gather up the fragments

all that is ever ours

This post is the second in a series. Read part one here.

Some of you know better than others that the past couple of years have had some really painful chapters for me. My little sister moved out under less than ideal circumstances, I wrote a book and faced rejection, I lost some dear friends to various enemies and even called off a relationship I planned on keeping forever. The golden light has spilled out of all these holes and I have seen God glorified, my heart has grown wiser and the lose ends are tying new knots, stronger than old ones. And yet, I still cry myself to sleep sometimes, just missing someone (or wondering what I’m missing.) I still have letters I’ll never be able to read again sitting in a box under my bed. I still skip certain songs.

Something that I’ve learned over and over again for the past few, bumpy years is that God wastes absolutely nothing. He wastes nothing and especially not our pain. Pain is perhaps what, in the end, bears the greatest fruit.

I couldn’t agree more with C.S. Lewis who said,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 

Isn’t that just the undeniable truth? When do we cry out to the Lord? When we see a beautiful sunset? At most that makes us say a short prayer of praise. When do we cry out to God? When we realize that we can’t live with the pain that only He can relieve.

Sometimes I think that I’ve wasted a lot of my life worrying about petty things, but I find comfort in the fact that I’m not sovereign and that the God who is wastes nothing. I can learn from those years and grow out of them and I can see reasons for everything that has happened to me. I don’t have the option of becoming a victim because I’ve been a willing character in an epic story.
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The term, “gather up the fragments” comes from a story of Jesus’ ministry that has recently mesmerized me. Matthew 14 tells us about Jesus speaking to well over 5,000 people when they become hungry. The disciples urge Him to send them away to find their own food, but He said, “They need not depart.” Bewildered by this, the disciples reminded Jesus that they only had five loaves and two fishes, but He seemed to think that this was enough. Then, as the King James Version reads, “…he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
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gather up the fragments
But the miracle is in this line: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
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God multiplies what we offer to Him and uses it to fill us. I love how John notes:  “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
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Just as God wastes nothing and allows nothing to return void, Jesus refuses to waste  the food that He’s just produced by miracle. At first, it seems kind of odd. After all, if that bread and fish was left on the grass and went bad, couldn’t He just make some more when they needed it? Why doesn’t He just “bless and brake” again?

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Because, for some reason (probably propelled by the same incomprehensible love that sent Him to this earth in the first place,) every creature and part of creation matters to Him. There are lots of babies, but every one is a miracle (as Marilla Cuthbert says) and there are lots of moms and lots of singles and lots of retirees but you are unique to God. You will never be created again. Your children may be like you but they can’t be you. You were handcrafted, one-of-a-kind. I can’t help but think that it would please God if we adopted a similar code for creation. Creation is under our feet, for our use and pleasure, but it is also His creation. My mother just joyfully shared this G.K. Chesterton quote with us at the dinner table:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

You may look just like your Aunt Monique, but you couldn’t be more unique and when God created you, He thought, “Aha! I have made something completely knew and I love it.” 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 says: “…whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Because when everything belongs to your father, it comes to you in the form of an inheritance. In a way, all is ours, but in a greater way, all is God’s and so when He says that we must “gather up the fragments that nothing be lost” and when He reminds us that He used knitting needles, not factory machines and conveyer belts to create us, we have a new perspective on creation. It is ours, but it’s also His and we must care for it as if every blade of grass, every cricket, every sunset is unique. To God, it’s personal.

If Jesus ate leftovers and God wastes nothing, if everything is handcrafted and unique to The Creator, perhaps recycling isn’t just for hippies and reducing waste isn’t just for Earth Day. Perhaps that is another reflection of The Gospel and our commitment to our father, just like adoption and fidelity and evangelism and generosity.

As Christians, we never actually lose anything. Like the loaves and the fishes, the small things we offer up are always multiplied by our miracle-working God. Just like the eco-friendly folks say, there is no “away” that we can throw things too. The same goes for this whole universe. When we give something to God, it is truly safe. Amy Carmichael said,

“All that is ever ours is ours forever.”

When Jesus was anointed at Bethany, His disciples had a pretty good point. After all, the expensive perfume in the woman’s alabaster case could never be sopped up again and that money could have gone to the poor. But was it wasted? Jesus replied:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

For someone who felt strongly about caring for the poor, Jesus gave this “extravagant” woman high praise, much like he did for His friend Martha who was “wasting” her sister’s precious time.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us and all of the pressures and stressors of ordinary life, I hope to be like Martha who chose “the one thing that will not be taken from her.”

7 Responses to gather up the fragments

  1. Samantha January 25, 2014 at 12:53 am #

    Thank you for this. I relate to the past few years holding painful moments… the same for me. I, too, had a sister move out under less than ideal circumstances. I’ve lost friends, family members (death and otherwise), and been through trials. The pain hits me at various times and I wonder if the healing will ever be “complete”. And then God reminds me of Heaven. And that all things work together for the good of those who LOVE HIM. He is enough :)

  2. Melinda November 28, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    Amen. The last 3 years have been very similar for me as well, filled with a lot of painful situations, losing friendships, saying goodbye to my grandpa, and watching a relationship I thought was leading to “happily ever after” crumble.

    I love the picture you painted of “gathering the fragments” in our lives. Nothing is wasted with Jesus. He works all things for good in our lives. Somehow, even the pain fragments I would like to forget and throw away, He wants to use those too. Mmmmm, so much truth to ponder in that simile.

    Thank you for sharing your heart, Everly! It truly blessed me and gave me much to think about. <3

    • Everly Pleasant December 7, 2013 at 1:20 am #

      Thank you, Melinda. I hope your new year is full of blessing. :)

  3. Debbie G. November 27, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Your one statement – “I don’t have the option of becoming a victim because I’ve been a willing character in an epic story.” – stopped me and I had to read it again. What deep wisdom in those few word! Each of our lives is an epic story He uniquely planned out. As the main character I guess we do have a choice…. I choose to not be the victim either.
    And this whole idea of Jesus not wasting the fragments is so comforting. Sometimes my life seems like tiny fragments with no grand purpose…. no big chunks that add up to very much. But, if I put the tiny fragments together, I think I’m living my life well as I try my best to glorify Jesus and be a light for Him.
    Thanks for this post!

    • Everly Pleasant December 7, 2013 at 1:21 am #

      Debbie,

      Thank you for contributing to the conversation! Have a blessed weekend,
      E

  4. Elisabeth Allen November 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Oh, Everly, this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I love the Amy Carmichael quote and the G.K.Chesterton quote! I’ve never seen the Amy Carmichael one before, but wow, it’s beautiful. The idea is gathering the fragments is one I’m going to try to remember. And I think my favourite bit is where you say that God used knitting needles when He made us … not a machine. We weren’t mass produced on the other side of the world. We were crafted by hand. Lovely …

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