Culture challenge of the week: Scattered minds, hungry hearts
The dishwasher is broken again. Your to-do list is growing. The bills need to be paid, the kids need this and that, your work deadline is fast approaching and you’re in need of a good night’s sleep. Life is a constant battle for your attention.
There just doesn’t seem to be enough time, energy, money, focus. And it’s a vicious cycle. When you can’t recharge your batteries, you move slower, and items on your to-do list pile up faster.
You lose sight of God. You know He is there — somewhere — waiting, but everything is swirling around you and when you reach for Him, you come up empty. Even when you pull out your Bible, the words seem flat and you can’t bring yourself to focus. It would be easier if He would just make everything stop and come meet you where you are. If only He would reveal himself.
Or perhaps it’s your children who are discontented. For the heart of a parent, that can be much worse. You want to provide, to fix, but their hunger runs much deeper than you are able to feed with meals, words or gifts. They don’t know how to find peace for themselves. You wonder why won’t God reveal himself.
But He has.
Somehow, we need to teach our children — and to learn for ourselves — how to find God in the midst of our daily battles.
How to save your family: Gather the crumbs
We don’t need to be given more. We need to receive more of what we’ve already been given.
As author Ann Voskamp points out in her wonderful book, “1,000 Gifts,” the Bible is full of lessons that teach us how to realize all that we need in Christ.
The Gospel of Matthew, for instance, recounts the story of Jesus miraculously feeding more than 5,000 people with only a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. Ann Voskamp points out that after the disciples had gathered what food they could from the crowd, the first thing Jesus did was give thanks. Before there was enough to go around, Jesus looked up to heaven and gave thanks for what already had been already provided.
Try to imagine that scene. The disciples must have been embarrassed when Jesus stood up with the measly loaves and fish and started acting as if they would satisfy the needs of 5,000. He must have known there wasn’t enough. Why did He give thanks to God as if He actually had anything to offer to the hungry crowd?
Then He broke the bread gave it away. And He broke it and gave it away. And He kept breaking and giving until all ate and were satisfied. And the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Somewhere in the thanksgiving and the breaking of the bread, a miracle took place.
In the spiritual world, healing and wholeness are always revealed through brokenness. Rock bottom is where so many of us first see the light. Jesus’ body broken on the cross bought our salvation.
When we truthfully survey our lives, there is always brokenness. Too often, the brokenness is all we see. If we were to slow down a little and take time to gather the pieces, we would find tiny miracles multiplying into more than enough.
In her book “A Tree Full of Angels,” Macrina Wiederkehr wrote: “We stand in the midst of nourishment and we starve. We dwell in the land of plenty, yet we persist in going hungry. Not only do we dwell in the land of plenty; we have the capacity to be filled with the utter fullness of God We are too busy to be present, to blind to see the nourishment and salvation in the crumbs of life.”
All of life is overflowing with gifts of grace, gifts of beauty and gifts of love. God is reaching out to us through everything in creation: The good and the bad are laced with purpose. We simply need to open our eyes to see it.
Philippians 4:8 says: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Fix your thoughts. Gather the goodness in your mind. Collect it in your heart. Store it up in your soul.
But it isn’t enough to simply see the gifts we’ve been given. We have to receive them as well. How can these crumbs nourish us unless we consume them?
Gift giving is completed by thanksgiving. Jesus’ miracle took place after He gave thanks. Though it may seem insignificant, gratefulness may be the most soul-expanding, miracle-producing principle in scripture.
When thanksgiving becomes a habit, when we train ourselves and our children to gather and receive the gifts we are given, we realize the truth that we are never lacking. We truly have been given more than enough.
Jim Branch, founder of Young Life youth ministry sums it up beautifully: “For no matter how broken the heart, or the life, or the circumstance; we have this amazing God who says, ‘With me nothing is wasted. Gather the pieces, I am in the midst of them.’”
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at email@example.com.