Drinking: To the Bottom

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?

Jesus.

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.

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One response to “Drinking: To the Bottom

  1. Georgie-ann

    From another saint (Paul), another description of the double-sidedness of the experience of this life as a Christian (minister):

    Colossians 1: 24-27

    24 “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

    The mission of living and bringing the Gospel, the “Good News,” to this earthly life-situation, is always going to be experienced as a mixed bag. As Jadell says, Christ received into and upon Himself the curse of the poison and his tricky and subtle seduction by which humanity had been made servile to satan and his evil ways. In so doing, He restored the possibility of rightful relationship of “sons and daughters” and “friendship” with God, wherein love and affection are the norm.

    God/Christ reserves His face of awesome anger and fear-inspiring “judgment” for His enemies — satan’s camp, and those who continue in willful allegiance, disobedience and unbelief, with “their father, the devil” who was a “liar from the beginning.”

    We find ourselves here, “in this world, but not of it.” Just as in Chemistry — my college tutoring forte — the elements and compounds mix together, are swirled together. So we find ourselves mixing with “the world.” There are inevitable interactions, automatic attractions and repulsions going on between the substances.

    But within the myriad possibilities of the mixing atoms and molecules, there are elements and compounds that manage to “escape” from the ordinary and automatic binding forces. The noble gases come to mind, also the vaporization of molecules out the liquid bonded state. Something special has occurred that has enabled them to pass out of the usual “trapped” condition. This has been used as a classic “picture” of how what is in truth “spiritual substance” can escape, unscathed and intact, from the inevitable relentless and degrading forces which surround them and seek to hold on to them.

    Sometimes while things are “all shook up,” it’s a little hard to see just what’s what, or who’s who, but in holding to Christ and His Word, God promises to bring us through! My favorite adage: “the cream rises to the top.” (It’s inevitable!)

    Deuteronomy 30: 14-20

    14 “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

    15 “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;

    16 “In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

    17 “But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;

    18 “I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.

    19 “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

    20 “That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

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