…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

My Cup Runneth Over

With Oatmeal?

By Rex Goode


overoatmealThe other day, I went to McDonald’s for breakfast and ordered their oatmeal. I’ll say right now that I’m an oat fanatic. I love everything oat.

I am a big fellow, frankly, obese. Yet, I always annoyed my doctor with great cholesterol test results. He thought for sure he was going to get to prescribe me some medication for cholesterol. Sorry to disappoint him.

It can be a real problem ordering oatmeal from McDonald’s. The worker that you order it from prepares it right there by adding hot water and the toppings. The problem becomes when they don’t measure the water or the oatmeal very well. The results can be disappointing when you take the lid off.

On this particular day, I was riding in the passenger seat on the way to work. I opened my oatmeal and showed my displeasure on my face.

My coworker/driver asked, “What’s wrong?”

I replied, “It is half full.”

I was immediately reminded of the old analogy of the glass of water as it relates to perspective. Some people look at a half-glass of water and think of it as half-empty while others look at it and think of it as half-full.  I surprised myself by using the words “half full” to describe my oatmeal.

By the way, it was not only merely half full, but there was not enough water in it, making it more like soggy granola than oatmeal. See what I mean about disappointing results.

What surprised me about my answer to the question was that I’m not really big into positive mental attitude talk. It seems so much like a cultish religion to me. People make a lot of money selling books about it.

From my perspective, sometimes life just isn’t positive and I get really annoyed at people who always look on the bright side of things, or at least those who think it is a useful way to comfort someone by being cheerful about a situation that is far from. Telling a depressed person to just “cheer up” is about as welcome as Portland’s recent weather. People are still picking up the debris out of their yards while the rains keep coming.

On the other hand, I’m pretty much an optimist myself. I probably do think of half-empty as half-full. I think the problem I have with a lot of optimists is that they think optimism cures things, somewhat like a lot of supplement distributors want you to think their product will fix every health problem from A-Z.

The glass of water analogy falls apart for me because whether you look at is half full or half empty, it still contains water and air, and we need both. I’m addicted to both. Can’t seem to get enough of either.

There’s a better analogy that works for me. The psalmist of scripture said it: My cup runneth over!

Water, air, and oatmeal are all very nice, but I like living water the most, in the person of Jesus Christ and my relationship with him. The cup he gives me has endless refreshment in it. As he said to the woman at the well:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14).

I think of my life that way. There have no doubt been many things that I can point to that have made my life difficult. I deal with abuse recovery issues, same-sex attraction, and major health problems. If I were to focus on those things, on the half-full glass, I would probably be very miserable indeed.

Though I don’t mean to trivialize anyone’s pain, for me these things seem so irrelevant and separate from me. I know it is because I have known God and have a personal relationship with him. That knowledge and experience has far outweighed and overcome everything else I have ever dealt with or deal with now. I feel happy. I know joy. I love life.

I don’t know when I realized it, but the victim thing just wasn’t working for me. I’m human. Bad things happen. They happen to everyone.

One of my least favorite points of view about same-sex attraction is the point of view that it is the hardest thing an LDS person can deal with. Again, not meaning to trivialize anyone’s pain, but I don’t find it to be all that hard, at least not since I wrestled with God over it and won. He won too. Best win-win situation ever.

The victim position will never have the potential to make a person happy. Whatever our trials and challenges, settling into an attitude of victimhood will only make things harder. Among other things, some of the problems are that victims feel justified in behavior that doesn’t help them. They think the hard things that have happened to them mean that the rules don’t apply to them.  Disobedience holds no future happiness, even if you think you can justify disobedience by citing the bad things that were done to you.

Victims suffer from ingratitude. Even though I don’t relish the “bright side” of things as a means of providing comfort, there is always brightness in life if you let yourself see it.

Even if you can’t thank God for your challenges, we can all find something to thank him for. Corrie Ten Boom’s sister, Betsie, was thankful for the fleas in her concentration camp bunkhouse.

I have so much more in my life to be thankful for than fleas in a concentration camp. If I typed them all out right now, it would fill a large book. This joy in the things I am grateful for overwhelms every other consideration, overtakes every rotten thing ever done to me.

Even though I recognize that telling a depressed person to cheer up is a poor choice of comforting a person in present distress, I think it is exactly what Jesus wants us to do, though with he urges it with infinitely more tact and power.

He said:

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Cheer up!

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