The Rabbi’s Math

Math Pic   We’re really very normal people.

There’s nothing too extraordinary about us. (Well, Mike can play the recorder with his nose, which I guess is a useful talent since we do work with middle school students.) We argue. I get frustrated with my kids. And one look at my house tells me just how disorganized I am. I once heard someone say, “My whole life is duct taped together.” I love that image. Only I think mine has some clothes pins and chewing gum in there somewhere, too.

So what do you get when you drop two ordinary people into an extraordinary story, a God-sized story? To be honest, at times you get two people who are completely overwhelmed, wondering if what they have to give is enough. After all, we’re just a guy with a youth ministry degree, a quirky sense of humor, and servant’s heart, and a girl with a story to tell, a few songs to sing, and a lot of hugs to hand out. And in our week-to-week we face some big issues. Teens questioning who they are and if God really loves them… Kids missing the only home they’ve ever known… Moms in tears over family turmoil… Dads so focused on “serving the Lord” they forget their families… Girls believing the lie that God made a mistake when he created them the way he did… Missionaries dealing with the fallout of trauma and tragedy… Burnout… Ministries at stake… The truth is we don’t have what it takes.

Flashback about 2,000 years ago to a Galilean hillside where a ragtag group stood arguing with their teacher. “Impossible!” They scanned the milling, rumbling crowd of hungry thousands. “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.” Jesus had just told them to do something crazy: feed 5,000 men, plus their wives and children, with just a handful of food. Now, I’m teaching my oldest daughter sixth grade math this year, and I’m pretty sure that in the middle of all those decimals and percentages I can figure out that 5+2 does not equal 5,000. I think I’d be with the disciples on this one. What they had to give was simply not enough. But… who they were giving it to was. Jesus took their little bit, and it was a very little bit, gave thanks to his Father, and proceeded to blow their minds. Everyone ate until they were satisfied. And then there were the leftovers.

God’s math doesn’t match ours.

So often I get focused on the little bit I have to give – my faltering answers, my underdeveloped guitar skills, my wandering attention. I see the needs of these families, our upcoming trip to PNG, our budget, and I panic. “Impossible!” How easily I forget that beautiful Rabbi, the one who can’t do math.

When I bring him my “not enough” it becomes more than enough. When our many partners (very few of whom are materially wealthy) bring their gifts and prayers on our behalf, they multiply, and our needs are met. The fact is all of us, you and I, are ordinary people dropped into the middle of a God-sized story. He doesn’t ask us to do anything but offer our ordinary selves, give our seemingly insignificant gifts, stand back, and let him blow our minds.

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