Five small loaves
and two fishes
and one of the loaves
the dough imperfectly kneaded
and the fish?
They were caught in polluted water…
Not fit for purpose
not for anyone’s purpose
especially not fit for a king,
Yet Jesus nudges me,
saying so gently,
“These gifts I can use,
these gifts I can make whole –
I can fit them for my purpose
of nourishing the oh-so-hungry
whom I so long to feed.
I don’t need perfect gifts –
just your willingness
what you bring.”
16 October, 2016
This poem was written in response to the clay work which some of the children engaged in on the church 2016 Away Day after the Godly Play telling of the story of the feeding of the five thousand.
As they described their work, we agreed that it didn’t matter to Jesus that the boy’s food wasn’t perfect, Jesus could still use it to feed the crowds. I wanted to share the poem immediately with the congregations but God had other plans.
Re-reading it a few days later, I realised that it had a wider message, particularly for a friend from a previous church whose memories of growing into adulthood often leave her feeling disheartened and helpless.
So I sent her the poem with some comments, some of which follow:
Thinking of how this poem might relate to you, the bread that you bring is ‘wonky’ perhaps because your mum didn’t knead it properly (the white clay hadn’t got rubbed in with the brown clay). So her mothering didn’t nourish you as it should.
As for the fish, in so many ways, as well as the beautiful and joyful things in your environment which you delight in, there have been perhaps too many polluted waters from which you’ve drunk/swam in.
So the bread and fish (i.e. you) that you bring to God, are, like so many of us, imperfect.
The lovely promise is that God does not reject our marred selves but transforms them and then uses them to nourish others – which is what he continues to do – even though at the moment, you cannot sense his engagement /good purpose in your story. But remember, both bread and fish were broken first…
And now God has given me yet another perspective on my poem in the words of not yet 15 year old Becky Tyler. Becky was born with quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. Sitting in her wheelchair at the Greenbelt open air communion service this year, she delivered the homily to thousands of people (six thousand, not counting the men – joke from the presenter!) which she had prepared on her communication aid. She told us she controls it with her eyes and quipped that she thinks its voice is ‘much nicer than Stephen Hawking’s!’)
Here is a transcript of part of Becky’s reflections (see full text at eyegazegirl or on youtube). The Bible passage was again the feeding of the five thousand!
‘…..The boy probably felt small and insignificant in such a big crowd.; he didn’t have much to give to Jesus. Sometimes I feel there isn’t much I can give to Jesus because there are lots of things I cannot do. But the boy in the story was obedient to God; he gave the little he had to Jesus and Jesus multiplied it.
I discovered my brain damage was caused by someone else’s mistake. Please don’t let your mistakes keep you from giving your best to Jesus. He can use your mistakes for his glory. Look at me here at Greenbelt today. I cannot talk, yet I am talking to thousands of people from this stage…. God can turn our mistakes around if you let him.
Therefore, if, like me, you sometimes struggle with who you are or with what you can do or with what you have done. God wants you to know that he loves you and there is nothing you can do to make him love you less.
You are amazing!
And God has an exciting plan for your life.
So give yourself and all that you have to him.’
If you watch the full version of this, you will see and hear the vast crowd clapping their hands off and standing up in their thousands to do so.
Whom were we clapping?
Yes, we were clapping Becky, her story and her powerful witness.
But we were also offering praise to our God:
– for the way he has taken our insignificance (that of the boy in the story and the children at the away day),
– transformed our ‘brokenness’ brought about through the mistakes of others and through deliberate harm perpetrated on us and our environment,
– and offering our joy as we experience his forgiveness, restoration and his using of our gifts in his service.
To Him be the Glory!