This has been bothering me for a while. I often have a well-intentioned person or a motivational meme trying to tell me “I am enough.” While this idea sounds comforting, each time I hear it I must again wrestle down the lie.

I want to believe that I am enough; I really do. And I appreciate the attempt to correct a culture that overvalues performance, perfection, and photoshopped beauty. When people say, “You are enough,” they are trying to help me and other struggling women to walk in freedom and joy.

But the statement doesn’t work. In fact, it fails on two fronts. It does justice neither to the incredible beauty and potential in me because of Christ, nor to the scary caverns of envy and anger I harbor because of sin. “I am enough” can’t capture the simultaneous realities that I was created to be perfect, that I am deeply flawed because of sin, and that I’m a cherished daughter of the God of the universe because of Christ’s work.

Not Enough in Myself

We were made to be beautiful, flawless crowns of creation. As masterpieces of the Master Artist, whose creative play yielded sweeping galaxies and microscopic diatoms, all humanity is meant for much higher things than “enough.” We were meant to live in perfect harmony with him. But through our fall into sin we became distorted versions of ourselves, inflicting pain and misery and grief. Simon Blocker once said:

Man as he is by nature is not as he was when God created him. A vast devastation has struck him. Nevertheless he is great in his ruins. Like a glorious cathedral after a bombing, sinful man still displays the grandeur which was his when he first stood on the earth as created in God’s image.

The beauty of our humanity is still evident, but ugliness abounds. When I lose it with my children after a long day of interruptions, I see clearly, once again, that I am not sufficient. On my best days, when I make chocolate chip cookies and get down on my knees and play Legos with my children, I am still not enough. I am not enough for my husband, who is not enough for me or my children. We need and are wired for a perfect parent and spouse, and we will never be perfect or enough in this fallen world.

More Than Enough in Him

Yet when I admit and own that I am not enough, that I will fail my family and falter, that even my best days fall short, I finally discover the power that “I am enough” fails to offer.

When I admit I’m not enough, I’m freed to run and cling to the God who is.

In him, I far exceed enough. I rocket past mediocrity and no longer worry about keeping up with the Joneses, as his perfect power radiates through my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). In him I am transformed from one level of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18), as I press beyond human standards to take hold of that for which he has taken hold of me (Phil. 3:14). He will transform me until I begin to resemble him who redeemed me (Rom. 8:29).

The gospel tells me two truths, and holds both at full strength: In myself, I am not enough. In him, however, I am more than enough.

Holding Truths Together

G. K. Chesterton, in his masterpiece Orthodoxy, describes the way that only the gospel holds two paradoxes together without diluting them:

Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul.

I reject the phrase “I am enough,” not because I don’t believe that people who say it mean well, but because God’s solution to the human dilemma is far better than a platitude. Even if it is harder to swallow at first.