What If: You Are Not Enough and That’s OK?

Time and again, I find myself in the darker seasons of life with thoughts of enough-ness. Up to this point in my life I have believed that this question brought me to a two path road. One of the paths was the belief that of course you are not enough. You are a flawed, sinful human and without the work of the saving grace of Jesus, you will never be enough. That is a road that while I’m driving, has many dangerous side roads that I have tried to navigate unsuccessfully. I hate that road. But the other road is equally as scary, mainly because of my well grooved belief paths made by the first road. As I have worked to explore self-help and personal growth, I have heard the phrase ‘you are enough’ at every turn. I think I am growing to hate this phrase equally as much.

I am not always enough. I am whole. I am growing. I am committed to the journey of self. But there are big, messy pieces of me that are not completely enough. I don’t want to be labeled complete because that implies that in that moment I am finished growing. I have so much more to learn. I have so many more experiences and goals and dreams to fulfill. What I long to say is I am not enough, and that is perfectly sufficient.

According to MerriamWebster the word ‘enough’ means “occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.” For me to say that I am enough, is to tell a lie to myself. I hate liars. I mean, I really hate liars. I’m not lying to myself today. I don’t have all that I need to meet the needs of myself, my children and all people I love. To try and tell myself ‘I am Enough’ is to continue to perpetuate a false belief that I am allowed to stop working on myself, my growth and my learning.

After staring down these two roads, I have realized a third path is required for me. I need to know that I am not enough – not out of a deficiency, not out of sin, not even because I am not capable of being enough. I am not enough because I am not supposed to be self-sufficient. What I need is a basic belief that I am enough-ish. I need to know that I am enough to keep fighting for. Not because I already have all that I need inside of myself already, but I am enough because I am me. In my very own being, my faulty wiring and all, I have the capacity to love and thrive and live and grow and change and mature and risk and fail and love some more. That also means that in my enough-ness, I have to believe that I am worthy of inhabiting the space that my life has gifted me. My ideas and thoughts are worthy. My brain and hopes and dreams are important and relevant.

Thanks to the brilliance of my wise and beautiful youngest child (who just stumbled in to see what I was writing about today) I was given an image of a roadside billboard pointing to my 3rd way road. “Mom,” she said, “your road should say, ‘I am enough for this moment.'” Damn, Ally. You do get me.

What If: Resurrection Still Matters?

Resurrection. A word that is deeply woven into the very fabric of all that is the Jesus story. One that is argued and disputed and yet held as a non-negotiable doctrine of Christianity. For once, I am not arguing. I’m not interested in that discussion today. What I need to say about this question is that resurrection does matter. It matters in such a significant way. A way that shapes all of us, even when we think we are not part of the story. Resurrection is the moment that life returns from death – when we think that the darkness has won and yet it does not have the last say.

“They were afraid.”

“They were filled with fear.”

“Do not be alarmed.”

These words depict the moments that the women came to Jesus’ tomb and they knew something was not right. The followers of Jesus knew about death, they knew about separation. They knew about having their very hope ripped from their hands and lives. The darkness won on Friday. The pain seemed everlasting. They had every reason to be afraid, and they were.

I get this. I have known moments of the deepest fear. A moment of looking over a bridge thinking that the world would be better without me. A moment of waking up still drunk and knowing that I was killing myself. A moment of removing a loaded gun from a desperate friend’s hand. A moment of crying on the floor of my closet wondering if my child would be alive in the morning. I know about fear. I know about the moments when things seem unfixable. I know about the times that by all worldly accounts, there is no good to come. I know about the kind of fear that can easily feel like the entire world is shaking at its core, earthquake like.

But I also know resurrection. I know the voice that says, “Do not be afraid.” I know the friends that walk into your life at the moment that you didn’t know you needed them. I know about the doctor that takes the time to listen and help. I know about the words of truth that call forth hope from moments of death. I know about the kind of resurrection that transforms the pain so much that recognition is unclear. This is why we can’t deny resurrection. Resurrection is the reshaping, the breath giving, soul returning patchwork that God has done and is doing in our lives every day. Resurrection happened and it is happening – ALL AROUND US!

I have been in a bit of a lifeless season. It was time for some ways of thinking and shaming and self-betrayal to die. I have spent the last two months working incredibly hard to breathe some life back into places in my soul that have seen death. 6 weeks ago, I began an intentional journey with these questions thanks to my girl, Glennon. In her new book Untamed, she unpacks this line that took me out at the knees:

“You need to make sure that the eyes in the mirror are the eyes of a woman you respect.”

And then she went on to pose some ass kicking questions that I have used as a resurrection standard for the next season of my life. What is my root belief? Do I value that belief? What is my boundary? What is true and beautiful? I have spent hours writing and shaping these truths about myself. It has been such a gift of new life. I am breathing life into and embracing the woman that I know God has been calling forth for some time. But it does not come without pain.

