Just recently, I was being overwhelmed by fears of failure and inadequacy. Past insecurities were rising up inside of me. When I was faced with various obstacles, it was hard to stay grounded in peace and see things clearly; my emotions were uncontrollable. It was like I was back in junior high! I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I was doing, and I felt as though I had nothing left to love my community, my girlfriend, or the people I was ministering to.
It got to the point where I seriously considered “calling in sick” instead of helping lead a retreat for families one day. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a day ministering to people when I felt so down in the dumps. Nevertheless, I asked God for the strength, my community for their support, and I got my butt down to the church to lead the eight to eleven-year-old age group at the family retreat.
And then, God spoke to me in an unexpected way. Through my own lesson on God’s love, God reminded me that He is the only one who can fill me up.
After playing a get-to-know-you game with fifteen pre-teens, I gathered them for a demonstration on God’s love. On a rectangular table in the front of the room I placed nine clear cups. On top of those cups were four more, and above the four was a stand alone cup which formed a three-layer pyramid of empty, open faced cups.
In my hand I held a pitcher of water. I told the kids that the water represented God’s love. I then poured a pitcher into the cup on the top of the pyramid and as the cup filled up it began to overflow to the cups below. I did this with two more pitchers so they could really see the bottom cups fill up.
The point was, we cannot give what we haven’t received. In order to love our families and friends, we must let God’s love flow into our hearts and overflow to the world.
Jesus says, “He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:38
One of the kids raised his hand, put on a big conniving smile and said, “The cups in the back row aren’t filling up at all. That must mean that if you’re in the back row, you don’t get God’s love, but if you’re in the front row, you do get God’s love.” It was a palm to forehead moment, but it brought me a big smile.
God taught me two things through those kids. First, He was telling me to live what I preach! I can’t give what I haven’t received. I realized that I hadn’t been relying on God’s love to flow through me into my ministry. I was trying to do too much, and I wasn’t leaving enough time to be filled up in quality prayer time. Second, those kids taught me to laugh a little.
Never underestimate the ways that God can speak His joy and love into our lives.