Our family is in a season of starting over.
The house, the job, the framework of a life beyond the military one we left behind is all abstract and hypothetical right now. We’re living with family for the moment, which means all the routines of our normal life are upended, including strict bedtimes. We occasionally look at houses for sale online and then I proceed to do the next logical thing, which is to shop for area rugs that would look nice within them.
It’s a funny thing to move ‘home’ to Colorado. I’ve always called this state home and yet now I’m realizing how I’ve made meaningful homes out of other places, too. We’ve established a sense of home in the military community, in the suntanned village of San Diego, even in the identity of moving every few years. To stay is a nerve-wracking venture for us, especially when leaving has been our norm, our pride, our talent.
Big changes like these tend to shine a light on the things we rely on for security. For example: relationships, geography, work, and routine. They tend to eject us from the comforts we have called home.
And these days that’s how I tend to think about home, the place of comfort. It’s here, now, around family, in the foothills of the Rockies. Home is also the house we miss in San Diego, the house we do not yet have in Colorado. It’s a new career trajectory that Mike and I are still sorting out. It’s the comfort that you have and the comforts you dream about having.
Starting over, then, serves as a sort of an elimination diet of comfort and control. You want details! Mindless routine! A line graph that maps your path to arrival! But new beginnings don’t always come packaged with answers to your big ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. Chances are, you’ll find yourself in a new place with absolutely no idea what you’re doing, staring at a cloudless sky that’s as vast as silence, wondering: what now?
To live by faith is to live with hunger. And I keep re-reading that last sentence, wishing there was another way, an alternative option that allows a surge of faith without the ache of need.
I’ve heard the bible story of the feeding of five thousand many times before, the one where Jesus feeds a crowd by borrowing a boy’s snack and multiplying it into a feast. (John 6)
Thousands of people followed Jesus into the wilderness, but only one boy brought fish and loaves that would serve as the materials of a miracle. The disciples took the boy’s food, Jesus prayed for it, and it was multiplied to feed the crowd.
Up until now, always I’ve associated myself with that boy. You know, as the real go-getter. He was the one who brought a snack when everyone else only brought their hunger.
Well done, young boy. You and I share a passion for snacks, it seems.
I’ve used this story as a launching point to pray for abundance in my life— whatever metaphor the loaves and fish symbolized at that moment: more favor! more opportunity! MULTIPLY IT, LORD!!
You see, I thought I came to Jesus with snacks and he made them better, maybe he helped me share. But then a couple months ago I heard this story preached at church and I sat with my face in my hands through the end of the service, tears squeezing out the clenched corners of my eyes. Because suddenly I didn’t feel like the helpful, well-prepared boy anymore. I didn’t feel like I had anything to bring to the table.
This is what starting over will do for you, at least that’s what it has done for me. It draws attention to hunger, to empty-handedness, to the provision you wish you had but don’t know how to generate yourself.
It wasn’t until those months ago that I responded to this bible story rightly. Not as the boy, but as the 4,999 others, the ones that followed Jesus and were marked not by their preparedness, but by their need.
I think this is what it feels like to start over— to be pretty fragile while pretending to be brave.
It may happen when you start a new job or end a relationship, when you’re injured in body or soul, when you move away or make a costly decision. It’s happening for us now as we leave the military, and it’s happened to me each time I’ve had a new baby.
These days of new beginnings are marked by survival rather than achievement, by the realization that you’re less of a boy scout and more of a beggar.
And in a practical way, I feel that starting over recalibrates how I pray. For all the times I’ve prayed for multiplication in my life, now in the throes of hunger and need, it just doesn’t feel like the right prayer anymore.
Because here’s the kicker: anything multiplied by zero is still zero.
Perhaps it takes this sweeping hunger to recalibrate a view of Jesus for the savior that he is.
What we need is not just for God to multiply the resources that we already have. We need him to provide them fundamentally.
What I’m trying to say is that the boy in the story, the one who brings the bread and loves to rescue the masses— he was not an archetype of me.
He was an archetype of Jesus.
Jesus calls himself “The bread of life.”
He arrived to Earth by way of Bethlehem, which translates to “house of bread.”
He came to rescue us with basic addition, serving as the substitute for sin. Then he promised to do more, to multiply the resources that he provides, to “accomplish infinitely more than we could ask or think.”
And this means Jesus is not only the multiplier of bread. He is the supplier of it.
Addition then multiplication. Provider then multiplier.
We bring our hunger and Jesus brings the bread.
There are so many practical tasks associated with starting over. There are a million ways to be responsible. But the most practical task I’m relearning is how to pray.
I’m praying less for life enhancement and more for something fundamental. I’m praying for faith. I’m praying for hope. I’m praying for steadiness and believing in Jesus as comfort beneath the chaos. I’m remembering him as the feast, as the home that promises those starving in the wilderness of starting over:
I will provide for you.
I will be your bread.