There is a voice I know too well. An acquaintance whose presence is as loyal as a friend. I’ve grown so accustomed to her message that some days I don’t even recognize it. I wake up to her subtle nudges, pulling me out of bed to obey her demands and be productive. She lingers in my aimless scrolling through Instagram and shouts at me in my work throughout the day.
She is never content. She only ever sees areas of improvement, where change is needed. This voice is the one pointing out every area in which I could do better and accomplish more. Her motivation strategy is comparison and has an example ready for almost any situation. She shames the unfinished, in-process and calls me to a higher, better version of myself. This is the voice that says, I must be enough.
Some days the battle to fight the lies about my identity feels too strong. Sometimes this familiar voice that sends me spiraling seems safer than resisting and risking the possibility of really not being enough. With every new demand she promises a way out of this prison. If I only fulfill this dream, gain that title, become, then I will finally be free to rest in who I am and what I’ve accomplished.
But if I am painfully honest, I am daily confronted with the reality that I am in fact just not enough. I try to fight it again and again, pretending, perfecting and continuing to strive to be everything other than the person I actually am. In everyday conversations with Germans when I can hear nothing but my American accent coming through each word. When fear stifles my creativity and I remain uninspired. In the ever-changing and undefined roles and projects of a life overseas. In what feels like a lack of emotional resiliency when I’m driven by my feelings instead of the truth of my faith in Christ. I just do not have what it takes.
Thank God for the grace to recognize even that.
I wonder if the disciples were confronted by this same reality with Jesus’ question, “How many loaves do you have?” (Matthew 6:38)
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
Did they become angry at what felt like an expectation to feed such a large crowd because of Jesus’ compassion? Did they feel shame for not coming better prepared for so many people? Did they fear that their answer would prove them unable to fulfill Jesus’ desire or, worse, disappoint him?
Why would Jesus ask such a question anyway? Perhaps for this very reason. To point out that the human condition is simply not enough.
It’s easier to deceive ourselves from this truth and instead lead self-reliant, self-empowered lives as though we are responsible for our own success. And the fear of being exposed for who we truly are drives us to do anything and everything to hide from the truth of our need. Just when will we finally be enough?
What happens next is miraculous, providing new categories and dimensions for this hopeless condition. It is initiated by the God of Man Himself, and the disciples are invited to take part in His plan to fill the crowd’s need, just as they’d been reminded of their own.
Jesus directs, takes, gives thanks, breaks the bread and gives pieces to the disciples.
The disciples give them to the people.
The crowd eats and is satisfied.
They pick up what is left over: seven full baskets.
The disciples’ “not enough” proved more than enough in the end. Their area of weakness and need resulted in an opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate His strength and sufficiency. When we recognize our deficiency and turn to Jesus, we are filled to overflowing. In meagerness and misunderstanding is our salvation.
I am beginning to experience the freedom of casting my perfectionist cares on the Lord and am discovering only His perfect care puts my striving to rest. I am learning to embrace and give thanks for the gifts He has given me without manipulatively using them to prove myself and my ability. Taking inventory of my thought life has helped, as well as recognizing unhealthy habits, like checking Instagram in thoughtless boredom. But I will admit this process of transformation feels painfully slow most days, and I often wish I could speed it up. Even for this, Christ’s patient, gentle, persevering grace proves enough as He draws me back to Himself, rescuing me from my “try harder” mentality.
Have you been unaware of your striving like I was? Have you been hiding and deceiving yourself from your need for help outside of yourself? Perhaps take some time today to ask yourself these questions and embrace the transforming, healing power of the Gospel in the shadowed places of your heart.
Where are you confronted in your life of not being “enough?” In what or who are you placing your hope and comfort with this knowledge? Do you recognize any habits or routines in your life that tend to trigger unhealthy, untrue thoughts about your identity? What would it mean for you to embrace your “not enoughs” for the “more than enough” of Christ and what He offers?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danielle is a writer and humanitarian worker living in Potsdam, Germany where she met and recently married her best friend. She and her American husband work alongside one another in supporting the German church and pride themselves on becoming hamburger food critics since living in Germany a combined 15 years. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at @daniellegermaine.