LIFE LESSONS FROM A TEA CUP

by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)

Non-denominational Reformed


Philippians 4:4-6
Sometimes in life the seemingly small and insignificant moments turn out to be life lessons that leave an impression on us for the rest of our time on earth. I remember one such incident from when I was just a kid. It often gets brought up in family conversations as a funny memory used in order for my sisters to laugh at my mom and I.

Every year one of the largest fairs in the U.S. comes to a nearby town for three weeks during September. Growing up in this area meant that we visited that fair every year to ride the rides, see the animals, look at the numerous displays, play games, and eat the amazing and creative “fair food.”

Well, one year, after finding a parking spot (not an easy task), and walking the long distance to the entrance gate, which seemed to take forever and drained us of our energy, enthusiasm immediately returned once we were inside the fair grounds viewing the overwhelming scene and smelling the aroma that can only be created at a fair or carnival. We enjoyed a few rides, ate some delicious and creative fair cuisine, did some browsing, popped some balloons with darts, and eventually ended up at the spinning teacups ride. My mom and I decided to sit together in one of the “cups” that can hold up to four.

We were nervous at first but soon we were screaming and hollering as we cranked on the large steering wheel looking apparatus that controlled the spin of the cup. It was just a few moments later that it happened. A seemingly insignificant moment that actually left an impression that has lasted for a lifetime.

The festive treats I had consumed were not so festive anymore while on this ride. Or maybe the cuisine was just curious and wanted to be more directly involved in the moment. Either way, the food was about to reappear to take a look for itself.

I begged and pleaded for it not to. I prayed the ride would stop or that the urge would dissipate immediately, but who was I to argue with angry fair food that was being churned repeatedly in my stomach like fruit be ran through a juicer?

Finally, I felt the release of the residents in my stomach into the wildly spinning universe and I closed my eyes tight to spare myself from the actual image of the visual I had already created in my head. We spun round and round, up and down, back and forth and then it finally projected spewing the contents to and fro.

I prayed and prayed yet I still sprayed and sprayed. While in the midst of this temporary torture I heard something loud. Not only was it loud but it appeared joyful, very joyful. My family and friends were laughing heartily. They sounded so full of joy it could have been mistaken for an audience at a comedy club.

The ride finally stopped but the cart my mother and I were in continued to spin at full speed. Some bearings had come loose and all we could do was wait for it to slow down and stop on its own momentum. No wonder we were spinning so much faster than the others. After a bit, our teacup finally slowed down enough for the operator of the ride to grab hold of the rim with his gloved hand to stop us so we could remove ourselves from this living nightmare. For just a flash I thought perhaps it wasn't quite as bad as I had imagined.

However, when I jumped off the ride I could barely stand. Suddenly my stomach was revolting again and I had to find my way to the garbage can without falling over, the same was true for my mom.

At the time, I couldn't figure what everyone found so funny, and even more confusing was why in the world there were laughs sounding so joyful that they could almost be mistaken for praise. Well, decades later I think I have a better understanding of what was happening. That moment taught me a life lesson.

When the sickening moments of life hit, I often think back to that day and try to praise God even when it doesn't make much sense. I've come to learn that our testimony is magnified during those times, the times when we are able to make it through our struggles, trials, and tribulations. I know projectile stomach emission is not as serious as most problems we go through, however, the point still stands.

Philippians 4:4-6 tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (ESV).

David Guzik writes the following in his commentary on this passage:

“Paul's joy wasn't based in a sunny optimism or positive mental attitude as much as it was the confidence that God was in control. It really was a joy in the Lord.”

There was no way my friends and family could jump on the ride to save us, nor could they control the regurgitation flying through the air, but there was one thing they could do, they could laugh and rejoice as they knew there was One who was in control. They could let those around them feel their peace in the “storm.” I imagine they were praying for my mom and me, especially when it was evident the cup we were in was broken, but while doing so, they remained joyful in the Lord.

All of these decades later, I still have not forgotten that wild ride on that wild day. The impact of the reaction of my friends and family far outweighs any embarrassment I felt on that day. Here were people who knew God. Who walked with Him and trusted in his control over all things, including the shower of regurgitated fair food.

In reflection, I believe there are very few people who truly live their life out this way; who naturally break into laughter, with a hint of praise, when they are hit with trials.

The more I study God's Word, searching for glimpses of God, the more I am transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and able to see His character. I am only just now really learning to lighten up and trust Him more. He is worthy to be praised, and sometimes, in the RIGHT CONTEXT, even praised with laughter during the storms of life. The Lord is with us and He is in charge, even on the spinning teacups of life.

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