I think I’m often looking at myself and my relationship with Jesus and other people through a lens of “how can I do better?” My quest (framed in terms of JRR Tolkein) is often one where the question is “how well should I be walking the ring of power into mordor?” as opposed to “Am I walking the ring of power into mordor?”
I think that’s the thing that I miss so very often. That forward motion of any sort (small stumbling steps or giant leaps) is still forward motion. Relationships are choppy business sometimes. I find that the closer you get to another person–the Lord or otherwise–the more you realize your own imperfections and brokenness. The closer I get to Jesus the more I realize that I need His help to even want to walk with Him.
I heard Richard Dahlstrom say once that a relationship with God is like a marriage. Every day you get up and bring what you have to the relationship. In my experience with the Lord, some days that doesn’t look like much. Some days I might feel amazing about it, but other days what I bring looks more like brokenness and frustration with life and very often with Jesus. He’s not a tame lion, y’know? Sometimes that is scary, frustrating, and confusing.
What I see reflected in the Gospels is that what Jesus wants is for us to bring what we have. Not what we don’t have. Not strive to implement the perfect ideal of what relationship with Him or anyone should look like. We are to come as we are.
Example. In most (if not all) of the gospels there’s the story of Jesus feeding a vast quantity of people (4-5 thousand+) with very little. The crowds draw near to Jesus to hear Him speak. They’re there all day. When the disciples note that the people need to be sent away to get food, Jesus says, “You feed them.” The disciples then say something about “How can anyone feed so many people?” He asks them what they have. It’s incomparably small. In the telling of the story that sticks out in my mind (slightly different retellings happen in the gospels) they have five loaves and two fish. In one account the food comes from a little boy in the crowd.
Allow me to emphasize that.
7 items of borrowed food and somewhere between 4 and 5 thousand men (not counting women and children).
Jesus response to what they have is, “Bring them here to me.” He didn’t say, “WHAT?! How on earth do you expect me to do ANYTHING with that?” He said bring me what you have.
Miraculously, the people are fed with food that came from a random kid in the crowd, despite the disciples’ incredulity about everything relating to the project.
Reading this leaves me with the conclusion that what we have and where we are is enough. It’s enough for God to work through. It’s enough for us to learn. It’s enough for us to witness miracles. It’s enough for us to be surprised at His graciousness in using such stubborn and disbelieving people.
I think that feeling like we’re not enough is important. It helps us get out of the mindset that we were ever meant to be. However, I don’t think that this is something to beat ourselves up about. It ought to be something that drives us to thrust all we are and all we have into the arms of God saying like the Archbishop in that scene from the film Romero, “I can’t…You must…”
When He says, “bring them to me.” I think we should think of this as bringing Him everything. All our doubts, all our fears, all our hesitancy, all our frustration, and all the seemingly useless scraps of good things that we struggle to find within ourselves that must be borrowed from strangers and children.
In the story, before Jesus gives the food to the people (before He uses what we bring Him) He blesses it. The smallness, the frailty, and the meager nature of our lackluster offerings do not hinder Him in blessing them, blessing others, and blessing us.
When we approach relationship with God and others we need to recall that what we have is all we have. We cannot arrive before we get where we’re going. God welcomes us as we are. It is enough. We draw near and offer our ashes and in exchange we receive beauty.
Let that sink in.
Where you are is enough.
What you have is enough.
It’s as though the Lord says to us “Bring it…and expect miracles.”