I don't spend a ton of time on Facebook, but a couple of weeks ago when my health took an unexpected turn I spent about an hour catching up with some old classmates, friends, and co-workers. I happened upon a page of a friend of mine from graduate school who owns his own law firm in NYC. He has written a book that I am sure will be a best seller and has been one of the one of the fore-front thinkers on social law. He eats his meals with people who have started non-profits and have traveled the world helping those less fortunate then themselves. Despite the fact that we went to the same graduate school I am not surprised in the least that he does these big and crazy things that my little heart only dreams of doing. Somehow the guy that convinced four of us to spend the night under the stars in 30 degree weather on a grad school retreat and that led the charge for the arctic dip in the ocean in January had the ability to give all around him encouraging pep talks with words that are imprinted on my heart forever. He is not just off exploring or teaching at Harvard or writing a book to waste time but to live. I smile for the boy that I knew has become a man destined to shape the world around us.
As I write this I have spent the day mostly in bed, resting in the quiet that I need for my body to heal. I am struck by the difference of what so many are able to do and how little I am able to do. It seems like so many people are doing these “BIG” things for others and for God. Young single Christians aren’t just adopting one child now they are adopting over ten. People aren’t just spending a week doing missions work in the inner city they are moving to
If you think that I am criticizing any of the people that I have mentioned or the ones that I haven’t named but you know who they are then you are wrong. Instead I am raising a question many have been afraid to voice in the midst of the grandeur. In the midst of all of the miraculous is there a place for the ordinary? Is there a place to offer small offerings among the "BIG"? These questions swirl around me as I question how a girl like me can attempt to change her world for Christ if I don’t even have the strength or energy to walk down the driveway or carry a conversation with her non-believing neighbors. What happens if I am not healthy enough to go to far off places or even work a full time job? Is there a mission field truly for my little world? If so, what does that look like? What if my life is not as "successful" as I think it to be and what if it doesn’t make as much of a difference as I long for it to simply because I am unable to reach the shores of a distant land? What if the little loaves of fish that I have to offer are not enough for my great big God who I long to bring glory to?
I just want to make sure that I am honoring the God that I love so much.
I just want to make sure that I am honoring the God that I love so much.
On my agenda for this fall I do not have the most miraculous of plans. In fact, I have what most would say is beyond boring and ventures into the territory of the mundane. My greatest goal is to try to increase a necessary medicine and raise my immune system from its unacceptable number to a higher number so I can even truly begin fighting the three illnesses that seem determined to wreck my little body. Today I spent my energy talking with my doctor and then having a conversation with my pharmacy about a prescription that they don’t carry. Three calls later (and no remaining energy) I finally found a different pharmacy who did. At the end of the day I am beyond exhausted and wondering if I am truly accomplishing anything for the Lord. The days of leaving the classroom feeling like I had imparted biblical knowledge are long gone and the feelings of usefulness are drying up quickly in the wind. While some call me young I feel like I have lived a hundred years in the last 26 months and yet the journey is far from over. I wonder again if I am accomplishing anything of value for the Lord. Anything that looks remotely like a loaf – even a crumb that I can offer up to Him? My life that I envisioned and the dreams that I have hidden in my heart seem like a worthy life to offer up to the Lord. My life that I envisioned with a loving husband and kiddos and an open house to where we love each other and love those that enter in. My life that included rescuing kiddos in the foster care system who have been abandoned and unloved, reaching out and loving on their families, reaching out to the broken, to the students that I had in my classroom, and loving all of those we encounter with wild abandon and freely pouring Jesus’’ love on the lost and the hurting. "Surely this envisioned life would be so much better than the reality Lord?" I pray again.
But what about if this new agenda… this new role… this new life is the real me? What if this life that I don't think has much to offer can be an offering to God?
