Will you drink this cup?


So this is a post I’ve been wanting to write since Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). We spent the day in silence here at Camino with a few breaks for prayer and a very simple soup lunch. It was quite an interesting experience to come from the Good Friday service into a day of silence. At the Good Friday service, we covered the cross with a black cloth and left in silence, with the grief and sullenness of the day very present. The silence continued on the Saturday was a very powerful time of experiencing the grief of the darkness of the crucifixion without rushing to the joy of the Resurrection.

But let me back up to what was going on in my life during the days leading up to Holy Saturday. A couple of good friends of mine were going through very difficult times. One particular friend who is very dear to me came to live with us for a few days. I think other than dealing with my own stuff, walking with my friend was one of the hardest things that I have done. It was beautiful and rewarding though which I don’t want to discount – there is something precious about seeing someone in their most honest moments. But I was challenged to sit with another’s pain, knowing that I was completely powerless to change the situation or to fix it. “Compassion” means to ‘suffer with’. I think my experience walking with my friend gave me a greater appreciation for those who have walked with me. Walking with the vulnerable and suffering is not easy. I remember the feeling in my gut in hearing bits of the story and the tears shed knowing that I could not help. I had a conversation with a fellow student about walking with the dying – you have to learn to sit with grief and pain, for you cannot offer to the one who is dying the hope that they will get better! And what about the one who has not made a profession of faith? I think I am a hopeful universalist in that I wonder if God works constantly so that even in our final breaths we turn to him, even if our entire lives before those last moments were not lived for him. But this is just what I want to believe, and not necessarily what is really the case.

While I recognized my privileged position in walking with my friend, I couldn’t help but think about the calling that I believe God has on my life. Every since I was 17, I have had the dream of opening my home to women and children who are leaving abusive situations. In walking with various people in my life who are going through all sorts of things, I have been coming to realize that I need to learn how to sit with another’s pain. I talked with my psychiatrist about this – he is nearing the end of his career and I wanted to know how he learned how to do this and to watch people like me leaving his office knowing how they were going to cope that night. He affirmed what I already knew – this comes through experience and not through textbooks. When I thought of the pain I carried, I told God that I wasn’t sure if I was up to this calling.

During Holy Saturday, I planned to read a book for school. But something didn’t seem right about taking a silent retreat to do homework. So I was drawn to a Henri Nouwen book “Can you drink this cup?”. I consumed the whole book and went on to more of Nouwen’s work. I was struck by how eagerly and enthusiastically Peter the Disciple claimed that he would follow Christ to the end. Actually, I love Peter. He was always so enthusiastic. He tried so hard! But when push came to shove, and his life was actually on the line, Peter did not live up to the words he claimed.

It got me thinking about how easy it is to say that I want to do God’s will. Several times a day my community prays the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy will be done”. It makes me think of a Steve Bell song “This is Love”. The setting for the song is Jesus in the Garden of Gathesemane praying for His disciples.

My prayer is not for only these alone, but for those who follow after I am gone.  May the understand the love you have for me, as the kind of love that changes everything. They’ll who will sit next to the throne. And I cringe to hear them say ‘Thy Kingdom come’. They think they know what they’re getting into. But we both know that they haven’t got a clue.

When I say yes to God and his calling on my life, I really don’t have a clue what I am saying yes to. In many ways I am thankful, for had I had forewarning, I am not sure I would have said yes to speaking the truth and walking in the light for all the costs that would ensue. But sometimes I get glimpses of God’s will in my life and I think about how Christ poured out his humanness that night in the garden as he shed tears of blood and asking God to take away the cup that He had prepared for him. Yet Christ drank the cup and drank it to the full. His cup was full of cruel suffering that I can only begin to imagine. His cup took Him to the cross, before the glory of the resurrection.

I think I want the resurrection without the cross. I want the joy of seeing lives transformed without the pain of sitting with them during the darkest nights. I want others to see me as compassionate and to be needed, without feeling the sorrow that leads me crying to my housemates or God in the pain of sheer helplessness.

But on Holy Saturday, through the silence of the day, I felt God’s gentle nudging and calling on my life. I was reminded of who God has made me to be, and the gifts that He has given me. I was reminded of the “aliveness” I feel when I am able to use my gifts in the relationships around me. I was reminded of how for 10 years, while the details of the call have changed, the call is still there and I am who I am most fully when I live into its calling, cross and all.

The day ended with a simple question that has had a profound effect on me: Will you drink this cup?

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