By Melanie Shankle, Crosswalk.com
I’ve spent my whole life listening to the story in the Bible where Jesus feeds five thousand people with five small loaves of bread and two fish. I’ve seen it depicted on flannel boards in Sunday school, watched it brought to life in movies about Jesus, and heard it taught from various pulpits a million times. Whenever and however the story is told, the focus is always on one of three things: (1) the disciple who didn’t have faith in what Jesus could do, (2) the miracle of turning a sack lunch into enough food to feed five thousand people, or (3) the admirable character of the little boy who willingly offered his meager lunch. But you know who never gets a shout-out? The mom who packed that lunch in the first place.
Maybe she was in a hurry; maybe she just threw in those five small loaves and two fish and shooed her boy out the door, glad to get him out from under her feet for the day. If she was like me, she probably hadn’t been to the store recently and even gave the fish a quick sniff, worried it might not be any good. Maybe she gave the bread a quick once-over for signs of mold, because how embarrassing would it be to have your kid pull out some moldy bread for lunch? No matter what was involved in packing that lunch on that particular morning, I’m willing to bet she wasn’t really concerned or even thinking about how God might choose to use her boy’s lunch that day. I bet she didn’t wring her hands over whether or not that lunch might matter in the larger scheme of God’s plans or wish she could do something on a larger stage in front of an audience of people cheering her on as she tucked that fish and those loaves into a basket and she definitely didn’t do an Instagram story about it. The bottom line is, she didn’t do the glamorous thing; she did the faithful thing. She packed a lunch for her boy just like she’d probably done a million times before, and God used her small act of faithfulness to feed five thousand people. He also used her son, whom she’d probably admonished daily to “be kind and share with others,” wondering if it was falling on deaf ears. She got tangible proof that day that her boy had actually been paying attention. If you’re a mom, then you know that this, in and of itself, can feel like a miracle.
So maybe you can see where I’m headed with this mom and the lunch bag story. Sometimes the biggest things God does start out in the smallest, most ordinary acts of daily faithfulness. The things we do so often and with so little fanfare that we don’t even think about them anymore. We are so quick to believe that we have nothing to offer, nothing to give that is of any use or value, while the very thing God is asking us to use is something that's right in front of us. What fishes and loaves do you have to offer? What talent have you chosen to hide? What little bit of time are you wasting? What small thing have you determined isn't really worthy of being used? Sometimes everything we've been asking God for has been inside us all along.
We have more than we think we have and can do more than we think we can do when we offer God the little that we have. I say this because, as that mom who packed the lunch learned, God takes what we offer him and uses it in amazing, unexpected ways. The only limiting factor is our willingness to ask and follow where he leads. He's a God who used two senior citizens to create a new nation, a boy sold into slavery by his brothers to save the Hebrew people from starvation, turned an overlooked shepherd boy into the King of Israel and used twelve men to change the world. What we have to offer may seem small and insignificant until we place it in his hands.
We can spend so much time wondering and worrying if we’re fulfilling God’s primary will for our lives. Yet, ultimately, God’s will isn’t about the things we achieve; it’s about the people we become. Life is more about how he uses us to make a difference to the people who cross our paths, even while we are just going about our normal, sometimes boring, lives. He is a God who clearly finds value where we tend to look and see nothing special. God’s primary will for our lives isn’t about a particular job or a circumstance. It’s not about the city we live in or whether we’re married or single. We are in God’s will when we wake up with a willingness to go wherever he leads that day, to seek him in the ordinary, and to love and influence the people around us. Sometimes that can look a whole lot like packing a lunch.
Melanie Shankle is a New York Times bestselling author, podcaster, wife and mother. The Texas A&M graduate is also a guest blogger for high profile outlets and an in-demand speaker for events across the country. Her next book, "Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life," is out October 3. Melanie lives with her husband Perry and their daughter Caroline in San Antonio, Texas. For more information, please visit www.melanieshankle.com.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/LightFieldStudios
Publication date: October 3, 2017