We didn’t register for a lot of fancy things when we got married. I picked out a china pattern and some flatware, but we didn’t place crystal, silver pieces, or cut glass on our registry. However, I married a man from the South and one of the sweet ladies from the church where he grew up gave us a beautiful pitcher. It was lovely, but what was most significant about this gift was the note included on the package. She wrote to us explaining how this pitcher represented what she prayed for our family. It was her hope that we would invite people into our home and show love, acceptance, welcome and grace with every glass of sweet tea we poured around our table.
From the beginning of our marriage hospitality was a priority. We invited friends, missionaries, and strangers in for meals and overnight stays and I loved serving them in whatever ways possible. As time went on, we had children, moved to new places, and continued to open up our home. But the acts of service that had previously been reserved for guests were now the daily rhythm of my life.
With each new day I was pouring out my life for my family. This is what I wanted and my dreams were being fulfilled, but I hadn’t been prepared for the way that motherhood would leave me feeling so empty. Not the kind of emptiness where you feel like you’re lacking things or value; the kind of emptiness that comes from constantly giving yourself away for the needs and wants of others.
On my really good days I’m full of the sweetest tea, pouring out words of encouragement, coming up with creative ways to spend our time, and joyfully tending to everyone’s needs. The rough days are more like serving up the busted tea bags and dregs that have piled up at the bottom of the pitcher. My temper can rise along with my voice, and my family is being cared for but grudgingly and without joy or delight. And then there are the days when I feel empty; I’m tired and fed up with the needs that constantly pull at me. But still I must pour. Somehow the pitcher has to keep going even on those days. You don’t get to stop. You can’t turn around and walk back to the kitchen for a refill. The pouring is never ending and you feel desperate for something to give your family but you feel as though you have nothing to offer.
This life of endless pouring out feels impossible. And when I get to those moments of desperation I find myself crying to the Lord, begging him to remove me from my circumstances. I want a way out, a vacation, or some sort of supernatural deliverance from the challenges I’m facing in the moment.
What I’m learning though is that instead of crying for a way out I need to cry for him to keep filling me up.
I’m reminded of a story in the Old Testament. There was a famine in the land of Israel and God commanded Elijah to go and live near a brook. God promised that he would provide for Elijah with water from the brook and ravens would bring him food. Eventually the brook dried up so God sent Elijah to find provision in the home of a widow and her son. When Elijah asked the woman for food she said,
As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die. (1 Kings 17:12)
Talk about a moment of desperation. She had reached the end of her resources and her abilities; she felt utterly defeated and was ready to die.
I love how the Lord speaks into this moment. Elijah says to her,
Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’ (1 Kings 17:13-14)
Elijah gave her a command and then a promise. As she prepared food and cared for Elijah, God would continue to provide what was necessary for her family. There would be enough for all of them.
The command and promise from God to us are the same. He says to you, “Give. Serve. Pour, and keep doing it. I know you feel desperate and empty, but I have more to give you. I am the source of your strength. I am the one who fills you up and I will keep filling you up so that even when it feels like there is nothing left to give, you will be able to give from the fullness of my strength, from the riches of my grace.”
The invitation is for us to trust him. To believe that his promises are true, that his grace really is sufficient and that his power is made perfect in our weakness. As we trust him and walk in obedience to the tasks of pouring out our lives for others, he fills us up. We become beautiful vessels, filled with the glory of Christ, able to serve, give and love deeply.
I’m not sure what happened to that lovely pitcher we were given years ago. Somewhere in the midst of all of our moving I must have given it away. But I still think of it and what it now represents: I have become the pitcher. And God, in his powerful yet tender way, keeps filling me up so that I can spill out for others.
This post is part of a series, Made to Pour: Tending to Your Soul