“He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.” Matthew 14:19
Many of us are familiar with the passage this verse comes from; in fact, the feeding of the 5000 shows up in all 4 gospels. We can imagine the throng of people, sitting and listening to Jesus for hours, but now their tummies are starting to feel those familiar pangs of hunger. We can hear the disciples grumbling to Jesus “Send them away. We have nothing to offer.” We can see Jesus, I always imagine Him with a bit of a grin on His face as He asks them, “Really, nothing?” and they pull out the paltry offering of a few loaves of bread and some fish. When you do the math, 5 loaves and 2 fish divided by 5000 is like total nothing-burger. Is it even worth showing such a little bit of food to Jesus?
This food, this small snack really, was an offering freely given, to be used by Jesus as He saw fit to use it. It wasn’t held back and hidden, with the hope of sneaking off to fill the owner. It wasn’t given with a lot of fanfare and personal expectations. It wasn’t given with conditions or the need for any guarantees- “Hey Jesus, if you end up using this, can you make sure that person only gets one piece of bread and no fish? He’s not really someone I feel called to help” or “Hey Jesus, I’ll give you this if you can promise me I’ll be fed first and filled up.” Nope, none of that, just a freely given offering with no strings attached.
So, we have the food, given in the right attitude, but it isn’t much when divided up. Thankfully, in the hands of the Great Mathematician, this offering isn’t divided and made smaller; it is multiplied and just explodes. There is food all over the place, food enough to fill the bellies of the 5000 men, their families, the disciples, the original offering giver AND there are baskets of food left over! This is one of the best stories to tell in Sunday School because kids just love it. Jesus takes the food, breaks it, and breaks it again, and again, and again and there is enough for everyone. Yay!
A few weeks ago, Chris read a devotional based on this passage from the book “His Footsteps, My Pathway” and there was a sentence at the end that just hit me. Like I could not get it out of my head and even still, find myself going back to the printout she so kindly made me so that I can read and savor these words, which have given me a fresh look at this story that is oh so familiar to so many of us.
“As you place your life in His hands, He will break you as bread, multiply you, and use you to meet the needs of others with His unlimited resources.”
Boom! Did anyone else just hear the fireworks going off? “He will break you as bread”. We, you and me, are the bread. Our lives, when given to Him as an offering freely given, with no strings attached, no demands, no expectations, no “Hey Lord, here is my plan”, our very selves are broken as bread. We, you and I, are broken and in that brokenness, He can use us for more, much more than we what we can do when we are whole and doing our own thing.
The breaking can be painful at times. It can be uncomfortable. It is hard to let go and not hold tight and add up our resources and think “With this and that, I can do A,B and C, so all is well”, when God might want to break you to accomplish A-Z or he might have a different plan altogether that doesn’t even include letters from the alphabet! So often, we fight against being broken. We see broken as being made less, instead of seeing it as the way God makes us able to do more. We see being broken as a diminishing in power and ability, and in a way it is. As I am broken, there is less of me, which makes more room for Him. As I am broken, I am remade in His image, the image of Christ broken for us. He breaks us and makes us more like Him.
When I am feeling overwhelmed; by sickness, dealing with my children, housework, financial issues, life decisions, my marriage, missing friends and family, the work that is mine to do, etc., I have a choice. I can choose to continue plowing ahead on my own, trying to get it all done in my strength, or I can place myself in His hands and allow Him to break me with His tender, loving, capable hands. When He breaks me, I am able to take on one more thing, even when I am feeling like I am all used up. When I allow Him to use me as He desires, without setting restrictions and rules and categories of “my time” and “God’s time”, He will give me what I need to accomplish all that He is asking of me. When I feel like I can’t possibly take one more step, join one more committee, commit to one more project, wipe one more nose or deal with one more kid getting out of bed, He gently breaks me again and makes it all possible. When I choose to place myself in His hands, and allow myself to be used as He desires, He will break me and allow me to do more, always.