I found I had no fear where I could take it, so I took it everywhere; I would take it to work, to school, to church, to the park, basically anywhere I would normally shy away from taking a nice cup for fear of breaking it. So the very cup she would not use because of its fault, ended up being the one cup I could take and use anywhere, not in spite of its failing, but because of that very imperfection.
That cup started some interesting conversations, I thought it was the sight of a burly man with a frilly pink cup that got so many people interested, so I would flippantly say something to the effect that, “It takes a real man to drink out of a cup like this.” But that was not the case, it wasn’t the color or the pattern that got their attention, it was simply the sight of that fancy cup in the most incongruous places that got their attention. There is an important lesson to see in all this. There are the Billy Graham’s and Mother Theresa’s that speak God’s word to millions, and I know that I am not one of them, but God didn’t make everyone to be an $8500.00 Faberge cup that is set on display and admired, he made us to be used by Him. We can mope that we are not great evangelists, or haven’t helped millions of sick people in dozens of countries from the cheap seats of the counter, or we can get clean, get in the cupboard and be amazed at where He does use us. My greatest call is to be a Godly husband to my wife, a Godly father for my daughter and a Godly witness at work.
I am convinced that as much as my wife enjoys the times she shares tea or hot chocolate with our daughter with her little cup, God also enjoys spending those personal times with me when He uses me for the little tasks He created me for. And while I like the cup my daughter uses is neither big, nor flashy, it is the perfect cup for sharing those special times; therefore its value while not apparent to the world, is immeasurable. My wife and her mother have long since replaced that chipped cup with the set we currently use, but I now hear that her son is using it much the same way I did. I will always remember that cup and the Lessons the Lord showed me through it.