I remember her determination. That’s what I remember the most. It was the first week of the new year, and my friend was, as my grandmother used to say, “bound and determined.” This year would be different. This year would be the year everything lined up straight, nothing stepping out of line. All her goals and plans would stand in resolute submission to her sheer determination to make everything right this year. This year she would make it work. This year she would be happy.
Later, I watched her scramble when things didn’t pan out quite right. Still, she worked at it with an admirable resolution. She crowded her days with new projects and plans that would surely quiet the empty feeling she was desperate to squelch. I’d seen the uncertainty in her eyes, the way her shoulders slumped when she couldn’t mend her ache. I could tell she was troubled by the ways her resolutions had failed her. There was more spending, more giving, more fixing, more talking, more organizing.
It was hard to watch.
No matter how much she poured into her life, no matter how determined she was to patch up what was broken, everything kept slipping out the cracks. Like a cup irreparably cracked, everything leaked out eventually. No matter how quickly she kept refilling her life with new things, every kind of remedy failed her. It all seeped out along with the dregs of hope she had staked her year upon.
She wasn’t the only empty cup I encountered last January. She was one of many people in my life who were medicating a deep ache with all the remedies the world promises will make us happy. Possessions, family, vacations, work, a well-ordered and well-maintained life.
We keep filling up our lives with things — good things even — but still find ourselves chest-deep in a yearning we can’t explain.
I know that ache. Oh, I know it well.
My heart has throbbed with the same reverberating reminder that what I yearn for can’t be answered with a gym membership, a new eating plan, a financial fix, obedient children, a charming husband, or a beautifully decorated home. Every turn of the calendar beckons us to try harder, to try more, to try new methods. Still we ache.
That ache is purposeful, though. It is for Jesus, and only Jesus can fill it. He doesn’t just fill the cup. He seals the cracks up tight.
Well actually, He gives us a whole new cup.
The redeeming work of Jesus doesn’t just patch up what’s broken. He makes us completely new. Jesus answers the yearning that calls out from the deep places of our hearts. We can try to tamp down the ache, feed it with things that will keep it quiet for now. But eventually, the cracks widen. The ache gets through. The remedies fail us.
What I offer to the people I love who are still seeking to patch up that empty, leaking cup usually echoes with the rich words of St. Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” I’ve learned those cracks won’t stay sealed until we hand over these empty cups of ours to the One who makes all things new. Those cracks will continue to widen and crawl along the edges of our heart until we’ve been given a new heart altogether.
I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
No other solution will do because that yearning is there to be answered with the deep, wide, high, long love of Christ.
No more cracks, no more emptiness. We’re no longer empty because fixing our heart’s gaze on Jesus means we are filled with all the fullness of God. We are no longer leaking cups; we are overflowing.