Growing up, my dad often jokingly referred to our home as the 'dewdrop inn' because of the never ending stream of people who would come by to stay an hour, a day, a week or a month or more. It wasn't unusual on any given holiday for us each to invite a friend or two and not mention it, never realizing that our siblings had all done the same! We didn't have a lot of money, but mom had amazing ways to make something out of almost nothing, or expand what she'd fixed to accommodate the extras that inevitably showed up at mealtimes. Kind of like the story of the 'loaves and fishes; not only was there always enough to go around, but leftovers seemed to abound as well.
My reading in Matthew took me to that story again this morning, and as many times as I've read and studied it, the Lord spoke afresh to me as only He can. It begins with Jesus telling the disciples that because He feels compassion for the crowds, He doesn't want to send them away hungry. The men are perplexed, to say the least, immediately throwing out the impossibility of the situation : Where would we get so many loaves in a desert place to satisfy such a great multitude?
The simplicity of Jesus' response is what struck me. He didn't preach a sermon on faith, or prod the disciples to trust Him for great things. He didn't remind them of all they had in Him, but instead, asked the question: How many loaves do you have?
Today I'm attending orientation for my PhD program at the University of San Diego, and it goes without saying that I am more than a little anxious. The past couple of weeks as I walked the halls among the masses of teenagers and twenty-somethings to get mystudent ID card, as I've taken tutorials online to understand the library system (which has changed vastly in 30 years), as I've skimmed the Pocket Guide to APA Style and as I've read a series of articles required for my first class next week, my sense of inadequacy has only grown. While I am excited about all I will learn and how I will grow, it is no false humility to say that this is going to stretch me like I've never been stretched before. God has led with each step of this journey, and I know without a doubt that He is fully sufficient, still, the question: Am I up to the enormity of this? nags at me in my most quiet moments.
But this morning I think I heard the Lord asking me: How many loaves do you have? And I answered; Not many Lord. But He asked again, and I felt as if He were telling me to lay it all out before Him -- not in spiritual platitudes or even blessed truths about His Spirit in me or my having His mind, but by looking honestly at my loaves -- those things that I have to bring to the table, so to speak, for this particular endeavor. Well, Lord, I think I have a bit above average brain, but dont' share the brilliance I've seen in some folks in the program. I have a hard work ethic that I've honed through the years of being a pastor's wife and a self-employed author. I've developed some helpful skills and am comfortable with the writing process, and I love to do research and learn about all kinds of topics. That's my loaves, as far as I can see.
Something happened though, as I went through the process of articulating these things before the Lord -- faith began to flood my soul until I almost laughed out loud. Though the point from this story has surely been made ad infinitum, I knew in a deeper and more profound way that I serve a God who takes what I have -- whatever small part I can offer -- and multiplies it until there is more than enough to go around. This is what I can count on in the days and years to come as I pursue this new venture.
When I was a young bride I asked my mom how she did it -- how she managed to take care of so many people, to feed all those unexpected mouths year after year. She answered something about always having onion soup mix and spagetti noodles on hand, which didn't help me alot at the time, but I realized she'd had secrets and ways of working behind the scenes, that we were all unaware of as we happily filled our tummies and brought friends along to do the same through the years. This morning as I sat before the Lord, I pondered the reality that He too has mysterious methods and unseen resources and it's going to be really fun to see how He will use them with what I've got to get the job done. Now, instead of facing this day with low-grade dread, I'm feeling a growing sense of joyful anticipation.
Now if I can just figure out where the bookstore is...