Resurrection requires death. To believe in the gift of resurrection is to trust that in dying to self (or lies, or systems, or erroneously owned labels) we are allowing and believe that something new can be reborn in its place. Resurrection means that we aren’t always in control, because new life comes from a Divine source that we have to allow it to heal and shape. Resurrection is the absolute best but it takes the most excruciating pain to experience. I don’t want to sugar coat this, the dying part sucks. It feels like your insides are being ripped out and exposed for all to use at a dart board. But, oh, the other side. The beautiful, brave, bold, subversive, honoring, life breathing side of resurrection. It’s time for you to see that side.

So what’s it going to be, my friend? What needs to die so that you can live? Let’s do this together.

What If: The Devil Doesn’t Even Begin to Describe the Evil of this World?

The devil. What a fascinating historical and literary image that scholars have passionately pursued for generations in all areas of art. The movies, in particular, offer eerie representations of what happens when human desires reign and a pitchforked, latex wearing red thing wields destruction and demise. In almost every religious expression, we see a representation of evil at work in the world, but in the faith that is rooted in Biblical texts, there is a figure that carries many names (Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, the Antichrist, Father of Lies, Satan) and has one purpose – destruction.

Recently, I have been watching National Geographic’s The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. This fascinating look at all aspects of faith and religious practice has been a wonderful trip around the world to explore the way that people connect with the Divine. The first episode of season 3 is called “Search for the Devil.” In this episode, we are introduced to many expressions of perceived evil. While the different understandings and approaches to the existence of evil is intellectually fascinating, I find it important to note that there is a universal stream of belief that flows through most religious traditions. Almost without exception, there is a base agreement that there exists in the universe a presence that divides. I often wonder if my attempt to quantify and define the presence of the forces against, have pushed me to once again build a box of “understanding” that fits. The more I explore the “why’s” and “how’s” of my faith life, the more insufficient these boxes feel.

Like many belief structures of the Christian faith, it is fascinating to me the ways that different periods in history had vastly different views the devil. While many people who study the Bible would trace evil to the serpent in the Garden in Genesis, there is actually no mention of the devil in the creation narrative. Interestingly, the Hebrew word that is later translated as devil or Satan, was used to describe the human oppositions to the prophetic work of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament. In the direct translation of the Hebrew, the same word is “the adversary.”

While we can spend an enormous about of energy dissecting and challenging the way the Church has defined evil in the past, I wonder if a more valuable conversation is rooted in our experience of division. If the roots of “evil” and the “devil” are in separation and destruction, we know about those things. We don’t need to define them because we see and feel them every day. There is no doubt in my mind that you and I both know evil: cancer cells dividing to kill, the bullet that flies through an English classroom, the fist that lands on the cheek of a child as a drunk parent rages, the trauma of rape, the bottle of pills that is a siren in the mind of a suicidal teen. These are images that define the desperate and powerful work of adversarial force.

We live in a world that is saturated with a power hungry hierarchal pyramid of inequality and hate. We continually make excuses for the ways that we (YOU and ME) are outside of this norm, and yet each and every one of us are perpetuators of the very divisive nature that scriptures and mystics and shamans and elders teach others to caution. The more I study the devil and the power of evil, the less I care about the definition or the “correct” theological wrapping paper. What I know is that the elements of separation (the very context of evil) are all around, many in ways that we would like to ignore and minimize. What if rather than worrying about the reality of the horns or the talons of the creature, we acknowledged in our spirit that we look evil in the eye everyday – in others and more importantly in ourselves. The only way that I know to drown the voices of hate and division and lies is to first recognize them and call them out, and secondly to breathe (remember our conversation on this subject?) love and healing all over those wounds.

Advent 2019: Hope

I am a documentary nut. I love to watch them on all the streaming things. Recently, I have watched multiple accounts of the journey of patients with AIDS – both in the early days of the epidemic and the advancements in treating the disease. One of these stories was the account of program that was started in Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Hospital.

In the mid-80s, these women of faith stood eye to eye with one of the most hope-LESS diseases of our time. With no cure and an almost certain death sentence, they loved and cared and nursed and offered grace in ways that I can almost promise none of them ever intended. It’s almost as if they were open to not-knowing…

One of the sisters, Bernie Mulick said, “It’s part of our mission as Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for those who are poor and sick and needy. We have always cared for the forgotten ones, for the underdogs. They were the railroaders and the coal miners in our earliest days in Utah. During the 1980s and 1990s, individuals with HIV and AIDS were the lepers of the time, and no one else was taking care of them.”

Another nurse, Sr. Linda Bellemore said, “Those were the years of fear about the transmission of this terminal disease resulting in alienation from family, friends and society due to their diagnosis. At the time of their lives when they most needed care and support, how could I not help? The need was obvious, and I am committed to serving people as Jesus did, especially the poor and alienated.”

Watching this film made be want to be that kind of hope dealer. These women were hope with skin. The kind of hope that stands in the face of death and pain and horrible alienation and loves. Because there was no cure. There was no medicine. There was not even a promise of acceptance and basic care. And yet the Sisters offered hope in the midst of the darkest, darkest pain. 

We don’t get to have hope without having seen pain. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to walk into the darkness. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason we need hope to begin with.

Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open, even in the midst of our not-knowing and darkness and longing. The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. 

Advent is for the ones who know longing for that kind of hope.