on Facebook where I saw it recently. I love it. The reason I love it is it perfectly describes the kingdom of heaven for me.
I have a friend who is going through a tough time lately. The death of his wife’s child (his step-son) this summer has widened the cracks and fissures of their marriage until he’s found his way out the door. Things have gone downhill from there. It’s painful, even sitting in the cheap seats where I am, so I can’t imagine the gut-wrenching either of them feels.
In our communications—gosh, I can’t say “talks” because most of it has been texts and private FB messages—I’ve had the opportunity to share some of my beliefs with him. I’m not evangelical by miles but this seemed to be a right season—and that is really what “witnessing” is, isn’t it?—to speak the truth when asked. So I have spoken my truth, as love.
Now, this isn’t any kind of way about counting one’s blessings in the face of stark adversity. That ranks right up there as one of the most unfeeling ways to “console” someone in their time of challenge. The conundrum of the half-full glass has fueled debate that I think is supposed to be about being optimistic or not—your worldview, if you will. Okay, that’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s not very useful in the case of my friend.
We look at situations around us and do the woe-is-us thing because we don’t or can’t sense the other half of the contents of the glass. Our glass is not something that can be empty or full. An omnipresent God is, by definition, all present, right? So where is there a corner (or a glass) for evil to reside in? God created it all and pronounced it all good. At no time did he say it was now bad. The after-effects of Eve’s ego dancing with the serpent and fruit of the tree are described as EXPERIENCES.
God told Adam he would experience the toil of labor to meet his needs. The truth was that God had given them in Genesis 1:29 every seed-bearing plant in the whole earth and every tree bearing fruit. Eve was told that her experience would be desire that would end in the pain of childbirth. The truth was that God was creating mankind (Gen. 1:26). God wasn’t being some ol’ meany-head. He simply laid it out that because they were not convinced of God’s All-ness—all-power, all-knowing, all-presence, that that’s what they would encounter—a world where power would be a struggle, knowledge would be carved out piece by piece through trial and error, and people would cry out to know God as if He were at some far remove. (We know that God never left because He rhetorically asks, “Adam, where are you?” It’s like asking your child, “What happened?” when the cookie jar is in pieces all over the floor. Jesus answers him back…from the cross. Matt 27:46)
The experience of the glass being half-full isn’t the truth. The truth is that molecules of air inhabit the glass above the water surface. When we experience life as half-full or half empty—either way, we’re neglecting the truth. Our glass is always well full. Our experience of it may not be if we rely on ego and its little “r” reality (which is “the world pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth”). I love the idea of it always being full because upper case “R” Reality is always full, good, perfect, not lacking any essential element. Our senses will report either a half-full or, more often, a half-empty orientation, but the truth is that air is a “something.” The glass is always full and can’t be otherwise.
Eve wouldn’t have encountered the “serpent” if her heart had been 100% God-centric. She didn’t recount to the serpent the exact truth; she embroidered it with how they were not to touch it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God never said. (I guess some would counter that this was Adam’s fault because close reading shows he was told about that way before Eve came along. Maybe that’s why women complain that men never talk enough.). But I digress. Back in our story, the crafty serpent appeared embodying Eve’s doubt and she fell for it, hook, line and tree fruit. She manifested what was already in her heart and mind. She had already decided there was only water in the glass (and she was probably a half-empty-er) long before that serpent slithered up. She didn’t have the truth to tell; she told a story about the truth. The serpent only made that abundantly obvious. Had her glass been full, she would have spoken the truth because that’s all there was.
My friend is clinging to the life raft of his pain and that’s just the way it is for him right now. When it gets too painful, I hope he’ll realize the truth is here for him—apart from suffering, despair and all the rest of it—because those are not our portion from God. The dilemma of the debate about full or empty is not to even notice the air for thinking about water.
(And if you think about the glass symbolically, the water can be thought of as Spirit and the air as the breath of God. So it’s all one thing in the glass really, after all.)