“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
At Mass yesterday, this verse from John’s Gospel struck me. I heard it that morning when a group of students and faculty gathered in the chapel to open the day with prayer. Once again, it stood out to me during Mass.
Nothing will be wasted.
What a beautiful promise the Lord makes to us in that one verse. He was speaking of the bread that had been multiplied to feed the hungry who had come together to hear Him preach. If He says this about bread, how much more would He say it about my life?
It is easy to feel like things are being wasted right now. I try to teach beautiful truths to my high school students, but I sometimes seem to be running into a brick wall. My mind begins to think of all the things I could be doing with my life. I could be getting my Master’s in Theology, soaking up profound truths from wise professors. I could do missionary work in the US or in a foreign land, perhaps returning to my beloved Honduras. I could travel–go back to Italy, explore England by hiking the Pennine Way, re-discover my old study abroad home in Austria, or seek out some place entirely new. Or I could be farther along vocationally–married with children, just married, or even simply with marriage in the near future.
I can hastily look at my life and think: Lord, why are You wasting so much time?
But right in the Gospel of John, written so clearly for my disbelieving heart to see it: He is wasting nothing. Everything, everything is working together for God’s mysterious, perfect purpose. I think of struggles of the heart and how God is not wasting even that. At times, I am able to see how He is working in the mundane. While my class worked on a study guide and asked me questions, I spent ten minutes untangling the power cords for our mobile lab. At one point I realized that this was a saint-maker task, patiently unwrapping the substantial mass of black wires and tucking the extra back into its proper place. It was something I wanted my students to do when they put the laptops away, but I was able to see God deepening patience in the midst of the menial. It is slightly more difficult to see God working in frustrations of the heart or vocational impatience.
Nothing will be wasted. Unless, of course, I choose to waste it. This teaching gig will not be wasted unless I refuse to let God’s grace transform me in the midst of its challenges. This state in life will not be wasted unless I refuse to use this time to grow and change, delving deeper into the Heart of Christ. When I heard those words during Mass, I thought of the disappointments I’m experiencing and how God will not waste even those, unless I keep them from Him.
The fragments of my life, the parts that I would just as soon brush away or dispose of, are what Christ commands to be gathered up and not wasted. They are precious in His eyes even when they seem troublesome to me. These fragments, the leftovers, the parts we don’t want anymore are what the Lord gathers to transform into something beautiful. They are what the Lord pulls together in testament to His Providence. When the people see this, the multiplied loaves and the abundance left over, they acknowledge who Jesus is. Perhaps the same will be true of us. When people see how the Lord gathers together our fragments, they will see that God uses all for His will and wastes nothing.
Barley loaves were the food of the poor at that time. Notice that Jesus doesn’t take the barley loaves and transform them into expensive loaves of bread. Rather He takes what He is given and He makes it be sufficient. With us, the Lord will take what we are, poor human nature at its weakest, and He will not only make it enough, He will make it provide an overabundance. Through our poverty of heart, through the “leftovers” that we would just as soon dismiss, He will call people to recognize His presence and His ability to work in the midst of every situation.
He will do the extraordinary with ordinary instruments in seemingly ordinary ways. The crumbs from the table shall be used to provide a rich wedding feast, a banquet fit for a King. The little fragments, when wedded to God’s grace, will provide for far more than they rightfully should. Have no fear: our God will not waste the littleness that we are.
“As you have used us to show them your holiness,
so now use them to show us your glory.
Thus they will know, as we know,
that there is no God but you.”