This new year has been full of starts. I have begun work on over a half dozen posts. But I've been sluggish in the finishing. I'll buckle down soon. I'm focusing more of my attention this year on writing for paying markets. So some of my writing time has been gobbled up editing previous posts to prepare them for submission elsewhere. This piece I wrote from scratch for Vista, a Sunday School quarterly. It was accepted, but won't be published until this fall. I figured I could share it here, since most of the other stuff that is finished or near finished has already appeared on the blog in one form or another.
As I sit at the computer to write, I am accompanied by a mug. I received it a few years ago for Christmas, picked up from a second hand store by one of my young children for some spare change.
It is dull; a simple blue glaze exterior with a cream interior, stained through use to a dull tan. Otherwise, it is nondescript; simple and unpretentious. This is not a specimen of exquisite craftsmanship. It is mass produced and generic. Nothing about it invites a second glance.
But it is a workhorse, well seasoned with repeated use. I am a tea drinker, consuming many cups a day. This mug is the vessel for my beverage of choice. It has endured much scalding, steeping, and sipping, and rinsing. It has been often neglected, left to sit on a counter half full of tepid tea. It has been reheated in the microwave many times over.
It is endearingly familiar. It has been my companion through many early morning quiet times and late night conversations. It has helped open bleary eyes with a strong cup of Irish Breakfast, held me steady through the day with a refreshing cup of Darjeeling, and welcomed drowsiness with a soothing cup of Chamomile. Even now, I warm my hands on it sides as I raise it to my lips and allow the steam to fog my glasses. The aroma clears my mind.
And this is why I treasure this cup. Not for its physical beauty or monetary value, but for its usefulness. While the dainty tea cups with complimenting saucers sit in the cabinet glorying in their fine bone china craftsmanship, this simple porcelain mug spends more time on end tables and desks, fulfilling its function. Lacking artistry, it is employed without worry of defilement. Durable and rugged, it can withstand daily use. Designed to be a cup, it functions that way, serving up hot drinks day after day.
When Jesus says that “whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44, NIV), he is inviting me to be the mug that is used daily, not the tea cup that sits in the china cabinet, ornate but unemployed. According to Jesus, greatness is determined by service. This is a step beyond humility, which is an attitude, to servitude, which is a function. Humility unleashes me to be useful. I spend less time and energy worrying about appearance. Instead of preserving my image, I can focus on doing what God has called me to do even when it is servile. Designed to be a cup, I raise no objection to daily use. My place is on a coaster, not in the cupboard. Steeped in God’s grace I bring drink to a thirsty world. What I offer is not a beautiful cup, but a satisfying drink. And this is greatness, to serve up that drink well.