Multiplying the Main Meal

Multiplying the Main Meal

The group of young people who met at Harold and Veranne Graham’s house on Saturday evenings had grown considerably by my senior year in college. Nearly every week there might be several new people who were pretty much strangers to all of us but who had just “heard about” the cool things God was doing in our midst.

In spite of having major health problems, Veranne had begun feeding anyone who came early before the actual meeting. Which was challenging, because it was impossible to know how many people would be there. Add to that Veranne’s naiveté of just how much young males could eat—she had three young daughters—and you had the potential for a number of hungry stomachs after the food was gone. (Example: one morning after I had spent the night on her couch, Veranne—in spite of her physical weakness—graciously offered to prepare breakfast for me. Her initial query struck horror in my heart, however, or at least in my stomach, since she asked, “Would you like for me to cook an egg for you?” An egg!? I hadn’t eaten fewer than three eggs for breakfast since I was in junior high school! She just didn’t understand!)

I felt a sense of obligation, since I had been in the group at least as long as anyone. So I always managed to be the last one in line for dinner, lest there not be enough food for everyone.

One Saturday evening, the offerings were so meager that I was certain there wouldn’t be enough food for all who came. And then several more new people showed up! I was devastated. I confess that my feelings were selfish, but you have to understand: At that time in my life my metabolism was supercharged. My body was a furnace. It seemed like I had already metabolized much of any meal before I had finished eating it.

I carefully surveyed the dishes that Veranne had set out in the usual buffet style. She was outrageously kind to be serving anything, given her health problems. But she also seemed to have a major blind spot in deciding how much food to prepare—or it’s possible that feeding so many people was financially challenging (I know that to have been the case), and she simply served what they had available. Especially on this particular evening, that was WAY too little!

After checking out the food she had set onto the serving table, and after ascertaining that there was no extra food in the kitchen, and after noting how many people—several of them strangers—had shown up for dinner, I realized that I was going to go to bed hungry that night. I do not exaggerate when I say that I personally could have eaten nearly everything that was set out for this entire crowd to eat—I don’t remember the number, but I’m guessing there were more than 15 people (there would be several times that for the meeting).

I stood at the back of the line, not expecting there to be any food left by the time I got to the serving table. I watched in dismay while some of the first people in line, who were new guests, placed what I thought to be unreasonably large helpings on their plates. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “You know, there’s not a lot of food, and you just helped yourself to a big chunk of what’s in that serving dish!”

I knew how much food had been available. And I clearly saw people taking helpings that were a significant portion of what was in a given dish or pot. Consider how awe-struck I was when, upon arriving at the serving table, I observed that each of the dishes still had plenty of food in it! It was a numinous experience. I stood there in shock, looked around at the plates of the people who were already eating, looked at the serving dishes that still had generous amounts of food in them, looked at my plate, repeated all the above. Several times. Then I quietly helped myself to as much as I wanted of each dish. And there was still enough food for one or two other people to serve themselves in case someone came late. I said nothing, and I felt pretty sure no one else noticed that anything weird had happened.

Now I know that God can multiply not only bread and fish—but also green beans and pasta and. . .