You would have to be someone very close to me to be offered leftovers at my house. Not because I only serve them to those who are special, but because I normally prepare a new meal for a visitor. I want my guests to feel important when they visit, and may even inquire about their preferences in order to ensure their enjoyment. I will use the best ingredients, and extra care in the presentation, serving the meal on the best dishes. I save leftovers for the family and they are most often served on paper plates indicating the meals insignificance. I have given them no reason to have the expectation of a special meal every day. Lately, they are just surprised and grateful when I cook at all.
When cooking for the family, I actually plan for leftovers. With everyone old enough to feed themselves (thank you, Jesus), it’s wonderful to send them to the fridge for something already prepared when the announcement is made: “I’m hungry!”. Living on a budget calls for creative ways to make the most of every food choice with as little waste as possible, and with a husband and older children to feed, quantities must be sufficient if I expect them to feast on a particular dish for more than one day. With proper planning, the leftovers from one meal can be used to create an enticing new dish on another day.
However, I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of leftovers myself. Some foods are acceptable the second time around, while others will produce some interesting growths and odors as they are ignored, having been pushed to the back. Often, perfectly acceptable leftovers are available for consumption but are rebuffed in preference for the delectable meal the delivery guy will bring straight to my door. Leftovers are second best.
Yesterday I read the account of Jesus feeding the multitude. We are all probably familiar with the story – a small boy with a basket of fish and bread offered his meal to Jesus. Jesus took the lunch, thanked the Father for it and asked Him to multiply it. Miraculously, as the disciples began to distribute bread and fish to all who were there, the supply was endless.
After all had eaten until they were full, He gave the disciples this instruction:
“…Gather up now the fragments, the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing may be lost and wasted.” John 6:12
The bread and fish had been broken, some of it consumed, and only fragments remained – leftovers. What did He do with the leftovers? The Bible says nothing more than they gathered them up and all together they filled twelve baskets. But what caught my attention was that Jesus wanted nothing to be lost or wasted. He didn’t let the people just leave it on the ground and His purpose of collecting it wasn’t motivated by just keeping the area neat and clean. He knew He would use every piece. And He didn’t take the leftovers and reform them into the whole loaves and fish He started with. Each broken piece that remained was a miracle in itself.
When we’ve been broken and portions of our lives have been consumed by loss or failure, we very often see ourselves as leftovers. With only fragments of ourselves remaining, we believe we are no longer special or deserving of the best efforts from God or anyone else. Many times we retreat into the background, no longer seeing ourselves as the first choice for God to use. We may even think our lives stink. We see others around us whose lives are intact and believe they can be used for far more important purposes than we can. We see ourselves as second best. Still saved, but not worth as much as we had been before we fell into broken pieces.
Jesus gathers the broken pieces. He sees value in every fragment but makes no effort to try to put them back together the same as before they were broken apart. He has a better way. He comforts us and reassures us that none of the pieces of our lives will be wasted. He can use them all. They are each miracles in His hands. He lovingly gathers each piece knowing that He can make of our lives significantly more than before we were broken.
Have you been broken? Is your life a collection of fragments that don’t seem to fit together anymore? Come to Jesus. He does amazing things with leftovers!!