Holding the Cup

Years ago, my friend Cristi and I were in Dallas, outlet shopping.  She wanted to go to Mikasa for “stemware.”  I didn’t really know what stemware was, but obliged her so that I wouldn’t feel bad when she obliged me by going to a store that didn’t interest her.

As we strolled down the aisle, she was on a mission.  I was on a ferry, merely moving along as an obligatory part of the trip.  Suddenly, I stopped mid-stream and gasped.  She looked at me as I looked at a display of stemware.  I reached for and held the coolest wine glass I’ve ever seen.  I had no idea so much creativity could go into a wine glass.  I turned it and admired it–the square lip and curved sides, the simple elegance and understated uniqueness…all the while, being utterly surprised by my interest in “stemware.”

Cristi drifted away at some point of my love-at-first-sight moment.  The store noises and movements bobbed on the far shores of my awareness…until the sound of an approaching shopping cart grew increasingly loud and stopped right behind me.  I turned abruptly.  It was Cristi…with a cart.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Your stemware,” she said.  I smiled gratefully, she enthusiastically.  And I bought stemware–something I had no prior intention of doing, and would not have done had Cristi not recognized and embraced what was going on within me.

What was going on within me?  I was delighted with a new discovery.  Upon entering that store, I had no interest in stemware.  In reality, I didn’t know how to appreciate stemware.  And I still really don’t care to know the intricacies of wine glasses and iced beverage glasses, or whatever they’re called.  I just know that I will never, ever see stemware that I prefer over what I now have.

What if in the same way I appreciate my stemware, I knew how to appreciate my life?  What if I held my cup and at some point gasped at the surprising simple elegance and uniqueness of this life within my hands, even if I don’t understand much of what’s going on?

Some of us know how to appreciate wine or coffee.  How would we live if we knew to do the same with life?  Holding, noticing, questioning the angles, curves, simplicity, elegance, uniqueness?

Holding the cup is a hard discipline.  We are thirsty people who like to start drinking at once.  But we need to restrain our impulse to drink, put both hands around the cup, and ask ourselves, “What am I given to drink?  What is in my cup?  Is it safe to drink?  Is it good for me?  Will it bring me health?…[J]ust living life is not enough.  We must know what we are living.  A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living.” – Henri Nowen, Can You Drink the Cup?, pp 27-28, 26.

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