comparison striving

Never Measuring Up

11:18 AMHeather

I sat outside the classroom, on a little wall, near the nurse’s office, waiting for school to begin during my third grade year.

I vividly remember the outfit I wore that day. Because it had been chosen with such care. I labored over my clothing choices and my appearance, seeking to compensate for both the haircut that made me look like a boy and for my speech impediment.

I was proud of my fashion choice that day, selecting a favorite blouse that had pastel colored kittens on it with a peter pan collar and cute little puffed sleeves. I had paired it with a pastel skort that perfectly matched the salmon color in the kittens.

The nurse’s aide sat down next to me and casually asked, “Does your mom actually pick out your clothes? Did she put that together?”

Her disapproving tone cut me to the core. I fought back tears and mumbled a response as I quickly walked away to class.

I was not enough. I did not measure up. No matter how well I thought I was doing, someone else defined my worth with their assessment of me.

I have lived my entire life seeking to undo that tight feeling in my stomach that taunts and mocks me with how I am not enough. I wrestle against that same feeling I had as a 7-year-old girl, longing to fit in and be accepted. It’s an albatross that I fend off regularly, feeling it bear down on me every time I am not included or invited or approved.

Two months ago, in a deep and tearful conversation, I was challenged with this question -- When will Jesus be enough?

The truth of the direct question shined light into the dark crevices of performance within me.

As I’ve pondered this question repeatedly since then, my mind keeps going back to that day in third grade when a grown adult made me feel like a nobody.

The connection between my feeling of not being enough and my struggling to believe that Jesus is enough are best summed up with this conclusion.

Jesus cannot ever be enough until I am resolved and confident in embracing that I am not enough and that I will never be enough.

Until I make peace with my insufficiency, I won’t be able to live freely in a life of reliance on his sufficiency. Until I completely release my need to prove myself, I cannot walk on the unforced rhythms of grace. 

I cannot be fully awed by the depths of his grace and love until I am ever aware of my desperate need for them. I must clear the space in my soul from performance and approval in order to make room to be completely filled with his “enough.”

 Author's photograph, Moose Lake Gospel Camp, Alberta, Canada

Am I trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

Paul tells us in Galatians that we have an enemy who spies on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and tries to make us slaves (Galatians 2:4). Over and over again, we hear the whispers of how we lack through comparisons thrown at us continually and constantly. We weave these into our being, responding with a frenzied need to do more, to be more, and to try harder.

But, when I live as though Jesus is not enough, I cheapen the cost paid on the cross.

I set aside the grace of God by straining to measure up by my own accomplishments, living as if Jesus is not enough.

All the while, my inheritance to claim is an extravagant grace that releases me from trying to be enough because of the marvelous truth that Jesus paid the highest price which was more than enough.

It goes in tandem.

I must release myself from the need to be enough and boldly accept that I am not enough. I am not enough to earn the approval I long for from other people. I am not enough to live up to the standards set by this world. And even more so, I am not enough and never will be enough to earn the right to have an eternal life. 

No rule-following or task accomplished or goal met will ever make me enough. No thing I do or say or achieve will ever be enough for the right to be called a child of God -- to be forgiven and set free. To appease man or appease God. In all my striving, I am denying myself the freedom granted to me to live for the pleasure of God in response to believing the wonder of the gospel.

To live boldly and bravely in way that clings to the confidence that Jesus is enough, I must surrender any part of me that thinks I might become enough. 

What an exchange.

To be freed from all striving, fully resting in the enough of Jesus. This is becoming my daily proclamation.

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