Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pretty, Popular, Good

(The Gospel of Not Good Enough, Part 3)

The heartbreaking adolescent desires to be pretty and popular and good seem long behind me. It’s been more than two decades since I graduated from high school. Now, work is the thing. But in some ways the struggles are the same.

I long to do work that is pretty, popular, and good!

Amazingly, I’ve been in the same job for almost 15 years. I’m a quick learner anyway, but with all the experiences and responsibilities that have come my way I have more knowledge, ability, and opportunity than I know what to do with.

Perhaps that’s part of why I so often agree to (or am slotted into) projects or priorities that are (by themselves) well within my scope, yet all together, not possible. Between internal willingness and external pressures I generally end up with too much to do.

This makes failure inevitable.

Yet when I think about the unfinished (and unbegun) projects, I get mired in guilt, shame, and self-condemnation.

At the office we’re working on annual plans. How can we do more? The assignment: come up with ideas for our next "big, hairy, audacious goals" (BHAGs).

Is this a reasonable question for a task-oriented group to ask? I don't think anyone is blind to the fact that if we add things to our to-do lists we'll need to take things off them as well. But I am torn. Part of me begs: Please, don’t push me to do more! At the same time, as each idea is discussed, I start to think: yeah…. We could do that. We should do that! 

I’m bewildered by my own emotions about all this.

The Gospel of Not Good Enough

Smart planning, good boundaries, and accountability can be very helpful. But for me I think these tensions can only be resolved by an internal reformation. The answers are wrapped up in how I see myself and my “contribution.”

Just as when I was an uptight teenager, I get caught in the trap of taking myself way too seriously. Looking back at those days at camp when I acknowledged to the God who made me how lost and desperate I felt, I remember how in repentance and surrender, I found freedom. I threw myself on God and gave up on trying to perform for him.

There is something so liberating about confessing, “I’m not good enough.” Especially when the response is, “I know. And that’s OK, it’s not the tragedy it seems. I love you. You are who I want you to be; you are where I want you to be.”

Isn’t that what the gospel is about, recognizing that good deeds and sacrifices are not going to cut it, that a radical change in perspective is required? This year I’d like to take some steps in letting go of finding my identity in my performance.

I want to embrace the gospel of not being good enough. 

Series: The Gospel of Not Good Enough

The prequel: Asking for Direction(s)
Part 1: Waving the White Flag of Surrender
Part 2: Best Week of Your Life
Part 3: Pretty, Popular, Good