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My sister and I are the closest of friends.
But it wasn’t always like this. Tracy and I scrapped our way through our elementary and teenaged years. Our most heated fights happened during card games, like Double Solitaire or the aptly named Spite and Malice.
Our mom often left well enough alone, giving us space to find our own resolutions. But when the bickering became too much, she’d march into the room, hands on hips, proclaiming, “Enough is enough!”
Enough is enough! The word, “enough”, when used as an interjection, implies that there is or is about to be too much of a thing – too much arguing, too much pandemic (Omicron), too much gun violence (Oxford).
We use the interjection when there’s about to be too much of a good thing, too—like wine or tickling or parmesan cheese. The word “enough” is used to stop the flow of something.
I asked my 15 year old daughter, “What do you think about when you hear the word, ‘enough’?” (Are you using this in a sermon, Mom? No, a blog. Haha, okay.) She told me that “enough” is a word that gives her comfort. Assurance. “That word means I have what I need. That I don’t have to worry. That… I am… enough.”
My dad used this word in a comforting way when I was a teenager– overwhelmed with writing papers or studying for tests. He would say, “Heidi. All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough.” I remember the gentle cadence of that sentence tucking me into sleep.
For years, I’ve passed this same wisdom on to parishioners and friends with the same singsong cadence. All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough.
All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough.
And then one day, a friend of mine said, “And you can almost always do more than you think you can do.”
Oof. This friend of mine was a peer mentor to me, and he had all sorts of permission to speak truth into my life.
You can almost always do more than you think you can do.
Sometimes that inspires me – when I’m trying to add just one more push-up or bicep curl to a set or on those mornings when I’m facing a mountain of work.
But knowing that you can almost always do more than you think you can do is discouraging when you’re exhausted and when you feel like you can never do enough or be enough. And really. Just because you can almost always do more than you think you can do, doesn’t mean you should do more than you think you can do. Sometimes it is important to say, “I have done enough.”
The word, “enough,” is best used with things that are measurable. We certainly reach points at which we’ve had enough to eat, we’ve made enough widgets, we’ve studied enough to get a passing grade, we’ve earned enough money to pay our bills.
But when it comes to the span of our lives or the quality of our relationships, things become less measurable. It’s much harder to say whether you’ve lived enough time or loved enough people. In her newest book, No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear), Kate Bowler tells the story of her cancer diagnosis and treatment. She faces and writes about her mortality from all sorts of angles. At the end of the preface to her book, she catalogues the contents of her home office. “I look around me and I think, these are the choices I’ve made. The people I’ve loved. No matter how fleeting this was, I need them to believe: everything mattered. This life was enough. But it’s not true, of course. Nothing will add up to enough.”
If you listen to Kate’s podcast and read her writing, you know that she keeps helping us to see life and relationships as non-transactional and non-equational. Immeasurable. Words like full and empty and enough and not enough do not capture the complexities of life.
Do we ever get “enough” of the people we love? When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, my parents talked about their hope that perhaps they would still be able to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023. “That’s a good goal to shoot for, right?” Would that have been “enough”?
Did C.S. Lewis write “enough” literature? Did Aretha Franklin or Gord Downie or Prince give the world “enough” of their music? Can any one person or group of people meet “enough” of our needs for companionship or our needs to be known and understood. Will we, in this life, ever experience “enough” of the universe, of each other, of God?
And speaking of God, what about God’s grace? We say, of course, along with Scripture, that God’s grace is enough. That God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). And at the same time, we know that we cannot measure God’s grace.
I love how Richard Rohr put it when he was speaking with Kate on her podcast recently. He was talking about the mystery of God and he said that mystery is not that which is not understandable. Rather, mystery is understandable. Just infinitely so. Mystery is infinitely understandable.
And I would say that God’s grace is certainly enough. But never “enough” in the sense that we would want to stop the flow of it. Rather, God’s grace is infinitely enough. It flows through the immeasurable valleys of our lives and relationships and longings. And it keeps on flowing. Nothing we can say or do can stop that grace. We have what we need. We don’t have to worry. It is enough.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:17b-21
Header Image: Photo by Pratiksha Mohanty on Unsplash
Thank you, Heidi. Yes, Grace is infinitely enough, even though I think we rarely feel that way. Your essay reminded of the splendid song “The Pearl” by Emmylou Harris, especially this stanza.
“We are aging soldiers in an ancient war
Seeking out some half remembered shore
We drink our fill and still we thirst for more
Asking if there’s no heaven what is this hunger for?”
Full of doubt and belief, finally “The pain becomes the Pearl,” with the refrain “We cry Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia” the chorus. In these goofy, frightening, polarized Covid times, the Grace of this doxological lament and prayer is regularly the last thing Rose and I listen to before lights out. Sometimes I can hardly get enough of it. Here’s a most soulful rendition recorded in 2000 at Massey Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZEmqpjS67E Thank you so much, one more time.
I hadn’t heard that song before. Thank you.
Your song reminds me of Cohen’s last words to “Hallelujah”:
(memorized – hope they’re remembered well)
And even when it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
with nothing on my lips
What a perfect song to accompany what I’ve written… what Kate writes… Ephesians 3. I love this so much. And I love Emmylou. Listening now.
Thanks so much from someone who often feels like she hasn’t done “enough.” Beautiful comfort.
From time to time, I find little gems of wisdom, which I write down and set on my computer screen or along my desk so that I see it as many times as possible throughout the day or week or whenever God knows I need it.
Heidi, thank you for a new addition to the screen:
“All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough.”
I need to hear that every day.
Heidi, Your Dad’s words were grace to you… and they are to me, as one who has lived most of my life trying to do more. And then I heard deeply, Jesus’ words to a woman who anointed Jesus’ head with precious perfume, not long before he died, saying, “She did what she could.” I used to think I might like these words on my Grave-marker, but then, misappropriating her words to my own life, and thinking as the ‘workaholic’ that I am, I know that I’ve never really done everything I could for Jesus. The words, “All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough” is grace to me. Thank you.
Thank you, Heidi.
Thank you for this Heidi. It strengthened and encouraged me.
Thank you Heidi for a thought provoking, inspiring devotional. I read it over twice to soak it all in.
This is so good. Thank you Heidi. Enough is enough. Grace=enough.