I never imagined when I picked up this little book that it would have such an impact on me. The book is written by Henri Nouwen and it is entitled Can You Drink the Cup?
Nouwen’s message is simple yet profound. We must embrace our lives for what they are: a gift from God. And, we must use our lives as a gift to others. Finally, we must trust that God speaks to and through us and if we are truly following our call, we will be given all that we need when we need it.
At the end of this essay, I have provided a few of the quotes from Nouwen’s book.
For whatever reason, this book had a profound effect on me. Maybe because it was speaking to issues and themes that I have already been thinking about. I found this book to be in sync with my personal mission statement; one written several years ago. It is:
• Listen Deeply • Act Justly • Trust God
I am occasionally successful at following this mission statement. I do try to remind myself to listen deeply when others are talking; especially when they are seeking advice or my input. I sometimes have to catch myself as I pretend to listen but am really formulating what I want to say. I’m still a work in progress. I’m also a work in progress in trusting God. Yes – theoretically I trust God, but I also do a fair amount of worrying. If worry were a prayer – then God and I would be on speed dial. But I believe that worry is really a lack of faith; in God and in my own ability to respond to whatever is the issue at hand. Worry is really about control. When I can’t control an outcome – I tend to “worry it” to my own distraction.
I aspire to be the person Nouwen urges us to embrace, but I’m not quite there yet. At least not all the time. Well maybe not even most of the time. But I’m OK with that.
I once had a college philosophy professor who, when asked “how are you doing?” he would answered “Hopefully incomplete.” That describes me pretty well. I’m hopeful, but incomplete.
Here is a hopeful – but incomplete list of my favorite quotes from the book; Can You Drink the Cup?
“True sanctity is precisely drinking our own cup and trusting that by thus fully claiming our own irreplaceable journey, we can become a source of hope for many.”
“We can choose to drink the cup of our life with the deep conviction that by drinking it we will find our true freedom.”
“…Stand in the world with our head erect, solidly rooted in the knowledge of who we are, facing the reality that surrounds us and responding to it from our hearts.”
“Sin makes us want to create our own lives according to our own desires and wishes, ignoring the cup that is given to us. Sin makes us self-indulgent.”
“The one who has called us ‘the beloved’ even before we were born, is filling (our cup) with everlasting life.”
“We must first claim ourselves as a gift from God.”
“When we start living our life as entertainment, we start losing touch with our souls and become little more than spectators in a lifelong show.”
“Living the spiritual life is living a life in which the holy spirit will guide us and give us the strength and courage to keep saying ‘yes’ to the great question.”
“Drinking the cup is an act of selfless love, an act of immense trust, an act of surrender to God who will give what we need, when we need it.”
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.