Before I started practicing Buddhism, I was a lapsed Christian. But when I was a practicing Christian, I had a book called “Can You Drink the Cup?” by Henri Nouwen. It was about Jesus and the last supper. He asked his disciples that question. He detailed to them exactly what it meant. They all answered yes, but before the end of the night, they had all left him or betrayed him. They did not understand the gift of the cup, only the price.
This is Holy week, and although I do not practice anymore, I will certainly meditate on the Crucifixion. Whether human or God, Jesus suffered for his belief. He, the strongest of believers, asked why God had forsaken him. Even he found it difficult to drink the cup. I am much, much less strong than he. I dislike sacrifice or frugality or refraining. I like my cushy, comfortable life. I’m pretty sure I miss opportunities for growth every day, because I don’t even see them through the haze of possible discomfort.
Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story in “My Master’s Robe, Memoirs of a Novice Monk.” He came upon his master with a pile of old, worn brown robes. It was the night before his ordination. His master was picking through the robes, trying to find the least worn. Then he began to mend it. Thich Nhat Hanh asked him to let him do it. His master said no, that he was mending it for him to wear tomorrow, and he wished it to be done with his own hand.
When I heard this story, it immediately occurred to me that I would not have gotten the gift. If I had been Thich Nhat Hanh, and had received that mended brown robe, I probably would have thought, “Is this all I get, this old, mended robe? They can’t even give me a new robe?”
I would not have realized, at least not immediately, that this was a gift of love. How many other such gifts have I completely missed out on? How many times have I failed to see that what I have is exactly what I am supposed to have? Can I drink the cup?