It must be more than twenty-five years ago now and I still remember that wonderful coffee cup given to me for Easter one year. I recall it vividly for two distinct reasons: the first is functional because the ceramic cup actually came with a lid to keep the fresh coffee hot for those of us who forget to take constant sips of the brew and are left with the insipid taste of semi-cold coffee. But the second reason was much more deep and meaningful. I can still see the cup in my mind’s eye. It had a painting of a beach scene with the simple words, “I do my best and give the rest to God.”
So where is that cup now? Oh well, it has a very sad but perhaps significant end that might help shine some light on our character as Easter people. Allow me to explain.
Not too long ago, I was leading my life at what most would call a frenetic pace. Although by any accounts there was much achieved and accomplished, but the toll on calm days and peaceful nights was evident. And you know, I can still recall that fateful morning when I was rushing to get from Point A to Point X in twelve minutes when I grabbed my favorite mug, my keys and whatever papers I was supposed to have for whatever important, critical meeting looming and made for my car. Because I was literally juggling all these things with one fell swoop I did what many of our readers might have been guilty of at least one or two times in their lives: I placed the coffee on top of my car to get it in a split second but unfortunately for the mug that split second never came and I drove off with the cup atop my vehicle.
Either I am a very steady driver or the streets around my office were pretty smooth because I actually traveled quite a distance before I realized that I had forgotten something. In the middle of traffic on a very busy street at a busy time of the day, I braked a little too suddenly only to see my windshield dripping with cold coffee and the infamous mug rolling down the back of the trunk onto the street where I could still hear a subtle but unmistakable crash of a ceramic mug hitting the pavement. I could see the broken pieces through my rear view mirror as I moved along with the flow of traffic. By the time I was able to drive to the next intersection and turn around, there was only what appeared to be ceramic powder from all the pummeling that the pieces endured. Later that afternoon, running yet another frenetic errand, I passed by the same spot and saw there was nothing left, not even a clue.
As I write this Easter reflection it becomes almost surreal to realize that this short but significant episode occurred over twenty years ago. Easily to say, there have been literally hundreds of coffee cups nestled in my hand with everything from happy panting dogs to cartoon figures to pithy comments about the state of life, love and all things in between, but I never forgot that one obliterated mug. I wonder why?
While the obvious reason of unforgetability (is that even a word?) lies in plain sight, the more deep and meaningful reason lies in wait. I am elated to report that leaving my coffee atop my car or anything else for that matter has never repeated itself. That would certainly be the first fruit of the experience: Lesson learned. Just the sheer image of fellow drivers all around me laughing uncontrollably and getting their phones ready to capture the moment so it can go viral is just enough to keep me from making that mistake again. We will see.
The second lesson is so much more precious and one that I pray I will never forget even if I revert to leaving things on top of my car. To discover this wonderful lesson we don’t have to go too much further than to remember what that annihilated mug actually said: “I do my best and leave the rest to God.” What does that really mean and how can we factor that message into our souls to make this the greatest Easter ever?
We can start with the very life of Jesus and the events that immediately preceded his arrest, his death on the cross and His most stupendous gift to us by rising from the dead. I believe that God truly expects us to do all we can do in any given situation so that then and only then will He accomplish what we cannot. When Jesus performed the pre-Easter miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, He commanded those around Him, “Take the stone away!” (John 11:39) One of the obvious conclusions that we could make today is that the Lord really did not need their help to bring about this awesome moment. If the Lord had wanted, his old friend Lazarus could have as easily walked right through the huge stone itself adding to the marvel of the miracle. But you see, the people there, like us, could not have raised this man from death but they could roll the stone away which is precisely what they did. Then Jesus did the rest.
The application is simply brilliant: God is not always going to do everything for us when we can do it for ourselves. Remember what God said to Moses when he was going through a difficult time with the Israelites who would not listen to him:
“So the Lord asked him, ‘What are you holding?’” “A walking stick, ‘he answered.’” Then the Lord asked Moses to throw it on the ground and immediately it turned into a snake. It was this amazing moment that won the approval of the Israelites “that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” had indeed appeared to Moses. (Exodus 4: 1-5)
This very enlightening point is re-echoed in the New Testament as well in the Gospel of Matthew: “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock.” (7:7-8)
In other words, we do what we can do, understandably our best effort, then leave the rest of the situation to the Lord who will then decide what to do next. And here are the real Easter challenging questions: Do we do our best? Do we leave the rest? Do we leave that portion to God or something else? And do we trust Him enough to do the rest?
Well, if it is any consolation, and believe me, it is, look what He did with the body of His Son, Jesus: Resurrection from the dead! It looks like God allows us to do what we can do and when we surrender our wills to that truth, He does the rest.
After so many cups of coffee since that rushed morning over twenty years ago, there has never been another mug that made such a lasting impression. I believe that if we embrace the mystery that was etched upon that cup, about the Lord and His great universal love for us, this could be the greatest Easter we have ever experienced.
Remember this the next time you have a cup of coffee.