We have only five loaves

We have only five loaves
Photo by Lena Mytchyk / Unsplash

“But we have only five loaves and two fish!” (Matthew 14:17).

But we have only two evenings a week that are free, Lord.
But we have only time and attention for these children, not the neighbor kids, Lord.
But we have only enough food for us, not for having them over this weekend. And he eats a LOT!
But Lord, I only have enough emotional energy for these friends. Not new friends.
But Lord, I only have two hours until the alarm rings. Please don’t let her throw up again.
Please, Lord. I can’t give any more. I only have so much. Lord, I only have…

“Five loaves and two fish.”

I only have so much time. So much energy. So much money. So much effort. Only so much. Lord, I can’t do what you’re calling me to do. I just don’t know how I would cope.

“Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages to buy food for themselves.” Send these people away. I need to get away. I need to take care of myself first, right? As I stare down a new school year, I’m tempted to just hoard my few loaves. Everyone is so inspired and resolved and busy but I’m just tired.

And He said, “Bring them here to me” (Matthew 14:18).

“Bring them here,” Jesus says. Bring Me your two evenings, your two kids, your five dollars. Bring Me your extra serving of mac and cheese that the neighbor kid wants, your emptying fridge, your standards for entertaining, your last bit of emotional and physical strength. Bring Me your weariness and bring Me your heartache. Bring Me your troubles and bring Me your fears. Bring Me your unsaved children. Bring Me your lack of direction. Bring Me your last bit of patience.

Bring it and He will bless it. He will gently take it in His pierced hands and break it down into smaller pieces until what you thought you had is even smaller. Then, when you humbly know that what you have is really nothing, He will give it back to you to give it away. Passed through His precious hands, this bit of bread and fish will multiply. A bewildered, grateful hush settles in your heart as it must have on that ancient hillside. Crumbly little pieces of bread at first. An hour of clarity here, a better method of loading the dishwasher there. A tiny bit of grace for that angry child, just enough to see you through a short conversation. Just enough peace of mind and body to let you sleep deeply for the two hours in the middle of the night you had left. And more.

Another piece of bread, another torn chunk of fish. Another bit of time, or energy, or a smile. Another thank you and warm handshake you hand back to the desperately lonely older saint that He loves so much. Give it away. Don’t send them home because you don’t have enough. Just keep quietly handing what you have to Jesus and carefully passing along what He gives back. Distribute it. Don’t keep it. Share it. From His gentle hand, it is abundant. It’s time. It’s attention. It’s understanding. It’s forgiveness. It’s words when words are hard to say. It’s blood-bought beautiful grace.

And trust Him daily to keep giving it. His mercy is new, soft, and full every morning. You don’t have enough. But He does. You might have someone over when you aren’t “ready” and find out the bathroom sink was covered in tiny toothpaste-happy fingerprints and you had no idea the whole time. Or you might send along a Spirit-moved gift and never hear a reply or thank you. You might have to give forgiveness to a friend that doesn’t want it. Often, the handing over of that kind of grace is deeply painful and invisible to all but Him.

You might give your time for yet another outreach in spite of Satan’s whispers that it’s pointless. You might look out at the fields of harvest and hear His call to you, know your lack, and simply step out in obedience — onto your neighbor’s front porch with a bowl of soup because she’s sick. Or maybe this year it IS further than you’ve ever wanted to go. To the new neighborhood you’ve been praying over that is so dangerous or far away or difficult to reach. Or you might open yourself up to candid friendship with people you are not comfortable with.

Maybe you let yourself acknowledge the Lord when an unbeliever casually asks you, “How do you do it all?” They blink at you awkwardly and Satan whispers … “Nice job. They didn’t want a religious experience. They just want some sleep training advice.” Sometimes it’s letting that awkward moment hang and leaning on the Lord for courage to look them in the eyes and let them see you mean it. Oh, how deeply you mean it. Watering the seed.

Yes, you might be changed. In fact, you will be. In a hundred little ways, you will distribute what He provides and it will be scattered like seeds all around you as you go. Your neighbor walks away warmed and pondering why you are restful to be around. Your children form little memories that the Lord will use to shape their character and their idea of what it is to follow Him. Your friends will have their burdens lessened. Or forgiven, they go on to live without your condemnation. And you are free from bitterness. Maybe you look back in a few weeks and find that for some reason your mind is more at peace than it was. No longer attacked by self condemnation or Satan’s accusations, your hands are blessedly free to simply do what you’re called to do. You have renewed purpose, renewed faith, renewed direction, renewed hope budding as you gather up the leftovers of blessing from your “only” five loaves and two fish.

I ask you gently, dear sister, what you do you have?

“Bring it here,” He says. Will you?

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).