Lately, I feel like I’m barely holding on.
I’ve been grumpy, tired, and honestly, a little difficult to live with. I’m afraid that I’m always two steps behind my responsbilities, and I’m certain I’m not good enough to keep up with everything else in my life.
Even though my own life feels so out of control, I also frequently feel a great deal of pressure to make sure that everyone I care about is perfectly okay all the time. Unfortunately for them (and for me), I’m entirely incapable of doing so.
And so, I feel burnt out.
And there’s nobody to blame for this but myself! I put so much pressure on myself to do everything perfectly all the time: to write the best blog post, to quiet a fussy baby quickly, to respond patiently to a 4-year-old’s tantrum, to keep up my end of our "You-Cook-I-Clean" arrangement, to do more and more and more.
But the reality is that I just can’t.
I can’t do it all.
I can’t stretch beyond my finite limits. And when I try, I become grumpy.
I can give what I have, but once I’m spent, it’s time to rest.
And that’s hard. Especially for perfectionists like me.
Being brought to the limits of my own power is deeply humiliating, and often leads me to say something I don’t mean or act passive-aggressively.
I know I need help, but I’m never sure how to get it, so I just end up keeping my head down and powering through, flexing my “be-a-better-you” muscles harder so I can be nicer or more patient.
If I’m not perfect, that just means I need to work harder.
But this ends up feeding the problem because I’m relying on myself to get it right. When that strategy (inevitably) doesn't work, it leaves me wanting to quit. “And why not quit?” I ask myself. Giving it my all didn’t work, so what’s the point of trying at all?
My best is never good enough.
This anxiety has prompted me to think about how Christ relates to us and what He asks from us. On the one hand, as we saw two weeks [hyperlink], Christ loves us as we are and forgives us without our asking. On the other hand, as we saw last week [hyperlink], Christ commands us to be the light of the world.
There must be some dynamic interplay between these two realities.
And this Sunday, we get a bit of an answer, as we see Christ do something truly amazing after spending the day with a huge crowd.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matt. 14:15-21)
We’ve heard this story enough times that we may be tempted to roll our eyes halfway through: “Got it. Jesus beats Meals on Wheels.” But this story moves me so deeply that I’m not satisfied rolling my eyes. Another look is necessary.
This Sunday, the Lord asks the disciples to complete an impossible task; He wants them to feed five thousand people. Wisely, however, the disciples tell the Lord, “We only have five loaves and two fish.” You see, unlike myself, these disciples recognize the limitations of what they can offer, and they confess it. They tell Christ the truth.
While five loaves and two fish are not enough to feed five thousand, such logistics are no problem for the Lord. Christ asks the disciples to bring what they have, even though it doesn’t seem like much.
Then the Lord gladly takes it, and He multiplies it.
I frequently fall victim to thinking that I have to fix things, both myself and those around me. So I try, and then I give up because my own strength is never enough to make my life perfect.
Just like there’s no way the disciples could have fed the crowd with the little food they had.
Abundance and perfection don’t come from our own strength: they come from the grace of God. Today the Lord stands before us and asks us to bring Him what we have, which isn’t much. But Christ wants it all, and He wants to do something with it.
I don’t help myself when I ignore my limitations try or to overcome them by sheer force of will. Instead, I need to bring myself before the Lord and admit that I have just five loaves and two fish.
Some days, it seems I only have the desire to treat my family kindly. I can’t actually do it without God’s grace.
Of course it’s scary to admit our limitations before the Lord (even though, let’s be honest, He already knows them). And the promise of this Gospel reading is that our limitations are no problem for the Lord. He will take the little that we have, and He will multiply it..
It may happen slowly. It may happen all at once. It may happen in an unexpected way. In any event, it is God who works, and He promises to work with what He is given.
Christ stands before us and promises to work a great wonder in our lives. This is the very same Christ who turns sinners into saints. Who fills the hungry. Who grants life to those in the tomb.
He asks so very little of us, and offers so much in return. But make no mistake: He does ask something of us.
He asks for everything we have, for everything we are. He wants it all.
He asks us to trust Him.
Because He’s about to do something awesome.
Stress: Luke P. Woods via Compfight cc
Perfectionist: ~ Taly ~ via Compfight cc
Abundance: FeatheredTar via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
For more on the little God asks, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
For more on letting God work, check out this episode of Coffee with Sr. Vassa: