WM Word of the Week: Ullage | New Zeal

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WM Word of the Week: Ullage

Cup of drink in hands of woman
Posted July 17, 2018

In WM's brand new 'Word of the Week' series, author Rosy Keane drinks coffee (unrelated) and writes about the way an unusual word can help us to connect with Jesus (very related).

Today's word is ‘ullage’: the amount that a vessel falls short of being full.

Reading the definition of ullage made me feel sad.

'The amount that a vessel falls short of being full'.

When you get a milkshake and it is only 75% full – what do you feel? Anywhere on the continuum of mildly annoyed to outright enraged? You paid good money and your milkshake is lacking!

Or, imagine your coffee arrives and it is mostly foam. Give it thirty seconds and the frothy top collapses down to a noticeable, watery percentage less. Do you quickly calculate the hours you had to work to afford your 75% less coffee? (No? Just me?)

The ullage – the amount the container of liquid falls short of being full – is frustrating. It’s a rip off.

A lack in the spiritual volume

This made me think of 'ullage' - the amount that a vessel falls short of being full - in our spiritual lives.

We are often referred to as ‘vessels’ – containers capable of being ‘filled’ with the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Our cups should ‘runneth over’ (Psalm 23:5). We sing about it. We write about it. We preach about it.

But sometimes when I see my own face, and at times other Christian’s faces, I wonder how great the ullage - the bit missing - is.

Filled to the eye

The root word of ullage in Latin goes even deeper again, coming from the word ‘oculus’, meaning eye. Ullage at its most literal speaks to a vessel not being filled to the eye (the bung in a cask of wine).

Have you heard the saying ‘Their smile didn’t reach their eyes’?

We can act a certain way and present a certain way – but what happens when the foam dies down? How great is our ullage - the amount that you fall short of being truly full?

‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy (the footnote here says ‘or generous’) your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, (the footnote here says ‘or stingy’) your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’ - Matthew 26:22-23

Think for a second - would you (or others) say you are filled generously with the love of God? Are you 'filled to the eyes'?

Or do you have a stingy measure where the ullage - the gap between your spirit and the love that spills over to others - has grown too great?

If our measure of filling is generous, our whole body will be filled with light. If we are ‘filled to the eyes’ with the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be a lamp to others. But if our filling is stingy – if our ullage is so great that the love of Jesus doesn’t reach our eyes – how dark we are indeed.

If we are ‘filled to the eyes’ with the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be a lamp to others.

That ullage is frustrating. It’s a rip off. It is ripping you off from having deep, intimate knowledge of Jesus. It is ripping you off from seeing others as God sees them. It is ripping you off from a fulfilling relationship with your Creator.

Be filled today. Ullage isn't just about lack - it's about possibility. There is so much more you could be filled with. The best is yet to come. 

Your life WILL run over with the love of God if you want it to.

A reflective prayer:

Jesus, fill me with your love.

I am a vessel who wants to overflow. Examine the ullage - the amount that I fall short of being full. Be generous with me, as only you can be - and fill me once again with your holy power and Spirit.

An action:

Why not find someone to ask:

  • Can you see the love of Jesus in me?
  • Will you pray for me?
  • Can you give me an exercise you find useful in feeling filled with love by God?