They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. – Matthew 14:20
In the darkness of early morning, I lie on the couch, breathing deeply and trying to relax. A few minutes earlier I had bolted out of bed after waking up to shooting pain in my foot. But getting up so quickly meant I felt nauseous and dizzy by the time I got downstairs. Now, lying horizontal in the living room, I can hear my husband shuffling around the kitchen, preparing a French press of coffee for us to share.
“Oh, Babe!” he says. “Your bread!” Realization dawns on me that there are still two loaves of sourdough bread “rising” in the oven…loaves I was supposed to bake before I went to bed last night. What a mess! By the time this morning rolled around, the dough had rolled right over the lips of those pans, making a sticky mess.
That spoiled dough is enough to send me over the edge too. Tears come, and I feel like such a failure. How can a simple mistake be this crushing? How can an understandable oversight bring such a disproportional amount of shame? But it’s not really about the dough. The dough is just a tangible reminder of the load I’ve been carrying this week, physically and mentally — a load I can’t carry any longer.
Tears dried, a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I sit down a few minutes later and turn to my Bible reading for the day. I read about Jesus carrying a much heavier weight than I am. He had just received news that His cousin John had been beheaded, and He climbed into a boat in search of a deserted spot. But instead of the solitude He was seeking, He met with a needy crowd when He landed on the other side of the lake.
Did He send them away? (I know I would have.) No. That clamouring crowd aroused His compassion, and scripture tells us that He healed their sick. Later, after the time for the evening meal had already passed and His disciples thought it was high time for the crowd to be dismissed, Jesus said, “They don’t need to go away.” And He fed them as well, more than five thousand of them.
Then my Bible reading takes me to Isaiah 55 where I am reminded that God’s ways and thoughts are not like mine and that His word comes down from heaven like the rain and snow do, guaranteeing seed for sowing and bread for eating.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:8-11
“Not my bread,” I think to myself. “That lump of useless dough sitting in my compost bin is just a waste now. So much for the work that went into it. And not just my own efforts, but the work of nature, the work of the farmer, the work of God that I threw away.”
“There is grace for that too,” a voice whispers in my heart. There is grace for that too? Yes! Of course there is. How silly of me to think that God’s grace, that is greater than all my sin, can’t extend to something so trivial. What about the twelve baskets of leftovers after Jesus miraculously fed the crowd? That night the disciples collected one basketful of garbage each. But was it really garbage? Or was it tangible proof of God’s generosity? His compassion and rich pardon as Isaiah tells us.
Sometimes there is nothing I want more than to send my nagging neediness away, but Jesus says it doesn’t need to go away. He has ways and means and thoughts beyond what I can see or understand or think. He has grace for all of those needs — big and small. And His grace is not an eye for an eye sort of exchange. It’s not a neat and tidy tally sheet that has me waiting, worrying, wondering until the final calculation. No! There are twelve basketfuls that tip the scale beyond any shadow of a doubt.
There is grace, overflowing grace, for whatever you are facing today too, whatever it is that’s got you kicking yourself, whatever you can’t seem to let go of. Turn to the Lord. He will have compassion! He can even transform whatever feels wasted into a reminder of His rich love and great grace for you.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16