Have you ever felt like you scarred someone for life?
I attended the US Army’s rotary-wing flight school as the single Mom of a four-year-old and an infant, whom I was breastfeeding. I would always pump breast milk right before heading out for the day’s training flight.
The Army hadn’t exactly caught up with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s requirement for a private lactation space for breastfeeding moms. So there I was, with my BDU blouse open and my undershirt pulled up, on the Vietnam-era flight line bathroom floor with my milk-engorged breasts attached to a dual-suction pump. It was on its highest setting because I was in a hurry. I needed my boobs to go from full to empty as quickly as possible. I was quite the scene, I imagine.
One day, a young, bright-eyed fellow flight student came in. She looked to be about five to ten years younger than I was. As our eyes met, I realized the extent to which she was both totally shocked and deeply embarrassed.
Maybe she’d never seen her breasts before? Who knows. It was certainly clear that she’d never seen cantaloupe-sized dairy queens with nipples the size of drink coasters suctioned like udders via an industrial-sized, noisy boob-sickle-maker.
To be enough.
She looked away. After she finished in the stall into which she had gone, pointedly looking away from me, she washed her hands and exited the bathroom in quite a hurry.
I am certain that I scarred her for life. I wonder now if she ever decided to have children, or if she did and decided to breastfeed, or if the sight of my hot-breastfeeding-mess on the bathroom floor made her decide that motherhood wasn’t for her. I’ll never know.
A couple of months later, the stress of being a single Mom going through flight school caught up with me, and my breasts stopped being able to produce milk. I was devastated. I felt like I was failing my baby girl.
For me, motherhood has been one long, painful lesson in how inadequate I am. I could never be enough.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that it wasn’t that young woman that I scarred for life.
I was harming myself and the people I love by trying to be someone other than who I am.
I was trying to be enough for the world instead of what God was calling me to be.
That was not the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time that I had tried too hard to do too much and fell short with all of it.
I still struggle with this sometimes.
No matter how hard I work or try, I will never be enough to meet the needs of the people I love.
I will never be enough to get it perfectly right. I will never be able to get it all done.
I will never be able to be what I wish I could be to and for my people.
Each time, He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Cor 12:9 NLT
Make peace with not being enough.
One of my resolutions this year is to make peace with inadequacy, finally.
Not to overcome it. Not to stop being or feeling inadequate, but to make peace with it.
To accept it. To embrace it, even.
By embracing my inadequacy, I acknowledge that I can not be what the people I love need. I can not provide everything the people I love to want.
Only God can do that.
If I were enough, I wouldn’t need God. …and I do. Desperately.
If I were enough, I wouldn’t need other people. …and I do. Absolutely.
I tend to rely heavily on my strength. I’m driven and passionate. I have a lot of energy, a large work capacity, and a huge capacity for love. I’m empathetic, sometimes to a fault, and want so much to serve and help others.
I named my coaching business Strength & Shield Coaching after Psalms 18 and 28:7, which assert that “the Lord is my strength and my shield.”
God is the source. God is the source of my strength; God is the source of my safety; God is the source of my talents, spiritual giftings, blessings, and influence.
God is the source of my everything.
I so-named my coaching practice because I need the reminder. And I sense that the high-performing women whom I serve need that reminder too.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor 12:9 ESV
I cannot be enough.
I am, in fact, totally inadequate. I am not enough.
Neither are you. Neither are any of us.
Telling someone “you are enough” is catchy and meant to be encouraging, but it’s just not true. Not only am I not enough, but I also wasn’t designed to be enough.
The power of Christ can only work through me when I surrender my need to be enough.
While I have certainly not had a vision like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12, Christ saved me from a life of separateness, though perhaps not so dramatically as Paul.
And while I don’t physically have a thorn in my side, I have deep pain with which I struggle – regrets, shame, and some pretty devastating sadness.
I don't need to be enough.
Perhaps my chronic fear of inadequacy is my painful thorn that God will not remove because He knows that without it, I will seek to rely on my strength, and I will seek to be the source of met needs, both for myself and for the people I love.
And while I have pleaded that I will be relieved of my pain-inducing inadequacy, perhaps the answer is to make peace with it rather than overcome it.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:8-10 NIV
I am not enough. And that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness.
When I am inadequate, it points to God who is enough.
When I can’t provide, which is often, it points to God who can and does.
When I fail and fail again, it points to God, who never fails.
And so, the pressure comes off my shoulders, which I never meant to carry in the first place.
I can put my healthy boundaries in place. I can stop trying to be everything to everyone. I can stop doing and doing and doing more. I can stop beating myself up for never having or being or doing enough.
You can, too.
Letting go of expectations of being enough has helped me experience peace as a mother, a professional, and a human.
I see you, Momma.
I see how much you do and how hard you work.
And I see how much your heart aches to do and be more for those you love.
I see how not being enough is frustrating and exhausting.
Maybe it’s time to make peace with not being enough.
Maybe this Mother’s Day is the day you let yourself be.
We are not enough. And it’s OK.
I was not designed to meet all my people’s needs.
Rather, I am called to point them to God, who does.
Therefore, I will boast gladly about my weaknesses and make my peace with being inadequate.
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