Crusts piled up on the cutting board in a neat mountain of crumbs and edges. Dark sides with white underbellies gathered to the side.
My knife cut away the unwanted bits, leaving perfect squares of pillowy, white middles. That was the best part of the bread—any kid could tell you that—and only the best, prettiest part of the bread could be used for tea sandwiches.
I filled those delicate slices with fluffy egg salad, cut them on the diagonal, and arranged them on a pretty glass cake stand.
But the crusts remained on my board, without purpose for the upcoming party. They were useless, discarded bits. The best had been taken, and the part that was left was not enough for anything good.
At least, that’s how it feels sometimes, like the best of you has been given away already, and the only thing left is the thing you don’t think is wanted.
The crusty, tough edges that even a teenager won’t touch.
You are the mama who gave away her 20’s and 30’s to raise babies, and now they are growing and pushing into their own independence, and you feel as if your very middle has been cut out.
You are the military wife who gave up her own dreams to follow her husband from assignment to assignment. But now he’s retiring, full of ribbons and honor and federal holidays to honor him, but no one sees what you gave up, and no one understands how it feels when your country doesn’t need you anymore.
You are the woman who held on to a hope that never materialized, and now, now? You wonder if God really has anything for you in these years that are left.
You feel every bit like the boy on a hill, surrounded by thousands of grown-up men who are eager to fill their empty stomachs, and all you have are a few dried-out loaves and the fish that have spent the better part of the day sitting out in the heat of the sun.
“How much do you have?”
“Just this little bit, and it’s not very good.”
“May I have it?”
You shift your feet from side to side and look down at your basket, afraid to show him the bits and edges, the browned parts that are left after the middles have been cut out.
But he reaches in with hands that are not afraid to touch, hands that know exactly what to do with leftovers, and he blesses it. It is a blessing that speaks something out of the nothing, that moves mountains into being and tosses galaxies farther than any human eye will ever see. It is the kind of blessing that cannot be quantified except by the leftovers.
“And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.”
The soft middles don’t even make the story. But those broken pieces—the leftovers of the miracle–stand as a testimony to all time of the kind of God who knows what to do with the things that are small and foolish, old and broken, unchosen and castoff.
It is as if the entire story of redemption is one big smorgasbord, where all the leftovers get remade and served up in a glorious feast that makes even the hardest heart wonder.
It is the grain left around the edges of the field after the harvest that feeds the poor and draws a young widow to the feet of a kinsman redeemer. It is the remnant of a faithless people that prove the faithfulness of God. It is the last crumb that shakes the coffers and gives Jesus pause to praise a woman who did not hesitate to give the very last bit.
It is the crusts and edges that make up the story.
If you are the woman who wonders if anything good can come of what is left, if you’ve already used up your middles and only have the crusts–do not hold back from God. Open your basket and let the blessing rush in. He knows what to do with the leftovers. In fact, they are his favorite part.