Category Archives: Enough

Three Things to Remember When Facing Regret

Recently my brother and I found ourselves in NYC, on a trip we had dreamed about for years and planned for months. I couldn’t believe we were actually—finally—in New York City. Every step was exciting, every obscure building a photo op.

As the days flew by, I quickly realized things I wished we had done differently. For instance, we didn’t plan as much time for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum as I would have liked, and we had to speed through the last exhibits in the Museum. I also wished we had called our hotel ahead of time to ask about baggage storage after checkout; had we known about that cheap option we would have chosen later flights on our departure day and had one last sightseeing opportunity.

At some point in life, each of us will have regrets about harder things than travel plans. Most of us already do. When the what-ifs and if-onlys in plague our memories, here are three things it helps to remember.

We Are Not Perfect

We will not lead perfect lives. We are not strong enough or wise enough to do everything right, and to be human is to belong to that globally inclusive club of Those Who Mess Things Up. As Christians, we know that one of the Gospel’s central truths is that we will never be perfect—and we don’t have to be.

It is one of the ironic things of life that this truth is more liberating than condemning. Since we know that we and everyone around us will fail sometimes, it is not as much of a shock to us when we do.

God is Bigger Than Our Failures

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

No matter how serious our mistakes and problems, they cannot be greater than the power, grace, and love of God. Far from it: our greatest failure became His deepest gift of redemption. I mean, really. Think you’ve messed things up? Talk to Adam and Eve in the garden, with fruit juice staining their hands and nakedness taunting their conscience.

He knows our hearts. He knows we will never be perfect on our own. No matter how many mistakes and failures occur between now and heaven, our imperfections are covered by His perfect grace.

Because our perfection no longer depends on what we do.

When We Fail We Lose Nothing

So we should have done it differently, and we didn’t. We may be frustrated with our own ineptness, or, in a more serious situation, grieve what could have been had we done things right. We may need to apologize and seek forgiveness, depending on the mess we made this time.

But then we move on. We don’t have to live in that failure, or build up layers of restitution until we earn our way out of debtor’s prison. All the important things are still true, untouched by our inability and failure and stupidity.

God is still on His throne. We are still His people. He is still writing our story and everyone else’s, and no matter what glitch we think we caused in this chapter, He has already made it into something good that we will see with time.

Our faith is founded (partially) on our failure to be good. Catch that? Our faith is founded on our failure. Through the sacrificial death of Christ, our perfection is found in our identity with Him. Our failures can’t touch that.

In all those little and not-so-little messes of our own making, our identity stands strong and firm in the righteousness gifted to us by Christ. We don’t lose any standing with God or drop a rung on the ladder to heaven. Our relationship with Him is a gift, and will stay that way regardless of our stumblings.

When Those Regrets Come

As we travel through life, there will be problems in the journey. Dreams-come-true morph into mild disasters and our best efforts disintegrate into Have-I-Ever-Told-You stories.

We will have regrets. As we lay them at the feet of the God who sees our faltering efforts and knows our weak human hearts, we can trust He will keep us from stumbling too far and that His grace can cover all our if-onlys. Each of our regrets drives us to Him who does all things well, and who welcomes us with all our failures still attached.

What Cinderella Taught Me about the Body of Christ

“Would who she was—who she really was—be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest a risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.”

With that phrase Disney’s most recent Cinderella (2015) distanced itself from the animated version of my childhood.  I watched as the unloved stepdaughter emerged from the attic, coming face to face with the prince of her dreams and the memory of her night of escape. She didn’t know if the glass slipper in his hands would fit without her fairy godmother’s spell. Would her deepest longings come true? Or would the magic be lost—forever?

Photo source

We can empathize with Cinderella’s gamble: It is risky. What if others see who we really are deep down inside? Will they see our struggles and oddities and decide we’re more trouble than we’re worth? Will they catch a glimpse of our insecurities and walk away before they are entangled in our issues?

Will we be enough to keep them from turning away? Continue reading What Cinderella Taught Me about the Body of Christ

More and More

It seems to be a first-world, 21st-century dilemma that we get whiplash from all the possibilities we have to do good around us. Sometimes we simply don’t know what to do with all of our options.

Should I devote myself to overseas missions? Pro-life causes?  The orphan and the widow? The homeless?

We seek out God’s guidance in our own lives, and that is good. But sometimes our murky understanding of “God’s will” leads us to expect unforgettable “Eureka!” moments of unearthing it. We look for black-and-white, unmistakable signs of what should be our life’s passion and greatest work.

We wonder what God has for us next, or would have us do now, or what He has waiting for us. Our questioning and seeking begs the question—is it something different? Is it something we don’t yet have?

