Day 36 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 36

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Action, just as silence and the word, can help us to claim and celebrate our true self But here again we need discipline, because the world in which we live says: “Do this, do that, go here, go there, meet him, meet her.” Busyness has become a sign of importance. Having much to do, many places to go, and countless people to meet gives us status and even fame. However, being busy can lead us away from our true vocation and prevent us from drinking our cup.

It is not easy to distinguish between doing what we are called to do and doing what we want to do. Our many wants can easily distract us from our true action. True action leads us to the fulfillment of our vocation. Whether we work in an office, travel the world, write books or make films, care for the poor, offer leadership, or fulfill unspectacular tasks, the question is not “What do I most want?” but “What is my vocation?” The most prestigious position in society can be an expression of obedience to our call as well as a sign of our refusal to hear that call, and the least prestigious position, too, can be a response to our vocation as well as a way to avoid it.

Drinking our cup involves carefully choosing those actions which lead us closer to complete emptying of it, so that at the end of our lives we can say with Jesus: “It is fulfilled” (John 19:30). That indeed, is the paradox: We fulfill life by emptying it. In Jesus’ own words: “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

When we are committed to do God’s will and not our own we soon discover that much of what we do doesn’t need to be done by us. What we are called to do are actions that bring us true joy and peace. Just as leaving friends for the sake of the Gospel will bring us friends, so too will letting go of actions not in accord with our call.

Actions that lead to overwork, exhaustion, and burnout can’t praise and glorify God. What God calls us to do we can do and do well. When we listen in silence to God’s voice and speak with our friends in trust we will know what we are called to do and we will do it with a grateful heart.

Silence, speaking, and acting are three disciplines to help us to drink our cup. They are disciplines because we do not practice them spontaneously. In a world that encourages us to avoid the real life issues, these disciplines ask for concentrated effort. But if we keep choosing silence, a circle of trusting friends to speak with, and actions that flow from our call, we
are in fact drinking our cup, bit by bit, to the bottom. The sorrows of our lives will no longer paralyze us, nor will our joys make us lose perspective. The disciplines of silence, word, and action focus our eyes on the road we are traveling and help us to move forward, step by step, to our goal. We will encounter great obstacles and splendid views, long, dry deserts and also freshwater lakes surrounded by shadow-rich trees. We will have to fight against those who try to attack and rob us. We also will make wonderful friends. We will often wonder if we will ever make it, but one day we will see coming to us the One who has been waiting for us from all eternity to welcome us home.

Yes, we can drink our cup of life to the bottom, and as we drink it we will realize that the One who has called us “the Beloved,” even before we were born, is filling it with everlasting life.

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