My cup is empty, she wailed. All around the table, other children were asking for more, but for this one, an empty cup gave permission to feel the weight of years of empty cups and plates and arms. A lifetime of empty had formed a habit in my little girl – one that said empty is who you are. No one will ever come for you. When you hit empty, give up.
She believed it and I, unknowingly, fueled her fear. I kept that cup filled night and day. When it reached the half-way point to empty, I filled it again and again, desperate to help her avoid that feeling of empty. But as time passed and her cup remained full, her heart just found other places to dwell on emptiness. My child had become defined by her years of lack. When we’ve allowed something to define who we are, it skews our perspective and soon everything seems to corroborate that definition. To her, empty was everywhere.
And suddenly it dawned on me: she didn’t know what mama’s were supposed to do. She didn’t know that it was my job to fill her cup when it was empty.I could tell her so over and over, but until felt it, the truth did her no good. She needed to feel empty and watch me fill and provide over and over again until the habit of fear was replaced with a habit of trust.
So I let her cup run empty. In fact, from then on I only filled it enough for her to take a few sips before being faced with the dilemma of an empty cup. And as she took that last sip, I’d slip my hand in hers and coach, You have a mama now, remember? When you have a mama, you just ask me for what you need. Say “mama, I need some more water.”
Over and over, the cup was drained and as her heart drifted towards fear, my words pulled her back to truth. Now you have a mama and this is what mamas do.
I’ve had my own dose of empty over the years. Nothing like starvation or abuse, but more like an empty cup. Usually it’s safety that feels most elusive. I try to hedge myself in with savings and “a plan” and a well-adjusted schedule, but even my best efforts at control have failed miserably.
Some things have been absent for a season – home, security, family…and yes, in one unique season I did experience even the lack of food. Often I have found myself asking the same questions again and again: Why are You doing this to me? Why are You failing to provide the things you know I need? Why are You letting me experience this emptiness? Aren’t You supposed to be good?
And as my little daughter sat in front of me agonizing over an empty cup when her mama was right there, ready to fill it, I realized something – she doesn’t know that this is my job. She’s holding all of this need herself. Is this what I’m doing with God? Do I complain and agonize over the things that seem to be urgent needs when really that’s my Father’s job? Is He whispering (and waiting for me to hear) that I have a Daddy now, remember?
I’m the God who hears you (1 John 5:14). I’m the God who holds you (Psalm 73:23). I’m the God who is ready to meet every one of your needs (Philippians 4:19). I’m the one who makes it rain (Job 5:10).
Was my sense of insecurity – of emptiness – merely a symptom of a little girl who had not yet learned what her Father was willing to do?
And, furthermore, was He purposing my lack to invite me into asking? Could the very worst of my experiences be exactly what I needed to find out who He wanted to be for me, both in my emptiness AND in His provision? Because how would I ever know His supply without first knowing empty? Because when your Daddy is the One who makes it rain, it’s hard to feel anxious over an empty cup.
It only took a few days for this little one to find a rhythm of asking and safety in expecting.
All I wanted was for her to become comfortable experiencing need and trusting me to meet it. Within a few days, the almost-empty cup had done the trick and we went back to normal. Empty was starting to become less about fear and more about getting to watch Mommy fill that cup again…and again. It translated over into other fears, too. She had discovered that mamas love to help their children and asking has now become second nature. Even when my answer is “not right now”, she has discovered that my love stretches over momentary lack and reaches all the way into forever – and so need not be questioned whenever there is lack.
If there’s an area of your life that feels empty today, two little phrases can make all the difference:
God, how do You see this area of my life?
Who are You for me here?
The answer may not be immediate, but it will come. His greatest goal for us is to know true and lasting security as sons and daughters.