Dear Hyde Park Family,
I have a new answer to an age-old question.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “Is the glass half empty, or half full?” Answer it as half full, and you are an optimist. You see that things could be a whole lot worse, and you choose to focus on the positive. Answer it as half empty, and you see unmet potential, disappointment or failure. You dwell on the negative.
Most of us tend to vacillate between those two choices, depending on the situation. Sometimes, I can be an optimist: joyful, cheerful and hopeful about the future. But I can also worry with the best of you, anxious about a future that may not even happen. But I think I have an even better answer now: The glass is neither half full nor half empty.
The glass is always full.
If you focus only on the glass and the water, then you are forced to choose between only those two extremes. In reality, the other half of the glass, the half without the water, is not really empty. It is in fact full of something that is invisible, but very real.
It is the presence of air.
FIRST, THE SCIENCE LESSON
It is air that fills the rest of the glass, interacts with the surface tension of the water, and gives that water its shape. It is also air that maintains the water as a liquid. If you vacuum out the air, the pressure in the top half of the glass drops, and the water will bubble and eventually boil. And then, because it takes energy to move water from a liquid to a gaseous state, the remaining water – that which has not yet vaporized – has released so much energy that its temperature drops enough to eventually freeze into ice! To watch a demonstration of this phenomenon, check out this video.
NOW, THE SPIRITUAL LESSON
If you are in a situation right now where you are tossing between optimism and pessimism, between hoping in the positive or dwelling on the negative, then think about your glass as being neither half full or half empty. There is something with you right now that is as invisible as air but is as active as energy. And it ensures that your glass, in fact, is always full.
The Holy Spirit is with you.
Remember that when the Bible describes the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, it often uses the image of air. Ruah (Hebrew) and pneuma (Greek) are two of the Bible’s favorite words for Spirit, and they both mean wind and breath. It is an acknowledgment that the Spirit’s work is invisible yet indelible. You may not always see the Spirit’s presence, but the Spirit is always at work.
In those moments when you are caught in a seemingly hopeless situation, when the glass feels half empty, and you can’t help but focus on what is wrong, the Spirit is present to offer you hope, courage and strength that you may not see until hindsight. And without the Spirit’s presence, your situation would bubble, boil and freeze into something even worse than it is.
And when you feel like things are going quite well, when your glass seems half full, then the Spirit is there to open your blinders and alert you to the sinful parts of your life that need more of your attention. The Spirit is also there to remind you that all the good things in your life – your achievements, rewards and treasures – have not solely come from your own merit. They come from God, whose Spirit is with you every step of the way.
So maybe learn to adopt this new guiding principle for your life. Your glass is, in fact, never half full or half empty. Your glass is always full. Regardless of what you are going through in your life, whatever triumphs or tragedies happen to greet you each day, the Spirit of God is right there, to fill your life to the very brim with blessing, encouragement, guidance and joy. Indeed, as the Psalmist says, “your cup runneth over!” (Psalm 23:5)
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist