The world bombards us with the message of “whatever you’re currently doing isn’t enough.” I’m sure you’ve heard this message in one form or another. Got a problem? Well, you probably did something to deserve it. That certainly does not mean we should be absolved from all personal responsibility. Far from it. But does everything always come back down to something that you or I did wrong? Or aren’t doing right? I am sure that if I racked my brain long enough I could always drudge up something, for heaven’s sake! I am weary of picking up books promising help in a certain area, only to find a few chapters later, that all the problems I have are all somehow my fault. Got troubles in your life? Well, it’s because you’re not working hard enough. Not praying enough. Not reading your Bible enough. Not giving enough. Not serving enough. Not working out enough. Not meditating enough. Enough, enough, enough. This is the message of the Pharisees (the religious leaders in Jesus’ day), to whom Jesus very clearly spoke these words:
“‘Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help.'” (Matthew 23:4, Msg)
Jesus also said,
“‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'” (Matthew 11:29, Msg).
Freely and lightly? Sign me up! When I think about the load most of us are under in this day and age, it truly boggles my mind. But when I read these words, I hear a gentle, gracious voice whispering hope into my anxious heart. A warm embrace for my weary soul. Strength to keep moving. And so much grace for the journey. And a reminder: that maybe God really doesn’t require that much from us. Maybe we are enough, just as we are.
A friend and I were talking about how many jobs women today have to fill and how unrealistic it is. As moms, we expect ourselves to be meal-planners, car-poolers, social coordinators, accountants, maids, cooks, counselors, coaches, and then at the end of the day we’re supposed to make sure that our relationships with our spouses are healthy and intact. This is a tall, if not impossible order, whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. On top of all that, if we want to be really good, we need to be actively involved at church. And then if we’re homeschooling, add the job of a school teacher. Or room mother. Or…fill in the blank. That’s quite a tall order to fill. I mean, does anyone else see how crazy all this is? I think we might be missing something, or at the very least, our focus is wrong.
When I first came to know Jesus, I remember that free and light feeling. It literally felt like a thousand lead bricks had been gently lifted, by loving and kind hands, off of my bruised and burdened back. Yet it wasn’t long after that I, and the rest of the world, began replacing that oppressive load all over again, brick by burdensome brick. My own insecurities, my need for approval, and expectations of those I cared about all contributed in laying an impressive and impermeable foundation. I’ve had moments in my life since then, where I felt for just a few moments that a fracture in that foundation would occur; and beautiful, heavenly light would shine through. These were the moments when I have felt completely loved and accepted. As I am. No worries. No fear. No expectations. No striving for approval. No…more, more, more. And then as quickly as the dream would begin, I’d find myself ripped out of the reverie and returned to the world of struggle and strife; where the only things that matter are what I do, what I earn, and what I produce.
Not who I am.
The world gives us the message that our worth is in what we do. But God says that our worth is intrinsic. It is in who we are.
I am more convinced than ever that God is more interested in who we are than what we do. You can be the most handsome, polished, upstanding citizen and still have a heart that is black as coal. Jesus said in Matthew 23:25-28 (NLT),
“…You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisees! First wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean, too…You are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
God is far less concerned about our appearances, our earning power, our status, our productivity, what we do, than He is with our very selves. As a parent of four children, I am far more concerned with my children and who they are as people and how they are treating each rather than what they do.
I realize, too, that the older I get, the more comfortable I am with disappointing people. Dropping the ball. Not meeting everyone’s expectations. Not on purpose, of course. But the easier I am on myself, the more I allow myself to be a human being.
I think this is the very message (i.e., lie) from which Christ came to set us free. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. He who the Son sets free is free indeed. His yoke, as opposed to any other yoke, is easy and His burden is light. This is the life that Christ came to give the world, because the world works in systems of measurement, grades, and comparison. This is the message that the Church should be reminding us of on a daily basis, and not reinforcing the “What more can you do?” message. Instead, our message should be one of freedom, hope, and redemption. And above all, love and so much grace.
You cannot earn God’s love, favor, or acceptance. We are told this when we first come to know Jesus as our Lord. But then there’s a little bit of a bait and switch thing that happens. The minute we are transposed from the world of darkness to light, so begins the lists of “do’s” and “don’ts.” The rules and lists of “acceptable” lifestyles, appearances, and behaviors. The “correct” ways to vote. The “good and proper” paths to take.
Enough is enough!
Christ is enough.
And you are enough for Christ.