Written by Jamie Henderson
Have you ever felt empty? Like no matter how much you long to be filled, your cup will never overflow?
I heard an illustration recently that I have not been able to get off my mind. I would like you to imagine it with me.
Imagine that you are a cup, your immediate friends and family are a saucer beneath you and their friends and families are a plate underneath them. Now, imagine that the Holy Spirit is a pitcher full of water, and that pitcher is poured into the cup until it overflows and fills the saucer, which then overflows and fills the plate and so on. Sounds pretty nice, right?
When I first heard this illustration, I really enjoyed it. It made a lot of sense and was easy enough to understand. However, it was what the presenter said after the illustration that caught my attention: ”Just like the cup overflows into the saucer, we cannot fill others with the Spirit until we are full ourselves.”
I pondered this idea for the rest of the day, wondering what it was about this statement that felt so wrong to me, until I realized why I disagreed with this sentiment.
Although I know this was not the intention of the speaker, the idea that they proposed is a dangerous one — the idea that we cannot bring others to Christ until we are completely filled with His Spirit. This belief will ultimately do more harm than good because it tells us that we need to be perfect before God can use us — that we need to be at our absolute best in order to make a difference. I know I never feel like I have reached this point. I feel like I am always trying to be better and never quite hitting perfection, but I know that this does not stop me from working for God.
Last summer, my friends and I decided to start a Bible study group because we were so overwhelmed with everything going on in our lives. I can almost promise that all of us were glass-half-empty analogies at that point, but we were determined to get together and grow in Christ.
In keeping with the metaphor, it should be impossible for a bunch of empty people to help fill each other up. But ever since we started meeting, all of us have experienced an influx of spiritual growth and fulfillment. It is as if we became one cup, combining our half-full attitudes and inviting the Spirit to help us overflow into those around us.
What would have happened if we had all waited until we felt like we were enough on our own before we came together? What if we had waited until God came to each one of us and said, “Ok, you’re ready now!”?
I believe God called us together at the time when we were at our lowest so that we could finally understand what it means to be filled. It’s to be surrounded by people who care about us and want to see us succeed in finding God as much as we want the same for them.
One of my favorite sayings is this: God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Just think of all the people God used throughout the Bible: Abraham was old, Rahab was a prostitute, David was a murderer, Peter denied Him, etc. Why would God need to wait around for us to be perfect when He’s never needed that from anyone in the past?
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)
It was true when it was written and it still holds true today. If we follow God and do what He asks of us, we will never have to worry about whether or not we are perfect — the Holy Spirit will continue to fill us even as we work, until our cups overflow forever and ever.