Jesus is surrounded by a huge crowd of hungry people: the disciples don’t know how to feed them. But there’s a boy with five loaves and two fish. Jesus has all the people sit down on the grass. He blesses the food, and shares it: and there’s so much that everyone there has more than enough to eat, with leftovers. How does this story speak into one person’s life? Here’s Lucy’s response.
In Autumn 2013, life was clean, neat and peachy. I was kicking goals at my work, and after five years of a soul destroying PhD, Ollie was finally teaching in a very nice Catholic girls’ school. We were engaged to be married, and would live in Ollie’s affordable townhouse in Collingwood. Things were neat and contented, and of course I set about shaking them up.
Like the disciples when Jesus told them to get the crowd to sit down to eat even though there was no food around, I was simply compelled to start looking at random jobs in far-flung places, even though it didn’t make a lot of sense. When I got a job with the Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service in Warrnambool, Ollie and I guessed that meant we would be moving here.
I arrived in Winter 2013. Ollie had to teach out the year in Melbourne so I would live for the first six months by myself in a tiny unit out in Jubilee Park caravan park. The wind howled, the rain blew horizontally and the work was hard – and not in the ‘relish a challenge’ way I had expected.
I was incredibly isolated, with one part time colleague. Clients hurled abuse at me, one’s ex hurled actual objects at me in court. I had no idea what I was doing, no friends to informally debrief with over a wine. No job openings had come up for Ollie. Things made even less sense than they did when I first started job searching.
Ollie and I were married in October. The day was perfect, we had our first dance under an umbrella in a paddock filled with our dearest family and friends. Two days later Ollie went off to school camp and I went back to Warrnambool with gritted teeth.
My jaw stayed clenched until one week in January 2014. On Sunday we visited the Uniting Church for the first time, on Monday I got a call at work from a man we had met there, trying to track down Ollie about a last minute job opening. On Tuesday Ollie interviewed and got the short term contract. On Thursday I found out that I was pregnant, and that my job wasn’t really compatible with flexible or part time work. On Friday my uni emailed to say I had to finish my Masters full time that year as the course was getting restructured. And on Saturday, at Ollie’s cousin’s girlfriend’s dad’s 70th birthday party, I bumped into my old boss who asked if I could take on some freelance consulting work for them. I was completely torn about leaving the legal service, but sometimes you just have to read the writing on the wall.
I stopped working for the legal service in March, and started the loneliest six months of my life. I worked seven days a week from our kitchen table and often went that long without talking to anyone besides Ollie. Strangely, instinctively, even though the loneliness was searing, I didn’t really seek out hobbies or friends. When friends from Melbourne asked why not, I would say ‘I’m just recalibrating.’ For long months I sat with my loneliness and my growing belly, recalibrating.
As the winter passed by, I started singing the song from my Sunday School days: ‘I just thank you Father for making me, me.’ Sure the winter wind howled, I had no career prospects, Ollie’s job was crushingly hard some days, and nothing had turned out how I had planned – but I guessed I could thank the Father for making me, me.
In time I even started to mean it – and I think, in the wondrous full circle way that God works, that allowed Him to make me more me. Something deep down was indeed recalibrated in those months – I became more comfortable with silence, more concerned with what others thought generally than what they thought about me, and more aware that small acts of kindness are just as radical and important as a dynamic career.
By the time my baby arrived in October, I was ready to emerge from my cocoon. I wasn’t as flighty flittery as I had been, but I was a social butterfly still, and my days quickly filled with new mum friends. Beautiful friends, who would become our support and family here. Work trickled back into my life through a series of events just as coincidental as that week in January 2014 – Ollie and I say God’s timing is rarely subtle for us.
Now, when I compare the love, support and purpose that surrounds us to that long lonely winter of 2014 – well, it’s as astonishing as comparing thousands of full and happy people to a handful of fish and bread.
Not that everything is easy breezy now – with more challenging jobs, young kids, no family around, and seemingly endless medical appointments and house repairs – it is definitely messier than that neat, simple, peachy life we left in Melbourne. But, as the disciples found out as they stayed back to pick up all those baskets of leftover food – sometimes mess shows just how abundantly you have been provided for.
A reflection on John 6:1-15, given to Sanctuary on 29 July 2018 (BP12; Year B Proper 12) © Lucy Hodson, 2018. Image credit: JESUS MAFA. Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48287 [retrieved July 28, 2018]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).