Henri Nouwen used the following anecdote in one of his writings on spiritual formation to propose our crisis in the Christian walk:
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Nouwen compares this story to our state. Since God is infinite and unknowable, we will not be able to contain Him in the teacup of our theology nor the vessel of our heart. Not when it is full of presuppositions, disbelief, and—primarily—itself.
Jesus invited a man who was rich, despised, and of ill repute. He was a tax collector who used exorbitant interest rates to steal from the underprivileged. But he was empty.
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
And because he was empty, he responded.
What fills my cup that keeps me from hearing Christ?
Jesus says: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
That which found cannot be found until it knows it is lost. What is empty cannot be empty until it knows it is full. What loved cannot be loved until it knows it is undeserving.
Jesus, help me to empty my cup of myself to be filled with a fuller knowledge not just about You but of you. Amen.