We were at my son’s baseball game. While a new pitcher warmed up on the mound, the umpire walked over to get his water from the chain-link fence separating us. He saw one of the dads’ Music City Marathon/Half Marathon shirts and asked him if he’d run the marathon.
“Just the half,” the dad answered.
The umpire’s unashamed response was a splash of cool water in my face: “You ran 13 miles! I ain’t running no 13 miles! Don’t say, ‘just the half!’ That’s 13 miles you ran!”
I wanted to shout, “That’s right! Exactly!”
But the umpire’s words rolled around in my head for a while, and I became starkly aware of all the times I hear myself or other people say “just” and, in essence, wave off the beauty of our lives and our work.
“I’m just a mom.”
“I’m just a student.”
“I’m just a nurse.”
“I’m just one person. What difference can I make?”
Save Face by Defacing Myself
For me, “just” becomes an apology for my life, an apology and a recognition of all I am not—the ways I’m not enough, don’t measure up, and don’t compare to the full people. I’m just half.
I’m just, I’m just, I’m just. It never stops.
“Just” is my way of cutting my listener off at the pass. Before she can tell me I’m not enough, I tell her I know I’m not enough. I save face by defacing myself. I save myself the pain of watching her judge me, which she probably isn’t doing in the first place because she’s too busy thinking of all her “justs.” But my pride tells me everyone is looking at me and thinking about me, and—more specifically—they are thinking of all the ways I don’t measure up to them or to everyone else.
Insecurity Is Pride Dressed Down
Insecurity is the haven of “just” and the flipside of pride. It has been difficult for me to work out the pride-insecurity relationship. Insecurity feels much safer, somehow more humble, than pride. But insecurity is pride dressed down; both are rooted in an inherent focus on self above all.
When I forget who I am, forget my identity as God’s child, sometimes it looks like self-righteous pride: Look at me, see what I can do, how good I am, how much better I am than him or her. And other times the same pride hurls me into the pit of insecurity: Who am I to think I can do any of this? I am never enough. I can’t live up to or compare to them.
Either way—self-righteousness or insecurity—is pride because I am the focus; it’s all about me. Whether I’m being arrogant or insecure, I’m placing myself in the spotlight, depending on my merits alone to be enough, not resting in and living out of the freedom of my identity as God’s utterly beloved child.
God Delights In You
The truth is that I’m exactly who God made me to be—and you are exactly who God made you to be. There’s no room for “just.”
He, the God of the entire universe, put the planets in motion, gave the ladybug her spots, and decided you would be you. And he actually delights in you (Zeph. 3:17).
I’m learning that, when I apologize for who I am, for taking up space, I’m not giving God any glory. I’m putting focus back on me and my shortcomings, which might be the very weaknesses through which he has planned to show his strength:
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 on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
What would it look like for us to accept, and maybe even embrace, our limitations as beautiful because in them we see God’s beauty and power?
We Are His Joy
We can face our limitations without fear because of Jesus. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). He gladly suffered for you and me because we are his joy. His good and precious promises are for us. Why? Because God is crazy good to his kids. It is crazy that he would send Jesus to die for me, but he did.
Jesus died for the joy of ushering us into his kingdom, radiant and free. And I can now walk in that freedom because I am completely and fully loved by the only one who sees every single one of my doubts, fears, sins, and limitations. I have nothing left to prove. I bring nothing to the table.
He brings it all. And then he clothes me, covers me up, slathers his righteousness on me. There is no condemnation in him. He knows I can’t bring anything, so why do I keep trying to do anything short of running to him? His justification is the only one that counts.
There Is One Who Is Just
In the vocabulary of a Christ follower, “just” doesn’t describe me but does describe a just God, who is righteous and lawful. In his justice, our sins could not be forgiven without sacrifice, the blood of the Lamb. By the Lamb’s wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus made us right, before a just and holy God, and heirs to a full and glorious kingdom.
May you and I, as God’s children, believe that we are whole, not half, because our lives are hidden in Jesus, who is whole and who stood in our stead so that we don’t have to be enough. He is.