Why I'm Trying The No Remainder Life

Yesterday, even though I really wanted a salad from Chipotle, I ate lunch at home because I had leftovers in the fridge. And then last night, while I really wanted butternut squash pasta, I ate a salad. Because the greens were on the verge of wilting and the chicken, from a grill-out over the weekend, wouldn’t make it another day.

I thought I would be bummed as I’m not fond of leftovers, but instead I felt excited, like I was changing the world. 

Do you remember when you learned to divide in fourth grade? I do. Then (and now) I loved division, especially long division. My favorite kind of problem would look something like 596,464 divided by 4. I liked how many times you had to come back to that big number, taking it bite by bite until you’d solved it. Solved it—like it was a mystery.

I especially loved the problems, like the one above, with no remainders. 

A remainder is a lonely, messy, leftover with no place and no beauty.

I have this cookie recipe that uses every piece of every ingredient so that I use the egg’s yolk for the batter and the white for the icing, the zest of an orange for the batter and the juice for the icing. It’s so rewarding to use every part, to look at your counter and see no remainders. 

I feel like this is the kind of life to which God calls us, a no remainder life.

I finished Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 yesterday (I’ll talk about it more this week) and the biggest lesson I gleaned was this one—that waste has little place in the Christian life.

Look at the way God redeems suffering, refusing to allow it it to hang messy and alone at the end of the problem. He redeems it, makes good out it, uses the scraps of our pain to make something new and beautiful.

Look at the way God feeds the Israelites in the wilderness, the way each day brings just the right amount of food for that day and that day alone. Look at how God calls us pray even now, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Look at the resurrection. No remainder.

And of course, we can’t help but think of God’s commands about money, His distaste for ill-used wealth, all that extra lying around accumulating dust. I can’t shake that parable about the rich farmer who plans to build more barns and dies in his sleep. It makes me nervous about the stuff in my garage.

It seems God gives us what we need and asks us to use it. He gives us more than we need, turns our attention to his needy children, and asks us to use it, too.

When I looked at my refrigerator yesterday and saw all that food going to waste I felt like a greedy, greedy waster, a girl with sloppy remainders. But using that food, pulling together a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and feeding myself a delicious meal from the blessings I already had, that was beautiful and elegant and, I think, God-pleasing.

I think of Richard Holloway’s words: 

“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art. They seem to be the purpose of God for his whole creation.”