“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9 NIV)
For over twenty years I served as a counselor of children. People ask me how I could listen to the sad trials of small children all day. When you open your ears to children, however, you do not only hear the sad and the tragic. You become co-conspirator regarding the stray dog hidden in a backyard shed. You share in the exciting embarrassment of first love, and you find yourself full of spontaneous laughter over incomprehensibly corny kid jokes. You share the joy of restored families, that no one else knew were broken, and you experience the incomprehensible joy of earning the friendship and the trust of people too young to fake it. But, yes, your heart is often broken by the tales of children who are mistreated by other children, or worse yet, altogether dismissed. You gain awareness of drug addicted parents, though the children never tell on them, and of screaming matches that cause children to hide under their bed, and to wake up there, still in their school clothes, in the morning. I admit that there were times when I shut my office door after taking a child back to class, and cried. Who was I and what did I have to offer in such overwhelming circumstances? I remember well one such morning.
I sat facing a small child, legs extended, feet twitching nervously over the edge of my sagging couch. His eyes searched mine for hope as his tiny hands repeatedly wrung and released. I remember thinking, “Life should never be this hard when you are six!” When the child left, I quietly shut my door, dropped into my chair, and held my head in my hands, “Oh, God, why do you have me here?” I asked. “Everything I have to give is so laughable in relation to what he needs. Everything I have is just not enough! I cannot work miracles.” Drained of all strength, I sat. Then, not audibly, but aloud in my heart, God seemed to say, “When you give me all you have, I will make it enough.” My mind went to a story that I had heard in my childhood. Evening was falling, and Jesus and his disciples were in a remote area surrounded by a crowd of over 5,000 people. The disciples suggested to Jesus that he send the people away to find food. But, Jesus said, “You feed them.” What?! Did Jesus know how much it would take to feed that many people? Then, one small boy came forward with his simple lunch of five loaves of bread, and two fish. His offering was laughable in relation to the need. Still, he offered what he had. If you’ve heard the story, you know that, in the hands of Jesus, what the boy gave was enough, and more than enough to feed the crowd. Jesus worked a miracle. The lesson spoke directly to my heart. Like the boy, what I had to offer was laughable in relation to the needs before me. From that day forward, however, whenever I felt overwhelmed and inadequate, I reminded myself of that boy and his meager offering. No, I could not work miracles, but if I gave what I had, I might just become part of one.