One of my favorite things about the gospels is how often I read a passage and think it can’t possibly contain anything new for me—and then I get whopped upside the head with a big idea I’ve missed.
That happened to me the other day when I was reading Matthew’s chapter 14 account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. What caught my highly developed sensitivities was the phrase—“besides women and children.” As if women and children aren’t real people and only sort of count? Ack!
If Matthew were alive today, imagine how anxious he’d be to edit that part!
But that’s not what I want to write about today. What caught my heart was noticing for the first time ever that Jesus didn’t feed the 5,000.
His disciples did. His followers noticed the need and worried about it—so kudos to them for that. But their initial solution was one I recognize: “We can’t deal with this. Send them away!”
Jesus had a better idea. “How about you give them something to eat. Whatcha got?”
The disciples brought Jesus what they had, which wasn’t remotely close to enough: Fives loaves of bread and two measly fish.
Jesus didn’t blink. He took the small offerings “and blessed and broke and gave them to his disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.” You probably know the rest of the story—they ended up with leftovers (alas, no Tupperware).
You gotta love that. The God of the universe could have just twitched his nose like Samantha on Bewitched—and wallah—a banquet, right down to separate courses and matching spoons. Instead, Jesus stood by and watched his bumbling disciples deliver a miracle of historic proportions.
He did it this way for their sake, of course. To show them—and us—that it is in the act of offering to others what little we have that it becomes more than enough.
I find this story especially comforting in the context of my blog and book. Some days, it feels like all I have to offer is one sardine on toast when what readers really need is a feast.
I forget that this is how it’s supposed to be. All I have to give is what I happen to have on hand in that moment. It’s God’s job to multiply it in people’s hearts, if he chooses.
But why should this idea surprise me, when I see it happen in the rooms of recovery all the time?
I especially see it in speaker’s meetings where, for a single hour, a nervous alcoholic (who may have been living under a bridge as recently as last year) addresses a room of ten, fifty, or even a hundred or more people.
All the addict has to share is his or her story, and it usually comes out with plenty of ums and head scratching and rabbit trails. But as they share, people looking for help find hope. We nearly always leave the room feeling strangely satisfied.
It’s a beautiful irony isn’t it? That such a large part of healing addictions—characterized by a gnawing sense that we can’t ever get enough—is to allow what little we do have to be blessed, broken and given.
God does the miracle, of course. But in his grace, he gives us a part. Whether in recovery or just in life, God invites us to notice a need, care about it, and be willing to step up. Only then can he turn our not enoughs into the more someone is hungry for—with leftovers to spare.
Lord, make me willing.
Here’s my sardine.