“You can’t pour from an empty cup” –
You’ve probably seen this quote before. I think it’s makes a lot of sense. I recently read a blog by a well meaning Christian woman who vehemently disagrees with this statement. In her blog she explains her idea that in fact we should stop repeating and encouraging this statement – that we can’t pour from an empty cup. She not only thinks we can but SHOULD. And there’s the word I was waiting on. Used like a thump on the head from your mother — and in church no less – SHOULD. 🤦♀️
As I read on, she quoted instances of amazing perseverance from scripture. Implying that we don’t know what real hardship is and that Jesus would call us to dig deeper, try harder. She shared how Paul in many instances did not need or have to “fill his cup” from jail he still gave and ministered and poured out. However, I believe we saw Paul model diligence in setting aside time for worship, prayer and meditation. His infamous jailhouse worship service broke literal chains off and opened prison doors. Did that come as a result of his own effort – his grit- his stamina? I believe his was strengthened to stand because he knew how to wait on the Lord, access the realms of glory and practiced deep times of seeking wisdom and revelation. It’s God who does the work, brings the power and gets all the glory.
Not only did the blog post criticize women who believed they needed to practice self-care or encourage self-care she went another step further to say scripture did not support self-care. My heart broke as I continued to read and recognize this all too familiar form of spiritual abuse we see in the church body. It makes me not just sad but mad! It implies that my level of despair or discomfort is unimportant and it somehow translates to how devoted or committed I am as a ‘good Christian’. Because there are those who do take self care over into self-absorbed, unbalanced comfort seeking 24/7 ; we should then throw the baby out with the bath water and say we don’t NEED to tend to ourselves? No of course not.
I’d like to present two scriptures from Mark
31 There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal. So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.” 32 They slipped away and left by sailboat for a deserted spot.
Mark 12Mark 6:31-32 and Mark 12:30-31 (The Passion Translation)
30 You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with a passionate heart, from the depths of your soul, with your every thought, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment. 31 And the second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor[a] in the same way you love yourself.’ You will never find a greater commandment than these.” (Emphasis is mine.)
It seems clear to me that we are reminded within the greatest commandment to love ourselves well. I would also point to the many times that Jesus stole away from the disciples and the crowds to go be alone and pray. And then there’s the concept of resting on Sabbath and waiting on the Lord. Loving ourselves well is a healthy way of keeping our perspective on who’s in charge. Of course, there is a balance.
It makes me sad that the body of Christ sends a message that we shouldn’t need to rest or to recharge ourselves. Especially in times of challenge and for me personally these have been times of preparation -literally the reason I am able to stand and not fall. They that WAIT upon the Lord will renew their strength. We may not be challenged with being falsely imprisoned, (maybe some are) persecuted for our faith or faced with extreme circumstances. (again, maybe some are) If I am taking my cue from Christ then I need to ask how did he respond to those overwhelmed. Did Jesus tell us everything was going to be easy breezy – no. The danger of saying we don’t need our cup filled in order to pour out to others is that it implies the proverbial “SHOULD” right on top of our own self-doubt – pushing right over the cliff into self reliance and operating from a place of human strength and right on down to BURN OUT street where we have burned out, worn out, beat up Christians pushed into leadership! So, rather than pointing us to the source of rest, peace, counsel and answers – we hear the message “don’t be needy Christians -be tough, pull yourself up by your boot straps and don’t worry so much about yourselves.” Does that sound like Jesus to you?
The message of self reliance encourages us in the wrong direction. We can do all things through Christ not through ourselves. We CAN endure and stand strong as believers because we have a fount within us that never runs dry. We still have to do our part and access it… make it priority to go get under the spigot. It’s the source that is the difference between self care and self absorbed. I’m not an advocate of sugar coating what Christianity is supposed to look like. I’m not saying that we should even expect everything to come easy for Christians. We are in a battle with the enemy of our souls and we need balanced – healthy soldiers moving in the right direction. It’s sad when churches use their spiritual authority to ultimately further their own agenda to get more hands on deck to get more work done – get more sheep into the house all the while they overlook the needs of the sheep that are there already.
His message to unbelievers and believers – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
His message to Believers – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
This encourages us to take care of our whole body- mind and soul….to be a good steward of our bodies. And that includes spending time filling our cups. It’s like my former pastor Clay said- “Yes, I get filled up – the problem is – I LEAK”. The Good News is, we can come directly to the fountain whenever we want – wherever we are and He is faithful to refresh us generously over and over.