I have a beautiful cup that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a week now. It is deep purple – made of thick glass- the kind you can rarely find anymore. It is such thick glass and such a deep purple you cannot see inside the cup. The glass belongs to a set that came from one of the grandmothers in my family. Somehow the cups made it to my home. They are my favorites. And this one has been sitting here for a week. I have picked it up several times to use it because it is out and within my reach. And every time I look inside I am surprised to find someone poured some kind of grease drippings into the cup. I guess I keep forgetting because from the outside you would never know. It looks as lovely as ever. But there it is- nasty grease. As of right now, the cup is unusable except as a container for grease, but not to drink from which is the reason for which this lovely cup was created.
Jesus talked about cleaning the outside of cups. He told the Pharisees this is what was wrong with their religion. They had beautiful cups that were filthy inside. We can read this and feel so judgmental towards the Pharisees. Until we look at our own lives. Our own religion. Our own belief system. We all want beautiful cups. We think pretty cups mean pretty lives and doesn’t Jesus want our lives to be pretty?
Doesn’t Jesus want our family to be a picture of perfect love? Doesn’t He want our children to be successful and us to do well in our jobs? Surely He wants our homes to be lovely and our grass to be mowed. He needs us to represent Him well by serving faithfully in a local church and volunteering in our children’s schools. And we need to take care of ourselves physically so we should be eating well and exercising since our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So now our jobs look good, our homes look good, our families look good, and our appearance is good. Everything is good. It is a beautiful cup.
But what about when it isn’t? What about when the kids are struggling? The marriage is struggling? The home is falling into disrepair because the job isn’t going so great so there’s no money for repairs. What about when you are handling one crisis after another and you pick up a nasty junk food habit and lose the gym habit? That cup takes some hits. The beautiful glass is dinged and chipped. It’s lost some of it’s shine. It’s actually not looking anywhere close to beautiful anymore. It’s looking rough.
I have met these women. The ones whose lives are not picture perfect. I am one of these women. I did not set out to be. I set out to have a beautiful cup. But somewhere along the way by the grace of God, I found out Jesus wasn’t looking for beautiful cups. He was looking to purify hearts and give us clean cups. These women I have met- they have dirt under their fingernails. They have wrinkles on their faces. They have tear stains on their pillows. And their cups pour forth some of the clearest, purest love of Jesus you will ever experience. Because somewhere along the way, they realized the beautiful cup was only good for looking at. It was a mirage. An ideal. A fantasy. But a clean cup? This was useful. This mattered. Because people are thirsty. They need a drink of something real and pure and hopeful. What’s even better about a clean cup? It comes from Jesus. Only He can clean the inside of our cups. We don’t have to do it. Maintaining a beautiful exterior is hard work. Exhausting work. Sometimes that’s the only reason some of us give up on it. We just get so damn tired.
But then Jesus. He meets us in the tired. He meets us in the hard. He says, “Let me take over from here.” And He takes the dirty greasy mess we are carrying around and He cleans it. He wipes away the grime and the heaviness and all the residue from walking through this world and He fills our cup up with something of value. Himself. Living Water. And now we see that maybe our cup may not be as beautiful on the outside as we had wanted. It may have cracks and chips and imperfections. It may be a little warped and lean too far in one direction – but it’s full of Jesus. And Jesus is what every person we will ever meet needs. He is what our kids need, our husband needs, our home needs, our workplace needs, our church needs, our schools need. And you get to be full of Him. You get to stop working so hard to have a put together life and you get to just start living life. Abundantly.