I wonder how many of us are trying to pour wine from empty pitchers. The account of the Wedding at Cana strikes me whenever I read it in the gospel of John (chapter two) because even when he is performing his very first miracle, Our Lord doesn’t start with nothing, he starts with what the people have.
1. On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman,what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine…
Surely the Lord could have turned the very air into wine for the guests there. It may have been an even more impressive feat, in fact, if he had created the wine from nothing. But here’s the thing: he didn’t. He started with what they had.
He told them to fill their pitchers brimful, and then he started with that.
Andrew Kern often reminds us that as teachers we are saying “imitate me,” whether or not we are worthy of imitation, and whether or not we want to be imitated. Cultivating intellectual growth, nurturing our creativity, diving into good books, learning new skills, working refreshment into a busy routine— that is how we fill our pitchers brimful of water.
We fill up when we read a good book, take a long hike, listen and learn and connect with others. While we’re doing it, it doesn’t really feel like much. It certainly doesn’t feel like wine. But it doesn’t really matter, because he never asked us for wine. All he needs is our pitcher of water, and then he uses it to pour wine all out over our children.
This year, I’m being rather intentional about filling my pitcher. I know it’s only water, but it’s what I’ve got, and I’m confident that he can (and will) turn my water into wine. This is what that looks like for me right now:
Choosing a literary mentor
Last year it was Chesterton. Of course, it will always be Chesterton, at least a little. But this year I’m ready to sit at someone else’s feet, and I’m looking to soak up wisdom and insight from Elizabeth Goudge. We can choose to read any good books, of course, but I find it a bit helpful to choose one particular author each year to take on as a mentor. Last year Chesterton whispered truth into my year, and I was bowled over by the insights I gained there. This year? Goudge. I can’t wait to see what she teaches me.
Going to a conference
And why not? I’ve put this off in years past for a variety of reasons: it’s too expensive, it’s too much of inconvenience for my husband to keep all the children, I’m not sure it will be worth it. But we were made for community! The disciples learned from their master and from each other, from connecting intentionally with one another about the things that mattered most. Our teaching has so much to gain from setting aside a few days to really think and reflect with others who share our desire to teach from rest and pursue truth, beauty, and goodness.
Reviving my commonplace book
I tend to go in spurts with my commonplace, feverishly writing down everything that strikes me or comes to mind in one season, then ignoring it and allowing it to collect dust in the next. It’s natural, I think – the waxing and waning of enthusiasm and desire to grow and think and reflect. I do know one thing: my ability to read hard things, think deep thoughts, and discern and cull insight, is a direct reflection on how often I’m using my commonplace. It’s time to wipe off the dust and let it transform me once again.
Copying John by hand
In the first episode of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Andrew Pudewa said that he was changed by his attempts to copy out the first chapter of John by hand. I assign my children copywork on a regular basis, but somehow it had not occurred to me that I ought to try it myself. And of course I should! That’s slow contemplation. It’s soul soaking. It’s filling the pitcher brimful to overflowing. And when I write the passage down, I notice things I skip over when I’m reading it over as I’ve done a hundred times before. It doesn’t have to be John, of course, but the poetic beauty of this gospel makes it a real treat to copy down.
So what about you? How will you fill your pitcher this year?