by Jadell M. Forman
On Mondays, we’ve been looking at the Eucharist cup as a metaphor for life, following priest and author Henri Nouwen’s book, Can You Drink the Cup?
Growing up, when I used to waitress at The Happy Chef, the wait staff also cleared the tables. Often, the coffee cups on a vacated table had a bit of coffee left in the bottom. I didn’t understand why until recently.
As a latecomer to the coffee crowd (I began drinking coffee this past December), it’s been just within the past few months that I’ve been doing what all those coffee-drinking customers had been doing: leaving the final swallow of coffee in the bottom of the cup.
On Mondays at The Neighborhood Café, the foundational question we’re considering is Jesus’ question, “Can you drink the cup I am about to drink?” If we answer yes, a question that naturally follows is, “How?”
“To the bottom,” answers Nouwen.
But, as I’ve recently realized, the stuff on the bottom–whether in a glass of wine or grape juice, or a cup of coffee or tea–doesn’t taste good. Who’s ever going to drink it?
He asked his Heavenly Father for another option, but there wasn’t one. Jesus eventually accepted that he was born to drink to the bottom humanity’s bitter cup. In fulfilling his call, he absorbed the curse of death and instead offers us the cup of everlasting life.
These days, whenever I see that stuff at the bottom of my cup, it reminds me that Jesus drank his cup to the bitter bottom. Graciously, I don’t have to experience spiritual death, and I always have a place at the Father’s table, and I always hold a cup of everlasting life.
Still, the cup I hold, lift, and drink has bitter stuff at the bottom.
“Can you drink the cup I am about to drink?” Jesus asked two of his disciples. Maybe he was asking, Can you drink the cup of life that contains both sweet and bitter?
“Yeah, sure,” they responded. The answer came when their mother set out to secure, from Jesus, the best of life for her sons. Maybe we need to bitter stuff in order to recognize the sweet stuff. And maybe the best of life includes the wisdom to appreciate both positive and negative experiences.
During those waitressing years of high school, I was on our town’s gymnastic team. During one practice, I had a heckuva time doing whatever I tried to do. Despondent, I went to the locker room. My teammate, Susie, followed me. She listened to me voice my frustrations through tears, and consoled me, saying, “If we didn’t have bad days, we wouldn’t know what a good day is.”
Susie was right. The frustrating day was rare, a small portion of a largely satisfying sports year and career, just as the stuff at the bottom of the cup is a small portion of the cup. Likewise, the day I swallowed the bitterness of disappointment, I also swallowed a dose of wisdom: there’s more good than bad, and the bad comes with the good. God redeemed my frustration by teaching me a lesson I remember all these years later.
Because Christ swallowed my ultimate bitterness–and your ultimate bitterness–those bitter bits in our cup of life don’t leave us with just a bad taste in our mouth, but a taste of redemption.
Jadell M. Forman writes for The Neighborhood Café on Mondays, looking for redemption at the bottom of the cup.