All Will Be Fed

breadby Angela Batie

This is my last Sunday in Tacoma, my hometown where I’ve spent almost two months. Next week I return to St. Louis, where I work as a campus minister. I have come to deeply appreciate the two-month hiatus built into my job as a time of Sabbath. I rest, I play, I read, and I spend time with my family, all of which prepare me for another year of long hours, late nights, heavy conversations, and deeply fulfilling – but sometimes exhausting – work.

As the summer winds down, the familiar work-related musings are beginning to creep into my thoughts and energy again, welcoming me back to the pace of college life. Students will arrive soon, the quiet residence hall will be buzzing with excitement, and the lively pace of campus life will begin in earnest.

This upcoming shift was on my mind as I read today’s readings, which may be why I found myself more drawn to the 2 Kings reading than the familiar Gospel story of the loaves and fish. I’m struck by the servant’s protestations, probably because they feel so familiar. In possession of twenty barley loaves and instructed to set them out, the servant questioned, “how can I set this before a hundred people?” I know the feeling. Working in ministry, I sometimes find myself with a similar incredulity when I feel overwhelmed by the needs of the people I serve. I could see myself looking at God, meager barley loaves of time and energy in hand, and thinking, “Really?! You want me to serve this many people? But, there’s so much to do. You’ve got to be kidding me!”

It’s easy (at least for me) to get wrapped up in the pressure to do things perfectly, take on new responsibilities, and give up personal time to accomplish more at work. I imagine I’m not alone in this; it seems people, and especially women, have struggled with this for ages, feeling expected to give of themselves without limit, until it feels like there’s nothing left. Only 20 barley loaves? Go bake some more! Hurry! And they’d better be delicious. There are hungry people here, and who will care for them if you don’t?

This scripture reassures me. It reminds me that I am not called to do everything, but only to give what I have. With God’s help, all will be fed – and I will sit alongside them and eat, too.

Angela Batie is a campus minister in a residence hall for 900 first-year students at St. Louis University. She doesn’t bake, but she certainly enjoys eating bread.

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