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Who’s Filling Your Cup?

By the Rev. Zachary Bartels

I love hamburgers. Of course I mean philia love, not agape love, but I am using the word “love” to describe my feelings toward burgers. Remember that guy Whimpy on Popeye who was always saying, “I would gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today?” Well, I like hamburgers even more than him. In fact, I find that guy really creepy, so let’s just forget I brought him up. We’re talking hamburgers here, not nightmare-inducing cartoon characters of years gone by.

I particularly like to grill burgers myself. In my mind, nothing sums up being a man or being an American like flipping burgers and cooking them to perfection. I like to get them so they’re just barely pink in the middle, then kill the fire (yes, I do use propane), and place a slice of cheese on top of each burger, allowing them to melt for about 90 seconds before removing the burgers from the grill. (Sure, I suppose that makes them cheeseburgers not hamburgers, but I think that’s one of those square/rectangle subset things rather than a true disjunction.)

The only thing I like better than grilling my own burgers is getting a burger from one of my favorite burger joints. Kewpee downtown has a mean olive burger. This place Cheers in Grand Rapids makes a “Batman Forever Burger,” which I find to be super-deluxe. But I would have to say that my all-time favorite place to get a burger is Fudrucker’s. Ever been to Fudrucker’s? There’s one in Flint. There was one in G.R. for a while, but, tragically, it closed a few years ago.

Fudrucker’s has huge burgers. A third pound, a half pound. Huge. And they have a bar where you can top them with everything from the standard tomato and lettuce to jalapeño flavored nacho cheese. How good are Fudrucker’s burgers? Let’s just say that my sister was a semi-vegetarian for seven years—no red meat beginning when she was a sophomore in high school and ending in 1996, when I brought her to the Fudrucker’s on 28th Street. She’s been eating red meat ever since.

In fact, Fudrucker’s is so good that I continue to love it, even after having a very bad experience there as a child. You see, I always used to beg my parents to go to Fudruckers. Like, if we had gone down to Saginaw, I’d try my best to build a case for traveling the additional half an hour down I-75 to eat lunch or dinner at my favorite burger joint. On this particular occasion, when I was about eleven, I was able to convince them that we should make the trip. I got a third-pound burger, loaded it up with everything, some fries, and a large pop.

Now, I don’t think those “fill-your-own-soda” kiosks were new in restaurants or anything, but I was going through this phase of wanting to know how everything works. So, as I pushed my 32 oz. plastic cup up against the lever, releasing a fountain of Dr. Pepper, I very carefully watched the mechanism in action. And what I saw infuriated me. They were cutting the Dr. Pepper! They were mixing water in with it! They thought they’d get away with it, but they weren’t counting on a smart kid like me with the keen detection skills of the Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes combined. In my mind, I had uncovered a vast international corporate conspiracy. The millions of dollars they were probably saving on chumps who didn’t know any better. . . I chuckled to myself as I defeated their scheme and plugged the little water nozzle with my finger, thus filling my cup with real, undiluted Dr. Pepper.

I’ve since heard that some people use Coca-Cola syrup as a means of calming an upset stomach. I don’t know anything about that, but I do know that 32 oz. of pure Dr. Pepper syrup, especially when combined with a third-pound of medium-well cooked ground beef and roughly a cup of jalapeño flavored nacho cheese, has the opposite effect. That food sat in my stomach like a sack of wet rags for a looong time. I remember lying in bed that night, clutching my bloated tummy, wondering why it was that God had abandoned me.

I think that marked the end of my fascination with figuring out how things work. Maybe if it weren’t for Fudrucker’s, I’d be an electrical engineer today. Or a consumer advocate. Try to pull one over on me, will they? I’ll show them. . .

Actually, I still have a little of that spirit in me. I think we all do. It comes out when we look at the good things God has given us and decide that they come with too many strings attached. God wants to fill our cups till they overflow, but we’d rather have the good things on our terms, so we plug the nozzle and fill our own cups.

You know what I’m talking about: “Rest is good, but why should it follow six days of work?” That’s 32 oz. of pure laziness, there. Or on the other end of the spectrum, “Work is good, but why should I slow down and rest, recharge, and worship?” I sense a stomachache coming on. Or “Physical intimacy is good, but what’s with the overly restrictive covenant between a man and a woman for life?” It’s becoming the norm to look at God’s plan for intimacy and say, “Hey, we’re being tricked here! I want the uncut stuff!” The culture tells us that’s liberated, mature thinking. In reality, it’s exactly how I thought as an eleven-year-old, burger-crazed kid.

I’ve heard it posited that every sin is, at its root, something good that God wants to give us, twisted by the Devil and our own fleshly desires. Starting with knowledge of good and evil in the Garden, sin is our thinking that we know the recipe for happiness better than the One who created us to love Him and enjoy Him forever. But, in the long run, our recipes for happiness are about as fulfilling as my recipe for Dr. Pepper. And it’s a sin for anything to detract from the joy of a delicious gourmet hamburger.

The next time you think you’ve spotted God trying to water down your happiness, remember that what you’re seeing is not a vast cosmic conspiracy to keep you from enjoying life. Trust God to fill your cup the way that is best for you. He loves you—and not the way I love hamburgers. He loves you and he wants to fill your cup with the kind of selfless, grace-filled agape love that only He can perfect.

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