We are like a cup in which energy both fills and drains. But we can grow by paying attention to the cup and understanding the fillers and the drainers.
It was always a challenge to get them to care for themselves. They were always giving out to others, and I could see that life was being sucked out of them.
I explained that you can’t give out of an empty cup, but self-sacrifice and martyrdom had been drummed into them from childhood. They remembered that Sunday School song – J.O.Y. Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between sung to the merry little tune of Jingle Bells.
But now all that giving out was leading to their fragile body forming cracks. The body was breaking down. It couldn’t keep on giving out. Illnesses came, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression. The body was trying to send a message – Stop abusing the cup.
Many years ago, I once spent some time with a counselor by the name of Ruth Penny, and she suggested that I do a simple little spiritual exercise. I don’t know if she had developed herself or it was someone else’s, but I use it all the time.
Its simply to imagine yourself as a cup and to notice what is filling your cup and what is emptying it. The input and the output. What is flowing in and what is being taken out.
It’s a simple exercise of attention.
1. Get your journal or a piece of paper and a pen
Have some writing paper, a journal, or your diary so you can write down your experiences.
Keeping a record of your entries will enable you to see trends in your life, and it may well point out to you things that God wants you to take notice of.
2. Quieten yourself
This is an exercise of attention, so you will need to be quiet and give yourself space to breathe and focus. Allow yourself to be still.
Prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to open the awareness of your cup to you. To see what God sees.
3. Imagine your life as a cup.
A cup is something we are all familiar with. Jesus used a Cup as a metaphor for our lives.
The cup is a container for something. They have a purpose and practicality to them.
This exercise is not about the external aspects of the cup, such as color, age, cracks, or chips, but more about what flows in and out.
4. Write down your Cup fillers and Cup drainers.
As you consider how your life is a cup, take note of what has filled your life and what has drained your life.
Cup Fillers – what has given you a sense of life?
It might be the smallest of things such a smile from a stranger, something you have read, something you have achieved. It is anything positive that has been poured into your life. Don’t dismiss even the smallest of droplets that made their way into your life. They all add up.
Cup Drainers – what has drained the life from you?
Write down those things where you have sensed a drain on you. It might be a relationship, a conflict, or a work situation. It could be anything, but for whatever reason, this has drained some sense of life from you.
5. Prayerfully look at the Fillers and Drainers.
Examine them and ponder over them.
· How full or empty is your cup at the moment?
· Do you notice any patterns in what has filled you or drained you?
· Is there anything you need to do differently?
· What do you need to let go of?
· What do you need to embrace?
· What will repeat itself if you don’t make some changes?
You might like to discuss and problem-solve some of the drainers with others. Set yourself some small and highly achievable goals that focus on both filling your cup and dealing with the drainers.
Note: Some things can be both drainers and fillers. For example, I love talking with people at a deep level. It both fills my cup but also drains it. This is ok, as long as I am aware of it and learn ways to fill up.
6. Repeat the exercise
I encourage you to repeat this exercise. Make it a regular part of your life. It could be every day or week. As you do this, you will begin to see patterns to what fills and drains your cup.
There may be an invite in those patterns to explore further. Those habits, both good and bad, have a revealing nature to themselves. I wonder what they can tell you about you?
By the way, this exercise is beneficial if you are considering a career change. You begin to notice the patterns that might be like signposts for a future direction to explore.
7. Give yourself a cup of grace
If I could everyone a cup of some unique beverage, it would be a cup of grace. We can so easily measure ourselves against others and pick up a nasty case of comparisonitis.
The poison of comparison cripples our contentment.
Instead, give yourself a cup of grace.
Quotes to consider
- Justice – is getting what is deserved
Mercy – is not getting what is deserved
Grace – is getting what is not deserved
- To be more aware of the other person, first become more aware of yourself. Without self-awareness, self cannot be laid aside, in order to listen. D. Riddell
- Love yourself as you love others. If you don’t care for your own needs, you’ll soon be unable to care for those who need you. D. Riddell
- Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
Questions to answer
- What, on a regular basis, has an energy filling effect on the cup of your life?
- What, on a regular basis, has an energy-draining effect on the cup of your life?
- Are you able to give yourself a nice full cup of grace?