Gather up the fragments


I was reading John’s account of how Jesus turned the ancient equivalent of a Fish McNugget Happy Meal (sans the movie-themed toy) into a party for 5000 men, plus the women and children accompanying them.

Today I was struck by these verses:

“When they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.’
So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.”
- John 6:12-13


There were leftovers.

And Jesus didn’t want any of them to go to waste.

When I was in the second semester of my sophomore year in college, the nice administrators at Illinois State University told me that there was no room for me in the deaf education major area. I’d been doing everything in my power to prove to them that I belonged there: volunteering in a classroom, co-leading a deaf Boy Scout troup, showcasing my interpreting skills wherever I could. My GPA was woefully average (I was never into putting much effort into memorizing information and taking tests), and the head of the department told me that they made their selections based solely on that number since there were many potential applicants.

I came home, confused and disoriented. A statement one of my education teachers made rang in my ears: “Special education is a high-stress job. The burnout rate here is much higher than in regular classroom teaching. In fact, most of you won’t last in this field more than 3-5 years.”

I looked for another program, but my heart wasn’t really in it. And I raged at God – “Just tell me what You want me to do!” I didn’t have any ideas at all, and I read His seeming silence at this time as indifference to my plight.

He wasn’t indifferent, of course. Much later, I could see how that proverbial closed door was a gift, not a curse, in my life; how He had provided abundantly for me; and that He really, really loved me through every second of my mess and confusion. He gathered the scraps of His provision in my life, and hasn’t wasted one drop of it.

I have been thinking about that dark, confusing time in my life a lot this week. Suddenly, I realize the last crumbs at the bottom of the basket, gathered by Jesus – the dried out bits I’d forgotten about – fuel my prayers. (And, if I’m not careful, inflame my mama imagination, taking it to scary, fearful places.) My youngest son is hacking through a change of course in his life. A closed door. Not enough money. Lots of talent and pain and sorrow, all swirling in his life. He’s taken steps in a new direction in the last few days, some positive choices, but I know some of what he’s walking through now. It is as close as my own hunger, and the memory of yesterday’s barley bread and fish.

I can’t fix it, and I can’t change it. But I can pray, recycling my experience into intercession for Jacob.

And if you think about it, I’d welcome your prayers for him as well. He needs to experience God’s friendship in this time in his life…

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Tim Aagard

    The amount of spiritual food that is prepared by expert chefs, dished out and squandered by institutionalized believers is tragic. I wonder how long Christ can hold off on bringing judgement. Part of this tradgedy is that the institutional system of church life breeds this into believers and they consider it normal, holy, godly. Jesus taught and modeled a completly different kind of spiritual feeding than pulpit-pew routines. I’m praying for God to open the eyes of His people to “throw off the things that hinder” so they can “run the race marked out”. Our approach to the bread of life is that not one crumb be wasted – unheeded, un-passed on to others who will teach others also.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Hey Tim – I hear (and share) your frustration with settling for predigested spiritual food with all the nutrients leeched out so it’ll have a long, long shelf life, like a Twinkie does.

  • L.L. Barkat

    Beautiful images… the last crumbs being worth our time to collect and hold onto. Poignant.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Thank you!


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