We have nothing


But Jesus said to them, “They have no need to go away; you give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “We have nothing here but two loaves and five fish.” Matthew 14:16-17

Each time I read this passage – this one the 5000 version – I can’t get caught up in modern-day forensics …  was it 5000 “men” PLUS the (usually) uncounted women and children … was 5000 a real count or a guesstimate … was 5000 just an old-fashioned way of saying “loadsa people” … and did it ever really happen like this … and how would they have grouped 5000 to receive a fair portion … and how many stewards would have been needed for that number … ?

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I remember when my own family had nothing. One Sunday evening when the cupboards were bare.  When no money and no food was the reality. One evening among thousands. One evening I recall with precision and clarity (one evening my wife does not).

I was out of a job.  I was not supporting my family as I should.  My wife was nursing our first child.  A child now nursed and sleeping.  Now our dinner but not there that night.   Three slices of bread, two tiny tomatoes, half a drying onion and a scraping of butter.

Not even a sandwich – just a collection of despair.

Don’t get me wrong – we were not homeless – we were not starving – we were young – we were expectant of life – we were new parents – we were normal – except that I could not put food on our table that night.

“We have nothing here but two loaves and five fish.”

Being out of work does something to me.  Being out of work has happened three times in my life.  It makes the highs higher and the lows lower.  It makes hope fragile and despair suffocating.  That night was suffocating.

So I may have prayed the cultural christian prayer – the “if you give me this I will never do that again” prayer – or I may not.  God is not a memory in this memory.

“They have no need to go away; you give them something to eat.”

I remember layering the fragments inside a baking tin and into the oven.  A last gasp “here goes nothing” because it was nothing.  And finding the baked tin gave more than it should – so much more than it should.  Because the fragments became a meal that filled – that put a meal worth eating on the table – a meal of a normal night.

“We have nothing here but two loaves and five fish.”

Over the years I have tried to recreate that meal from cupboards no longer empty.  Tried to reproduce that meal of plenty from our (once again) cupboards of prosperity.  I never have.

So this miracle of 5000 may be a story or not. To me it matters not.  My memory of decades ago may be accurate or not.  And to me THAT matters not.

You wish me to believe your science of biblical numbers?  Your science is of cupboards of prosperity – your analysis is of a full stomach – just like my attempts to make that dish of delight again.

Neither of us are “back there” – or ever can be again.  Except that I know what I know – and you can’t ever know.  Just like I can’t make my knowing make that same dish again.

“They have no need to go away; you give them something to eat.”

So this passage connects me to a place I no longer am (but may be again).

And that gives me hope that if we are – then we will be okay.

If I allow.

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7 thoughts on “We have nothing

  1. Your writing today reminds me of this concept of lectio divina I have been studying and trying to master with little success. I think you have mastered it without knowing. I read this morning that, “Lectio Divina does not seek information or motivation, but communion with God.” (See Wikipedia on Lectio Divina. So they give an example that instead of looking at the context of the scripture of why He said that or the historical analysis behind it, we enter it instead and let it ruminate in our souls. I think that it is easy to walk on the surface of the words, engage in dialogue on their meaning or veracity, but once we get past all of that, it is much harder to dig and enter the earth. So we walk with him but are afraid to dig into the dirt under His feet. I find that your words provide that. You have entered the earth.

  2. Reblogged this on Averagechristiannet and commented:

    An excellent article by Paulfg at his blog “Just Me Being Curious.” Having been out of work a few times in my life, and my strong tendency to stress over finances (Lord, help my unbelief), I found this very encouraging and enlightening!

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