I am a cliché. In the last twelve months I have become the main character in the same stories I heard all my life growing up in the church.
“You just don’t know how much you take for granted until you see those who have nothing.”
“You don’t know how lucky you are to worship without the fear of an armed gunman showing up at your door.”
“You can’t know faith until you have lived in a place where He is all you have.”
“Global workers always dress funny and never have enough money.”
And now, living them all first-hand, I find myself resistant to talk about it. No one wants to be that girl; to be smiled at with empty, squinted eyes and a token head-nod. Nevertheless, I am afraid that is what I have become: just one more person sharing the same kinds of stories for people to tuck away in their mental Over There file. I did not come here to be somebody. I also did not come here to be anybody. I came here to be a witness and a herald. Yet when there is “nothing new under the sun,” what will my message be? More importantly, how does a cliché become a catalyst?
In recent months, the story of the “loaves and fishes” (Matthew 14:13-21) has been in the front of my mind. Mostly I am aware of the concept of God’s perfect provision, like when I consider my parenting and wonder how, with my tireless mistakes, my boys will ever avoid therapy. At times, though, I catch a synapse of a deeper meaning.
“We have here only fives loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to Me,” He said.
I wonder how many times the disciples, and those gathered there, had eaten fish? I wonder how many culinary variations for bass have come out of a fishing community? I imagine the disciples searching the crowd for anyone who could make something fabulous out of something common. Certainly if the disciples offered pan-fried instead of scampi, the crowd would whisper, “How cliché.” Or maybe the disciples really were just trying to quiet the hunger pangs of the people, with no real interest in flair and flavor. In any case, I hear the disciples coming to Jesus saying, “Sorry, Lord—we got nothin’.”
“Bring them here to Me.”
My personal experience fills in the details of this story. I have seen the banquet He produces when I offer my two stinky fish. Not only are people filled, but more often than not I hear them rave about dishes that were not even on the menu. God takes my canned tuna to the vegan and somehow they feast on eggplant primavera. He offers my doughnuts to the diabetic and they dine on filet mignon. When I hear Him tell the disciples “bring them here to Me,” I smirk, because I know He has something cooking!
Maybe my life is not so much cliché, as it is fishy—yes, my experiences are a bit like selling sushi to a sailor. I know that when I tell a mega-church pastor I watched five Muslim women read the Bible yesterday, he might smile and nod. When I explain to a Sunday school that I was worried those women had been followed and we would all be discovered, there might be token gasps. I also know that when Jesus says “bring those stories here to Me,” He will transform them. He will edit them for content, making them into an exquisite dish each reader needs for their unique nourishment.
We often feel like we are just another one of those people. We assume our stories are boring, or that they are not written well enough to warrant any attention. Perhaps we are right. Nevertheless, refusing to communicate with the church about what God is doing worldwide because of our own insecurities is a sneaky way of doubting the God of the loaves and fishes. If we bring our stories to Him, He will make them palatable. We do not have to season them or even ration them. We just have to offer them.
© 2012 Women of the Harvest.