Keep Going on the Road You’re On

During a time of great pressure and crises for the early church, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers. He was suffering. Others were suffering. Paul feared all the suffering would discourage the Thessalonians from their faith, but was overjoyed when Timothy reported the opposite (1 Thess. 3:1-5). In that situation, in that time, how did Paul counsel the Thessalonians to live and act and pursue their purpose?

He didn’t ask them to start any new initiatives or reforms. Didn’t suggest starting their day with a to-do list, or dreaming big to decide how to spend their time.

Paul asked them to remember.

“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

More and more.

We taught you to love each other, Paul reminded the church. Remember how we talked about living in faith? Keep doing that. Just do it more.

Paul prayed for the church in Thessalonica, but not that they would discern, discover, or otherwise find out the will of God for them. He didn’t pray that they would move on to the next step or start the next phase.

He prayed that they would continue on the road they had chosen. That what they had begun to understand they would live out more often. That what they had started doing they would do more often. That the way of life they were called to would define them “more and more.”

Not Always Different

It’s as if Paul thought they already had what they needed. They didn’t need something new.

More often than not, my days are driven by my own American sense of aiming for the stars and getting something done. Something bigger than daily, seemingly-small obedience.

Really, what can we do? We keep looking around us for ideas, seeking a way we can be a part of what God is doing.

As if we don’t think it counts to just be His. As if we think we have to earn our place. As if we think He can’t lead us without our help.

But He loves as His children, He earned it for us, and if He has led us this far we can trust Him to get us home.

Now that we are here, at His table, all we have to do is follow Him. Every day.

Maybe seeking God’s will for my life is often less about doing something different and more about doing something more. If you and I are living in love, walking in righteousness, and seeking Him daily, then we are already doing what He wants. We just need to do more of it.

We may have big dreams, and we could go on a grand adventure. There will likely be crazy twists and turns in the road ahead of us. But the heart of His will for us is to keep on keeping on in what we’ve already begun to learn, to increase, to keep growing. And to do so more and more.

“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you” (1 Thess. 3:11-12).

You Are More Than That One Thing!

She was talking about someone we barely knew, the mother of a little girl in our class. Two-year-old Molly was adorable, hilarious, sweet—and highly opinionated and emotional. We admired her parents for calmly working with her through every meltdown without giving in to her fits. But after babysitting Molly and her brother, my fellow toddler teacher was telling us that Molly’s mother had confided in her that she felt like she wasn’t patient enough with her own children, that she wasn’t being as good of a mom as she should be.

“Are you kidding me?” another teacher asked. “She is so patient. Have her spend some time with me and I’ll show her ‘not patient.’”

“I know,” my friend agreed. “She’s a great mom.”

“It’s like no matter how good of a job she’s doing, there’s this one thing they aren’t as good at and they focus on it,” our third teacher friend continued about another mom who also doubted her own parenting skills. Her eyes widened as if she was talking to one of the moms right then. “You are more than that one thing!”

Hidden but Real

If there was anyone who could who could build their reputation from their own accomplishments, it was Paul—the apostle, the author of many New Testament books, the pioneer church planter, the eventual martyr.

“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death” (2 Corinthians 11:22-23).

But there was more going on inside him. Paul had his problems. He had his failures and shortcomings that weren’t as obvious as his achievements, but they were just as real.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (from Romans 7:15-24).

Paul—the evangelist, the writer, the preacher, the sufferer—had his own inner struggles. His own failures. His own defeats. Every day. How did this giant of the faith reconcile his daily reality with what he knew to be true? How did he live with the knowledge that he wasn’t good enough?

Free in Every Way

The following paragraph opens Romans 8 with these life-giving words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).

No condemnation. No condemnation.

None.

If we are in Christ, no one can condemn us. Not even us. Not for any failure, shortcoming, or mishap that has happened in our lives—or this morning.

Don’t miss this: Paul grounded his worth in accomplishment, yes, and he definitely based his identity on complete perfection. Just not his own.

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).

We have been set free in every way. In the deepest ways. That freedom bought by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice fills every nook and cranny of our lives, overflowing in a steadfast hope that, no matter how we fail or how often we fall, we will come out victorious. We already are.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us… [W]e are more than conquerors through him who loved us­” (from Romans 8:31-39).

Enough

Even though we all have areas to work on, they do not define us. We’ll never be “enough” and not one of us will ever have a perfect day. And that’s okay, because He is enough. Enough to fill in the gaps. Enough to bring strength from weakness. Enough to redeem our biggest failures—and even those thousand little ones that just won’t go away.

When our accomplishments are drowned out by the loud reminders of all we’ve left undone, we can tell our weary souls that it is finished. Not by us, but by Him who knows our steps, our thoughts, our failure—and loves us anyway. Nothing can change that. Not even that one thing.