In the midst of all of my questions I have come to love the story of the young boy with the loaves of fish. John 6 (verses 8-14) states:
“Jesus later crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or the
). A large crowd
followed him because they saw the miracles that he performed for the sick. Jesus went up a
mountain and sat with his disciples. The time for the Jewish Passover festival
was near. As Jesus saw a large crowd coming to him, he said to Philip,
“Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus asked this
question to test him. He already knew what he was going to do. Philip answered,
“We would need about a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each of them to
have a piece.” One of Jesus’
disciples, Andrew, who was Simon Peter’s brother, told him, “A boy who has
five loaves of barley bread and two small fish is here. But they won’t go very
far for so many people.” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” The
people had plenty of grass to sit on. (There were about 5,000 men in the
crowd.) Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and
distributed them to the people who were sitting there. He did the same thing
with the fish. All the people ate as much as they wanted. When the people
were full, Jesus told his disciples, “Gather the leftover pieces so that
nothing will be wasted.” The disciples
gathered the leftover pieces of bread and filled twelve baskets. When the people
saw the miracle Jesus performed, they said, “This man is certainly the prophet
who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that the people intended
to take him by force and make him king. So he returned to the mountain by
himself.” Sea of Tiberias
What I love about this story is that this boy comes in the middle of the questions that still haunt us today. While the disciples were fretting about things that worry us in the 21st century just like it did so many years ago this little boy had just showed up as he probably did everyday read to eat. The disciples are worried that they would not have enough food or money to feed the large crowd that had gathered around. One of the disciples, Philip, even pointed out the fact that even a year of their wages could not have fed the people that had gathered even to give them a bite of food. (As a side note: I totally relate to Philip- I am constantly concerned with how the Lord is going to provide even though He always does. It is interesting to note though that Philip is the disciple who is always worried about how the Lord will provide- I so relate to that!) And I don’t mean to take away from the miracle of the story by the fact that the Lord provided for ALL of the people that were there that day, but I can’t help returning again to the boy that was at the middle of the whole story.
This boy had only brought with him five small barley loaves and two small fish and probably was planning on eating that food himself. Instead he surrenders the small and meager amount that he has and gives it to the disciples who are fretting about their wages. The fish that are there are small enough that while they are most likely only for him they ended up feeding all of those who had gathered at the hill to hear Jesus speak. And it was through this miraculous event when Jesus chooses to use a little boy's meager offerings that the people are turned to Jesus. “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the prophet who is come into the world.”
Y'all I LOVE this- God can use ANYTHING- even what we think are small offerings for His glory! Its interesting that scripture doesn’t particularly state the disciples thoughts on what occurred. The concerns and worries that had plagued them earlier were gone and even beyond that there were leftovers!I don’t think anything that God does is a coincidence and so it is amusing to me that there are twelve baskets of food leftover just like there were twelve disciples. Perhaps this speaks volumes to the fact that God is a personal God and there is no detail left out in His plans.
Maybe someday I will have an amazing fall plan to share, but in the meantime I have decided that my biggest hope is to be like the boy with the five small barley loaves and two small fish. I am going to keep showing up and asking God to use my meager amounts and keep praying that each thing that I do will encourage people to turn to Jesus. I am going to choose to rejoice in the ways that my friends can dream big dreams and live bigger lives then I feel then I able to right now and take some time to rejoice in the fact that God uses everything- even small kiddos, loaves of bread, and fishies to accomplish His purposes.
This may not have been what I was originally dreaming of life to look like, but there are so many blessings despite the pain and the fractured dreams. There are so many opportunities to touch a life for Jesus if I will look around and pray for the Lord's guidance. If you are feeling like I am friends, that you have nothing "big" to offer, let me encourage you to go back to the story of the boy with the fishies and find hope that your story- whatever it looks like- is a mighty important part of drawing people to Jesus. Keep showing up everyday, keep praying for wisdom, and remember that NOTHING you do- no matter how small is ever wasted for the Lord. There are no small offerings to God!