All of a sudden, I was the boy in the story. I heard Jesus tell the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” While they stood there perplexed, I made my way through the crowd and offered Jesus my uneaten lunch: five small barley loaves and two fish. He received it with such gratitude that I was taken aback. It may not have seemed like much to anyone else but, to Jesus, it was perfect. And then, of course, he did something wonderful with it.
This is what I imagined as I sat in a room filled with people listening to a reflection on the feeding of the five thousand. Tears came to my eyes, I was so moved by my encounter with Jesus.
Jesus had locked eyes with me, received my meagre offering, and cherished it. He saw the childlike desire of my heart to give what I have without stopping to think how insufficient it is.
The next morning, in my prayer time, I return to that encounter with Jesus. I wonder what he received from me. What does my lunch represent?
I picture myself again before him. I offer my attempts to be present, my misfired intentions, my writing. Each gift evokes the telltale signs in my chest and nose that I’m about to cry.
But there’s more. Jesus doesn’t just receive my offerings, he receives me. He looks at me–just as I am–and loves me. Now I have tears in my eyes and a hard lump in my throat.
If there’s one thing I know, that I talk about in sermons, write about on my blog, and hold space for in spiritual direction, it’s this: we are loved just like this.
Once again Jesus steps into my world to tell me what he sees when he looks at me. “If I can look at a goldfish that costs twenty-five cents the way Annie Dillard does, imagine what I see when I look at you.”
And then I hear, “Can you believe that other people see it too? That I couldn’t possibly keep this seeing to myself. How could I? I have to share it with others.”
Now I have tears in earnest and that wonderful witness in my throat. The words that are coming to me are true. “I know how people look at you,” Jesus says. “I know they see what I see. I admit, not everyone and not all the time. But more than you think and more often than you know: you are loved.”
Now I hear music–not choirs of angels in my head but a song my ten-year-old granddaughter listens to. This line keeps echoing, “Can you believe it? Can you receive it?”
Later that morning I walk with a friend who reads my blog. My recent posts have made her sad. She tells me I’m being too hard on myself.
Yup. I think God noticed that too.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. –Mark 10:21 (NIV)
Mobile Loaves & Fishes is the organization behind Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. “Austin is an awesome place,” says Caitlyn Fitzpatrick on Best Tech, “but the way the community is striving to give its homeless citizens a better life is what truly makes it a beautiful city. Community First! Village is a development stretching over 27 acres. It provides affordable, permanent housing for people in Central Texas who are disabled or chronically homeless. Not only does it provide homes, but it also helps these people find jobs and purpose. In 2017, men and women earned $400,000 through the micro-enterprise programs at the Village, so the mission isn’t just to give them places to live but to also help integrate them back into society.”