Enough: Learning to Open My Clenched Fists

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I’ve written before about my struggles to realize I’m good enough, have enough, do enough. I’ve written on these topics so frequently that I might even say, “The struggle is real.” Which it is. The struggle for “enough” is real and relentless and exhausting. And it never ends, because whatever goals we set for ourselves now are the things we’ll see in the rearview mirror on the way to the next milestones we’ll seek.

What will happen, for example, once I reach 100 blog subscribers? I’ll want 200. Then 500. And someday, thousands. And tens of thousands. And so on and so forth. I will probably never feel satisfied if I pin my idea of success on such metrics, and I realize this is just one example of how we think we’ll be happy when we achieve something, but that happiness will always come with the next thing, never with where we are now, even when where we are and what we have are the things that were once out of reach.

You feel me?

I’m convinced, more and more, that “enough” is an illusion, and striving for it by worldly, external, competitive standards just leads to emptiness. But we’re conditioned from our days as students working for one A+ after another, to look to external validation as a means of measuring our worth. And I am afraid, as the Dutch priest Henri Nouwen prays, “…to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before [God] with empty hands?”

I am afraid to let go of the idea of earthly success, because 1) it’s so tantalizing, and 2) even when I try to rest my heart on love for, connection with, and service of other people – the really important things, we might say – I still often feel that I’m not doing that quite right, either.

I meet a friend for dinner but I’m not present to her, my mind on my to-do list while she’s pouring out her heart to me. The trash needs to be taken out, the dishwasher emptied, the floor vacuumed, but I leave that work for my sister (who also happens to be my roommate), because my list of things to do at the moment feels more important. My pride says I have to have the last word in every argument. I don’t volunteer as much as I should.

And that’s just the beginning of a number of things that add up to make me feel like I’m doing a less-than-satisfactory job at all that “important stuff”, too.

So, to echo Henri Nouwen’s question, “Who will I be?”

And to answer it: Who I will be, is who I have always been. Worthy. Enough. Loved.  Just as I am.

It seems suddenly silly to me that we spend our lives striving for a sense of worth that is actually our birthright as humans who were loved into existence. And it’s especially silly when I consider the fact that three years ago at this time, I attended a retreat at my university that affirmed my worth and identity as a member of the human community and a daughter of God – a retreat that essentially served to remind me that I am already enough, that I am already loved.

In the post-graduate hustle to find purpose and the shuffle to make a name for ourselves and accomplish big things, it's easy to forget we don’t need to do all that.

Instead, we can rest in God’s unconditional love and grace. That is what will always guarantee we're enough.

I don’t have many scripture verses memorized, but as a lifelong choir member and cantor at Mass, I do have a handy number of Catholic liturgical songs memorized. So I’m going to leave you tonight with three of my favorites to remind of your worth when you doubt:

“Do not be afraid; I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me,
I will bring you home.
I love you and you are mine.”
-       “You Are Mine,” David Haas

“You know my heart and its ways,
You who formed me before I was born,
In the secret of darkness,
Before I saw the sun,
In my mother’s womb.”
-       “You Are Near”, Dan Schutte

And this last one, my favorite, so good it makes me cry when the meaning really sinks in:

By name I have called you.
By name I have saved you.
By name, you are mine, you are precious to me.”
-       “By Name I Have Called You”, Richard Carney

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