Glass Full, Glass Empty

Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago at a taekwondo class an instructor walked up to me and said, “Have you ever heard the ‘glass full, glass empty’ talk?”

As someone who has heard their fair share of illustrations, it sounded familiar. But I wasn’t sure. “Say more,” I invited.

He continued, “It’s a talk given to students who are so filled with information that you can’t give them anything more. It can apply either to a person who is on overload, or a person who has such an inflated sense of their own know-how that they’re in need of a reset.”

“‘What you do is you take a full glass of water, filled to the brim, and set on a tabletop.’ Then, you say, ‘This is you.’ Afterward, you take a full pitcher of water, and you say, ‘This is what I’m trying to offer you.’ Then, you proceed to pour. Overflow occurs. A mess is made. Water is wasted. The point becomes obvious: just as the cup is unable to receive and retain the inflow of water from the pitcher, so too is the student unable to receive, retain, and then apply new information, insight, and knowledge from their instructor.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“‘Then, you pour the water out of the cup,’ he said. ‘You set it down on the table, point to it, and tell them to be more like the empty cup.'”

The applications of this illustration are wide. For the Christ-follower, self-emptying opens up the possibility to receive from Christ the wisdom he offers concerning a life well-lived, as well as the gift of life itself. He fills us with good things, and imparts to us the gift of the Spirit, who not only satisfies our soul, but also wells up, and so springs forth from us an overflow of the eternal kind of life.