Rachel Held Evans wrote a great blog recently about the concept of being ‘enough’ and it got me thinking seriously about what that would actually mean – to feel like you were ‘enough,’ simply by the fact of your existence.
I’m not talking about being enough because I work hard, or prepare meals, or work out at the gym, or read good books, or go to church or do laundry, or get paid. I’m not talking about being enough, because I do anything right, or of value.
I am enough, simply because I am.
Talk about a radical idea…
Last week I made a hand-written sign to put above my desk where I sit and write. It said, “Things don’t have to be perfect. Good enough really is good enough!!!” If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that wanting things to be ‘perfect’ is one of my vices.
It’s something I’m working on, with imperfect results, of course.
Case in point, the first sign I made wasn’t just right and I was about to make a new one to improve the spacing and color coordination, when I caught myself. Apparently when I created the sign, I hadn’t actually meant it. I considered it a minor victory that I stopped myself and said, “This sign is good enough.”
I apologize to my kids frequently for putting them on the wrong side of the column – the side where I put things I can make perfect, things that I can control. Don’t ask me why ANYTHING is in that column at all. It’s a fantasy, but it’s especially insulting to other human beings when you make them your own personal perfection projects. My kids don’t deserve that! No one does. Tim, by the way, was off that list about 15 years ago, which I think is the reason we’re still happily married today.
Ah, but back to my sign. By creating the sign, I was trying to remind myself not to obsess over my writing, my work, my kids, my finances, my house, my life. I was trying to encourage myself to see that things really are okay, and that okay is okay.
But after I read Rachel’s blog, I saw that my signs didn’t go far enough. By telling myself to let things simply be ‘good enough,’ I was still saying flat out that they could be better, that they probably should be better, but that forgiving myself for not making them better was the best way to go.
But Rachel’s point is this – we are enough. Simply by the fact of our existence, our birth, our presence in the world, we are enough.
If I get the dishes done before Tim comes home, I am enough. If I don’t, I’m still enough. If I make a healthy, home-cooked meal, I am enough; if they eat McDonald’s, yep, I’m still enough. If I smile at my neighbor, work in a soup kitchen, and turn in a kick ass assignment for my boss, I am worthy and even when I don’t, I am enough.
And honestly, I don’t think feeling like I am enough would let me off the hook. It doesn’t mean that I can lay around the house all day, watching reruns, eating Cheetos and feeling good about myself. Well, sometimes I can. But for the most part, I imagine that having the sense that I am enough would give me the desire to treat other people as if they were enough – my kids, my spouse, the annoying checker at the supermarket. If I am enough, so are they, and so how in the world could I treat them as if they left something to be desired? However they are, they are enough to merit my love, my respect, my time and for the checker at Vons, at least a smile.
I went walking on Saturday morning, with this radical concept of enough-ness, rattling around in my head. After reading her blog, I got why she says we are enough – at least in theory. And I started to reflect on how I can know something is true and yet have that knowledge barely scratch the surface of my heart. And then I laughed, because of course, for me, knowing something is very different from feeling something.
I know I am enough, but do I feel like enough?
Not by a long shot!
So that was my task as I walked that morning. I prayed that my heart, this hard little shell that I have lodged deep in my chest, would crack open just a little bit, and allow what I know in my head to drop down into my heart, to give me just a glimpse, just a taste of what it feels like to be enough. I would have loved a rush of emotion, a complete transformation, a ‘born again’ moment, but alas, no such miracles were forthcoming.
But at one point under the balcony of trees in the canyon, I stopped and I just breathed in and out, trying to be present to myself, to my heart and mind. I lifted up my insecurities, my perfectionist impulses, my ‘to-do-to-be-perfect’ list and I dismissed them. I just said, “Here. I don’t want them. Take them and don’t give them back.”
Of course they didn’t really go anywhere. I talk a good game, but apparently my well-trained compulsions are on a short leash. They always come back to me, even when I don’t call.
So what I hoped for didn’t happen, but this did. After a minute or two of standing there, wishing like crazy that I could feel something that felt like being enough, I opened my eyes, and this is what I saw.
And I knew that my prayers, my desires, my longings were heard. Somehow, the request had gone out. I did not get the answer I wanted, right when I wanted it, which would have been perfect, but I got a sign of Love, of Presence, and of Grace.
And it wasn’t just good.
It was simply enough.