Do You Wonder if You Give Enough to Jesus?

Published: Aug 18, 2020
Do You Wonder if You Give Enough to Jesus?

We want to give God our best, right? This seems straightforward—living a life “worthy of the calling we have received.” But the more I’ve examined this yearning to give my best, the less it seems Christ-centered.

Can I tell you my guilty secret? I hate prayer requests.

For years, I deliberately didn’t write them down. The pressure to pray for people wore me out.

You already admire me tremendously, don’t you?

Prayer requests make me think awkward thoughts. For instance: When I pray for someone, can I just name them, or do I need to recite specifics? How long should I keep remembering the request? One day, one week? one year? When can I forget their request? (Please don’t say never.)

Even asking these questions sounds awful. So far, no one has handed me a Prayer Etiquette book that addresses my questions. (If you have read that book, send it to me, stat.)

Look, prayer requests are like news headlines: they are a reminder of just how much pain there is in this world. I have trouble opening my heart because it overwhelms me.

My weakness feels petty given that we are supposed to give our all to Jesus. Day after day, I am reminded just how much “all” is. It feels impossible, wearying, overwhelming. I used to snort when I read those verses about Jesus giving us an “easy” yoke. It sure didn’t feel easy. My endless anxiety about faith is a leaden, elephantine burden.

Then, one day, I discovered I had everything upside down—and it changed me.

I think what I’ve learned might help you, too.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Rawpixel

“Our Best” Is a Weird Trap

I mean, of course we’d want to give God our best, right? This seems completely straightforward—living a life “worthy of the calling we have received.”

But the more I’ve examined this yearning to give my best, the less it seems Christ-centered.

Let’s start with the word “my.” It’s not focused on God, but me.

I thought Jesus wanted me to bring my best efforts, show up with the best I had to offer, but the more closely I read the gospels, the more I see Jesus meeting people in their absolute lack. Their desperation. Their bewilderment. Their moment of greatest weakness.

Yes, they often offer a great treasure as well—take the story of the sinful woman anointing Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. The context of the story is telling.

The woman is known as a sinner. She has not pulled her life together, done her quiet times and service projects faithfully, or stewarded her resources savvily in order to present a gift to the teacher. No, she has gate-crashed a party where she’s considered a pariah—both because of her sin and because she’s a woman. She is absolutely vulnerable as she washes Jesus’ feet with her hair—and someone accuses her of waste as she cries.

We imagine God wants our best efforts, our carefully curated talents, our biggest contributions, our disciplined growth, but instead I think God wants us to show up desperate with our two mites and fling them in his direction.

Jesus isn’t waiting for us to have enough. Instead, he wants us to realize our enoughness isn’t required at all.

Rather than striving towards “good enough,” I’ve begun focusing on my desperation instead. When I am afraid to pray for the world, God invites me to notice my broken-heartedness. When I am overwhelmed, God asks me to rest. When I feel weak, he invites me to tell the women in my small group that I am afraid to pray.

I don’t need to work towards enough. “Good-enough” distracts me from the gift Jesus actually gives me: the chance to be fully honest about my helplessness.

woman looking up questioning

“Should” Distracts Me from Discernment

You know that thing where you envy other people? I’m not the only one that does that, right?

I get really star-struck with Christian service. I envy those who start ministries to the poor or take a vow of poverty or minister to refugees. You know, the really meaningful ministries, the ones I should be doing, rather than the ordinary, humdrum, unremarkable stuff I can actually manage with my gifts, anxiety, and introversion.

This is the way my brain operates, anyway. Full of condemnation for myself, and discounting the ways God actually has gifted me.

My therapist asked me recently: “What has God made you to do?”

I thought a while. This was a hard question. Still, I immediately thought of the way Exacto knifes or felt-tipped pens feel in my hand, the sound of my hands typing, the pleasure of editing an essay until it sings.

I said, almost reluctantly, “God made me to make things.” I thought some more. “And to love a very few people.”

I’ll be honest: “making things” often does not feel like a good enough reason to exist. Quite honestly, there is a lot of pain in the world, and me writing an essay or making or a cardboard dollhouse with my daughter do not feel like they justify my existence.

But has God ever asked me to justify my existence? Does he ask sunsets to produce a return on investment?

I am beloved and called in a unique way, through the gifts and weaknesses God has given me. There is no mandate to become someone I am not. I need to pay attention to my actual calling, not the one that seems most “sold-out.” I need to do the hard things am called to, not aspire to skills God has not provided.

Amen - thinking of the students’ words: “God made me for this.” Rang in my ears for the years afterwards. What has God made me for?

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Eunice Lituanas

“Enough” Is Different for All of Us

A good friend of mine visited me when I had two children under seven. As we caught up, he said, “So how are you using your gifts to serve the church, Heather?”

I stared at him blankly. I had given up wearing makeup because it was too time consuming. I considered it a great achievement to successfully scrub a toilet once a week.

How was I using my gifts? What gifts? All I had was the mammalian presence of my body and two small children who were practically appendages.

Honestly, I felt like a failure.

But does the good news of Jesus really mean that the humble service of caregiving is not enough?

In fact, our idea of “enough” often means “able-bodied” and “abundantly resourced.”

What does “enough” mean:

  • For those housebound with chronic illnesses?
  • For full-time caregivers?
  • For someone working three jobs?
  • For someone recovering from PTSD or surgery?

Are only those of us who are able-bodied, healthy, competent, and confident ready to experience Jesus in his fullness? Ready to use the gifts God gave them? Ready to serve and lead?

Are only those operating at peak efficiency able to do “enough”?

In his ministry, Jesus reached out and uplifted the unlikeliest people—country-bumpkin disciples, a chronically ill woman, religious outcasts, a murderous Pharisee. Our idea of “enough” was not a necessary qualification.

We think God asks us to aspire to greatness, when instead Christ invites us to matter right here and now, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

Jesus Doesn’t Ask for Our Competence

Too often, we think of faith like a college course we signed up for. We register for the course (the sinner’s prayer), attend class (church), listen to lectures (sermons) and do our homework (devotionals). If we complete all the prerequisites and pass the tests, we’ll get credit (closeness to Jesus.)

Let’s contrast this idea with Christ’s parables: a garden where the seed grows without help, a host who invites ruffians to his banquet, an employer who vastly overpays his hapless temp employees.

Note: our competence, effort, and organizational skills are not the point.

There’s a reason Jesus says the rich person entering the Kingdom is like a camel going through a needle’s eye. Our competence, privilege, and skills actually distract us from the Source of our healing.

We want to show up with our best. It seems only fair.

Instead, Jesus tells us He is free for the taking.

Thanks be to God: as soon as we worry we are not enough, we are that much closer to remembering that Jesus is.


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