I was reminded of an important lesson this Christmas.
A family member sent me a series of frantic emails about a present she had made for my daughter. She had sewn a collection of doll clothes but had not finished all of the items. She apologized profusely in her emails and promised to ship off the rest of the pieces to Elsbeth as soon as she finished them.
I assured her that we had absolutely no expectation and were delighted that she send anything. When Christmas arrived, my daughter unwrapped her packages and discovered over 20 beautifully hand-sewn miniature garments.
While the family member only saw the clothes she wanted to make and hadn’t been able to finish — we saw a beautiful array of carefully crafted dresses, pants and shirts. We saw finished whereas she saw incomplete.
I get like that with projects. I see what isn’t done. I see the flaws. The ends that could have been tied up. The words that I could have said. The scenario that could have enfolded but didn’t.
Particularly with Christmas this year, I found myself in a stretch of days where there were too many things to do and not enough of me to go around.
Three days before Christmas, I was hurriedly working on a blog post I wanted to have done that wasn’t quite coming together.
I was wrapping presents and orchestrating last minute holiday details. My son was running around in underpants tugging on me every few minutes to use the bathroom (as we were in full potty-training mode). My husband was on and off the couch, complaining every few minutes about his head hurting, as he had just had a skin cancer spot removed and sewn up with stitches.
Christmas Eve I learned that we would be hosting Christmas and changing all of our plans around because of an unavoidable flu situation. All of this would not have been a big deal except I needed just a little more time to get my blog post out.
So, I typed and worked, finagled and edited. I snapped at my kids a few times and sighed in exasperation when my three-year-old refused to busy himself with anything other than the sleeve of my shirt. In frustration, figuring that I would not have more time to finish the piece, I published it even though there were still a few points I wanted to fine-tune.
After doing so, I felt a little sick to my stomach. This happens when I take my eyes off Him and make everything about me.
-When I think about the fact that people judge every minutiae of my writing because I used to be an English teacher.
-When I get overly grandiose plans for my posts when simple is enough.
-When I worry that the theology of my posts is not on-point when God has told me what to say.
And then I can’t write because I feel so much pressure. I can’t possibly do it all. I can’t be an awesome wife and mother; cook nutritious meals; house-train my son; doctor my husband; pull of a fabulous holiday — and write inspiring posts and launch a ministry.
If I let it, the “not-enough” message plays, and I start thinking that maybe God should choose someone else. I am forgetting that I am not enough apart from Him — but He has made me enough. I only can do what I do through Christ (Phil. 4:13).
On my own, I am a weak, blubbering disaster. In that pressure-cooker place, I need to spend some alone time with God, read His Word, soak up His presence and talk to Him. It is only in Christ’s enough-ness that I can get past the feelings of self-doubt.
Here are some reminders when I feel like I am not enough.
1. Extend myself grace.
In “Leave Room for Grace & Find Your True Voice,” blogger and author Bonnie Gray reminds me to extend myself grace.
I start getting tense and freeze up when I don’t give any allowance for making mistakes. When I go into a project with the mindset of “I’m going to do my best” vs. “It has to be perfect,” I feel more relaxed, and I do a lot better in that mode than rigid-stressed-everything-has-to-be-perfect mode.
When I write because I feel inspired and have something to say opposed to when I write to be impressive or significant, I do a whole lot better.
2. Make it about Him and not about me.
I ‘d love to say that I do this, but I sometimes (OK, all the time) have the tendency to make everything about me. I have had the same message delivered to me in a variety of ways the last few weeks: Make it about Him. I heard a sermon on it a few weeks ago, and then I read two other posts written by blogger and Proverbs 31 contributor Amy Carroll (“I Can’t Do Everything” and “Controlling Your Nerves: Part 3″) about times where she learned that important truth.
When I focus on me, I feel a ton of pressure.
I have been talking about launching a self-worth ministry for a few years now, and I feel an absolute crushing weight when I contemplate the sheer enormity of it. All of my experience, my training as a teacher, is not enough. I need Him. The task He has asked of me is impossible without Him.
I remember feeling stressed when I posted my first article. I told some friends at my mom group, “This is too big for me. There’s just me behind this.” After the group session, I went out to the playground with my son, and I felt God say to me, “No, Carol, there’s me.”
Sitting on a park bench with fall leaves curling around me, I got a picture of God standing behind me. And I remembered this is God’s project, not mine.
3. Accept that I don’t have to know everything. I just have to know the One who does.
Another source of pressure for me in launching a blog is that I feel like I have to know everything. And I don’t. I have two years of Bible school, a lifetime as a Christian in the church, a little training as a Hope minister, and a degree in English — but I still don’t know everything.
I get into the trap of feeling that I have to have a neat, pat answer at the end of each article I write, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I have unanswered questions.
And, that’s OK. Truthfully, the articles that minister to me the most aren’t always the ones that provide a 3-step formula or the ultra-profound observation. As Gray notes in “Leave Room for Grace,” your words can liberate others not because “you have the answer, but because you know their questions.”
Sometimes we have advice to give, but other times we can just voice our struggles and minister to others because our sharing helps people to know someone else is going through the same difficulty.
I feel that because I am starting a ministry, I can’t have doubts, or fears — I have to have it all together, and I don’t. I am human, and I sometimes expect myself not to be. I want to negate that I am fragile. I have to remind myself what God says in 2 Cor. 4:7 (NLT):
We now have this light shining in our hears, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
He still wants to use me even though I fail, fall down, and fail some more.
4. Realize that God is not limited by my failures.
If I really think about it, me worrying about messing up is sort of silly and prideful because it’s assuming God is limited by me. And He’s not. Sure, I want to write effective posts, but God doesn’t need my feeble efforts to work in people’s hearts.
Several years ago, I sang in the choir at another church service. The pastor’s sermon was quite an oratorical wonder, but it was hard for me to follow all of the dramatic dips and turns of his message. Just as I was thinking that the service had been a failure, I was surprised when the pastor closed with a moving story and hordes of people came flocking to the altar for ministry. I felt a very strong presence of the Lord enter the sanctuary, and I started getting a little teary in the choir loft.
Despite what I considered to be a dry sermon delivered with more of a focus on the delivery than a connection with the listeners, this man still was used mightily by God. I have to remember this when I engage in writing. My tendency is to worry about the effectiveness of every sentence.
While I do want to be faithful and present the gospel in an accurate manner, God can speak through my words, but He can also speak beyond and outside my words. He’s not limited by me, and that reality frees me up to do the best I can in communicating His message.
Even if my writing isn’t as articulate as I want, He can still use it to reach someone.
Thinking back to just a few days ago, it wasn’t until I got alone with God and asked for help that things started turning around.
Christmas turned out to be a lovely day. My brother and sister-in-law came over and helped with the preparations. A fire crackled cheerfully in the fireplace. My children occupied themselves with their new toys and didn’t fight like they normally do. My turkey cooked to perfection in record time.
I laughed and played games with family members; we stayed up late into Christmas night reminiscing about memories.
The tight knot of anxiety in my stomach eased as the day wore on.
In reflecting over my almost emotional meltdown, I know that there will be times ahead in 2015 when I come to that place of “not enough.” But when I do, like the Hillsong song says, I want to say, “Christ is Enough.”
When I am tempted to think about my imperfection, I want to instead think about Christ’s perfection.
Like the apostle Paul, I want to say of my hardships:
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Here’s why you don’t have to be enough — through Christ you already are!
Blessings as you enter a new year!
Related Bible Verses:
John 12:49,50: “For I do not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken … So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Proverbs 16: 3: “Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”