There was a season, when our big kids were little that ee were on Food Stamps for a while. Quite a while, actually. They didn’t know about it, of course, but we were barely making ends meet for a while and on Fridays would pretend that we were going to soup kitchens to “help out” and we’d dutifully serve the homeless their slice of turkey with gravy and canned corn, so the kids could get some free dinner. It was a humbling experience.
One morning, during the season when we were living on food pantry staples, WIC checks and SNAP benefits, one of the kids stomped around in anger before school because “we never have any good food”. (We’d been making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch for quite some time by this point.) My husband suggested scraping three dollars out of our spare change jar to let him buy lunch at school, but it turned out that we didn’t have enough. Sigh.
This child left for school and I sat down and cried very frustrated, wishful tears. Later, when I was doing my devotions, I was reading in John 6, about the little boy with the five loaves and two fish. You know the story- Jesus had been teaching and everyone had come from far and wide, and apparently no one had thought to bring any food into the desert. When Jesus suggested buying them food, Philip points out that they don’t have enough money to buy food for everyone (we didn’t even have $3, so I felt his pain), but they did have “five loaves of barely and two fish”, offered by a boy in the crowd.
Suddenly it struck me — someone had made that lunch for him, most likely the boy’s mother. My mind wandered as I thought about what that mother may have gone thought that morning as the boy headed out to see Jesus. Did he argue with her about how he hates fish? About how he’s sick of eating barley bread all the time? I wondered if he had complained that his friends always had better lunches. I wondered if he told her he’d throw it away once he was away from her, as my child had done.
I thought- maybe after he’d left, holding his five loaves and two fish away from his body as though it were covered in spiders, if she’d sat down like I had and beat herself up for not being a better mother and for being poor or for trying her best, knowing it wasn’t good enough. Maybe she’d sent him out of the house with resignation, imagining how he’d toss the food that the rest of the family would gladly have eaten without complaint and what a waste it would be. Maybe she’d just been glad he was gone for a few hours. (You know how that goes).
Then, I remembered Jesus. He’d taken those five loaves and two fish and had performed one of His greatest miracles ever recorded – feeding well over 5,000 people (the Bible only counts the men) with that humble, packed lunch that some mother, somewhere in time, had made that morning. Who knows what she went through, but if she were anything like me, she may have had a morning that made her think: Why do I bother to do this at all? Will it ever get any easier?
And yet, because of the faithfulness and, yes, even the “routine” of one mother, who had made a thousand thankless lunches before that and a thousand thankless lunches after that day and may have had a thousand other arguments with her son about how it’s never good enough- she got up and did it anyway. Why?!
Did she know Jesus would perform one of His greatest miracles with her humble, packed lunch? No. In fact, it’s highly probably she never had any clue what the Lord had done with her thankless lunch, made on a morning when she felt especially frustrated with it all. She did it because that’s what loving mothers do – they keep moving ahead because they love, because they see things their kids do not, because they’re willing to invest in their children, even when it’s not gratefully accepted at the moment.
However that investment pays off someday isn’t the concern right now. Momma, we do what we know to be the right thing, our very best, in spite of the struggle, the monotony of the routine, in spite of how others around us accept the best we have to offer- we’ve given it to God, and who knows- maybe that one, frustrating morning where we did the same thing we do every day will become one of the greatest events ever recorded in history- because we got up and faced another day thinking all we were going to do was pack our kids a lunch.
Food for thought.