I am so over feeling inadequate. Working with children will do this for you. Exhausted. Angry. Ready to quit at best or blow a fuse at worst. These are the feelings that often accompany my latest attempts to demonstrate my got-it-togetherness after a long day of what feels like herding middle schoolers. Yet, I am never more aware of my inadequacy then when I try to prove that I am self-sufficient. Thank God.
In leaning into God’s word we discover the blessing that accompanies inadequacy. Whether the challenge is convincing an 8th grader he should really care about the unknown value of an x or addressing the uptick in violence in a neighboring community, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a child’s lunch offers a window into how our feelings of inadequacy can fuel rather than sap our resolve to push forward in the face of difficulty.
Let’s begin here: Simply put – do something. In response to the hunger of the large gathering of people, Jesus told his brethren to do something, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). Rather than opt for the NotMe hashtag, God continues to tag us into his unfolding story of terrific triumph. If we are willing.
Once you’ve made the decision to do, get organized. Getting organized takes time and is essential. Before any great dining act of God occurred, “Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down” (John 6:10). In getting organized the immensity of the task at hand is rightly subdued at the foot of this great truth - if it is from God, it will be unstoppable (Acts 5:39). With organization comes the sharing of responsibility– in this way the burden is lightened.
After getting organized, God will remind us or make us aware of an inadequate solution to the problem. “Jesus then took the loaves…and distributed to those who were seated…He did the same with the fish” (John 6:11). It is important we are not offered a fully adequate solution because we are prone to idolize the gift at the expense of the gift-giver. God is the solution and the problem-solver.
After Jesus gave thanks to God for the seemingly inadequate solution – a child’s lunch - he broke the bread and the fish, and put these broken elements in the hands of broken men. God will allow the inadequate solution (whether it is a person, organization or idea) to be broken, tested and tried. In this way it can be properly multiplied and used as an instrument of light as we too are used as instruments of light - "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Expect light to shine from the most unlikely of sources and people.
Finally, obey and stay woke! God uses broken and inadequate solutions in the hands of broken, inadequate yet obedient people. In this way, God’s grace works marvelously before our eyes! “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Luke 9:17). His grace is sufficient because it is the gateway to abundance. He truly does do exceedingly above all that we could ever ask or imagine according to the power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). But are you watching? No time to take an eye off of God at work. You might miss the main course and the snack!
Though a personal or communal material need for material resources may be provided what we truly feast on is the marvel of God’s all surpassing goodness (Isaiah 55:2). The table has been set. Grace has been said. So enjoy. Though the dessert of abundance may come on a plate of inadequacy, it is here that we encounter the grace to taste, see and delight in the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:2). Thank God.
Written By Amelia Thompson
Bio: Amelia E. Thompson is an educator, writer and activist based in Brooklyn, New York. She has helped develop We Write Life as a platform for building community around issues of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness. She completed studies at Vassar College and St. Johns University and is completing a certificate in Youth and Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.