“Never stop improving.”
I heard this company tagline as I was listening to the radio this morning and it got me thinking. There is something appealing about the idea that things can be improved if I am willing to put in the work. I mean, we do live on planet earth where people and things break down and deteriorate, and whether or not things are ever actually improved, it’s nice to think that they can be improved.
But then something in my heart felt slightly twisted and I realized that if I should never stop improving, then that means that things are never good enough the way they are. I call this way of thinking ugly inadequacy, and I’ve battled it for much of my adult life.
In fact, I’m starting to get this feeling that, for me, a good day is one where I get it mostly right. I’ll do my best, and it will be mostly right, but not all right. Getting it all right, because there have been those rare and miraculous days, is invigorating. But most of my days, the mostly right ones, often leave me tired and discouraged and feeling like giving up. Ugly inadequacy, or striving, weighs me down and paralyzes me. It creates stress and anxiety and is always pointing out what still needs improvement.
But, there is also something I call beautiful inadequacy, or rest. An existence where I can lean into Jesus and just be thankful that He’s got my back covered. I’m not talking about making excuses for sin. I’m talking about acknowledging that I’m not perfect and I will never perform perfectly. Beautiful inadequacy produces a surprising peace because it turns my focus from myself to the One who is always enough.
Paul talks about this rest in 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But He [Jesus] 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.”
In those moments when I am feeling that I am not enough, I read this verse and misconstrue it to mean that Jesus’s power needs to come and work in my life and make me “more.” His strength and power should enable me to do the right thing all the time! If I read the verse more carefully, however, I begin to understand that it isn’t about me becoming better or stronger at all. It’s about Jesus’s beauty and light and power shining through, and in spite of, all my seams and stretch marks.
Paul also says, in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Did you notice it is His light shining, and His face displayed? Not mine. Not yours.
Christ didn’t give up His throne temporarily and wrap Himself in the flesh of a human child so that I might become Superwoman. He came that He might be made known to us. How can anyone see His light if there is no weakness in me for Him to be glorified through?
My inadequacy displays His beauty. What sweet relief! My mostly right is good enough.