“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
Did you ever fill up a glass with water? I don’t mean up to the rim, I mean over the rim, so that little bit of water sits on top of the glass? That water doesn’t spill over the side. I remember doing that as a child. I slowly added water to bathroom cups to make the excess sit on top. I stooped down eye level with the cup to see the curve of the water. I was careful, though, because if I bumped the counter or the cup, even a little bit, the water cascaded down the sides and formed a puddle.
One of my kids asked what that water on top of the cup was called the other day. Outside of memories of filling bathroom cups, I did not know the scientific term. My go-to guy for these kinds of questions was my husband and he wasn’t home so I googled it and this is what I found:
“the convex meniscus you see when the water is above the rim is due to the fact that the liquid in your glass has a high surface tension allowing for a lot of strain to be put on the molecules before they break apart”
“allowing for a lot of strain to be put on the molecules before they break apart“.
That last part spoke to me. I felt like that sometimes…full of emotion, so full that the feelings teetered on the top just like the water in the cup….”straining to hold it together, to not break apart”. I always tried to keep those emotions from spilling over. It was a balancing act but I did it pretty well. I kept those emotions in check; but, just like bumping those cups in the bathroom, if something happened, all those emotions spilled over … and I was left in a puddle.
That happened the other day. I was having trouble sleeping and I was really tired. I found out some women in my cancer facebook groups received some very bad news. I had an upcoming petscan that weighed heavily on my mind. The colder weather made my bones ache more than usual. I knew it was never a good idea but with all that was going on, I allowed myself to go down that dangerous path of ‘what if?’, ‘why me?’, and ‘how long?’.
My son attended a Christian school and on Fridays, they held chapel service and parents were welcomed to attend. Due to the holidays, doctor appointments, and other conflicts; I hadn’t attended since Thanksgiving. I was excited to be there. Instead of the usual service, there was a guest speaker – a blind man who spoke about navigating through the world without sight. After a great presentation in which he praised God for all He does for us, no matter our strengths and weaknesses; he concluded the service by playing the piano and leading the children in Christian songs. As I listened to that wonderful, faithful man lead the children in song; my emotions started rising, filling my cup way past the top. I held steady for a moment but then it happened…
My cup had been disturbed. As I listened to the lyrics of a particular song, the strain on the molecules of my emotions was just too much. They started breaking apart, causing tears to spill from my eyes. That “convex meniscus” of emotions I was carrying around was a big one. I wiped the tears as quickly as I could but they kept coming. I didn’t want my son to see me crying so I wiped them, one after another after another…
I was about to become that puddle around the glass when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see my son’s principal standing behind me, quietly and discreetly handing me a tissue. Although a little embarrassed she had seen me crying, I was touched by the sweet gesture. It was what I needed to settle my heart, to get my emotions back in check and to steady those molecules on top of my glass. My emotions spilled over but that was okay. God sent someone to stop my tears and calm my heart.
I have made you. I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
That night, my husband was traveling for work so my mother and I took the kids to dinner. Our waitress asked us to follow her to a table, explaining that there were no booths available. As I scanned the room and a few empty booths, she followed my eyes and clarified that there were booths open, but they weren’t in her section. I would have typically asked for a booth but something told me to accept the table instead. Relieved, she directed us to a table and took our drink orders. She was very friendly with a sweet personality but I could tell she was overwhelmed. She was very attentive, refilling drinks and making sure we had all we needed. As she cleared our plates, she and I started talking. She probably didn’t plan to but she mentioned she had a rough day and let it slip that she had recently lost her father. As she said the words, her eyes started to fill with tears.
There it was… that “convex meniscus”… and it was about to spill over.
I placed my hand on her arm, offered her my condolences, and told her that I would pray for her. I could almost see her “cup” stabilizing as she thanked me, took a deep breath, and apologetically explained that it had only been a few months. I told her I lost my father as well and understood how she felt. She had an appointment that morning but the therapist had to cancel. She realized she needed to talk to someone because the grief was too much. I am sure that her glass was already full… and then her therapist canceled. She went to work and I can only imagine the poking and prodding her poor fragile glass endured throughout the rest of her day. People could be so impatient, so unkind. It was only a matter of time before she spilled over. I was honored that I was able to send a few kind words her way and maybe settle her heart the way mine had been settled earlier.
God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble. 2 Cor 1:4
I was happy that after my rough morning, I was able to bless her that evening. I told her I would pray for her and I did. I prayed for God to bring her comfort and peace in her grief, to place protection around her so that her job didn’t add to her stress, and that she would find the right person to talk to so that she could keep her cup from becoming too full.
When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2
As I curled up on the couch that night, my hands wrapped around a cup of hot tea, I reflected on the events of the day. That morning, my emotions were overflowing my cup. There was something about the beautiful music, the song lyrics, the children’s voices – all together poked at my cup and made my emotions spill over.It was okay because God sent one of his angels to restore my calm with a kind gesture. I will be forever thankful for her and for what she did. Later that afternoon, a sweet waitress, a stranger, was having a rough day as well. Her emotions were rising and although her cup had been poked and prodded with canceled appointments, rude customers, and things just not going her way; she was still holding steady, trying to keep those molecules from breaking apart. There was no doubt in my mind that God placed me in that restaurant that night, in her section, at that particular moment. He placed me there so that I could restore her calm with compassion and understanding.
I said “my cup runneth over” all the time but I meant it in a positive way. My cup was running over with blessings. I had so many, many things to be thankful for — we all did. We wanted our cups to overflow under those circumstances. We didn’t mind when blessings spilled over the rims of our cups and cascaded down the sides and pooled around us. What did we do when our cups ran over with emotions — pain, fear, sadness, distress — when our circumstances caused them to flow over our edges and collect at our feet, dampening everything around us? That’s when we must hold on tight to our faith and stand our ground.
But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength. 2 Timothy 4:17
To keep your cup running over with all the good stuff, rely on God. Strengthen your glass from the inside out by strengthening your faith. This world and those who live in it will poke at you, trying to break your molecules apart — but faith in God protects you from all of that. When you find yourself weak, not able to stand on your own, God will sustain you. He may even send someone to help you, like He did for me. When you have faith, God will fill your glass with more blessings than you thought it could hold.
For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go. Psalm 91:11
God will give you rest if you trust Him enough to let it all go. Allow your cup to overflow, your emotions to pour out over your glass until there is nothing left — God will give you rest and peace. When it all piles up, stop holding on to those emotions so tightly. Stop trying to balance it all, to hold those molecules together. You don’t have to do that alone. God doesn’t ask that of you. God wants you to cast your anxieties on Him. He will empty your glass and fill it up again with the peace that only God can give.
Find rest, oh my soul, in God above. Psalm 62:5
As we stumble through our days, we come across a lot of people — loved ones, co-workers, friends, strangers — who, like us, at times, are about to spill over. Some hide it better than others. We may not know their story. We may not know what is building inside of them. Don’t be the person who causes their glass to spill over…be the person who restores their calm, who helps them clean the puddle on the floor when they can’t hold on any longer. We should be purposefully looking out for others in need and we should purposefully lend them a helping hand, a listening ear, or an open heart. That’s what God calls us to do.
When we allow God’s love to fill us up, that love will spill over onto someone else.
Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14