Most days of my life have been plagued with guilt: guilt that I’m not doing enough, not loving enough, not hoping enough, not including enough, not giving enough, not listening enough, not sweet enough, not dependable enough, and on the worst days just not enough at all. Sometimes it seems the whole weight of it comes and sits on my chest—it’s hard to breathe, think, or eat without feeling my overwhelming sense of obligation eclipsed by my own inadequacy to love people the way they need to be loved.
I am, as my husband says, my own Oscar Schindler. If you’ve seen the film, Schindler’s List, at the end of the movie, Schindler, makes a very poignant statement. After a life of what most people would think as sacrificial and admirable, after he rescued hundreds of Jews at his own expense, he surveyed his remaining possessions—his car, his gold ring, his fine clothing, and he said “I could have saved more.”
Schindler is right. There is always more to sacrifice: one less latte, one more hour spent cutting coupons, one more pair of jeans bought at Goodwill instead of JCREW, one more glass of water instead of wine, one less car, one less movie night, one less vacation, one less grocery trip, one less Chick-fil-a run…one less of everything.
After a while, that “one less realization” turns into a sort of prison of guilt and fear. I’m deeply petrified that I won’t be able to do enough and…I can’t.
I never was meant to— and in fact, it is precisely for this reason that I plead Christ’s righteousness daily, because I can never love enough or be good enough on my own. Now, I’m not saying that I am not meant to sacrifice (naturally as Christians we are to do so joyfully), but instead, I fail to remember that Christ has loved everyone more marvelously than I ever could. He as proven himself more trustworthy than my well-intended promises; he has sacrificed his life to be more than “enough” for us.
I forget that those around me, my husband, my friends, my family, the homeless man on the corner of Broad, our neighbors upstairs, Liz at the market, Don down the street deeply need love—yes, and they all have real deep physical needs that I can help to meet—but nothing aside from knowing Jesus gives them perfect fulfillment. Nothing else, including me, will ever be enough for them besides that.
The rub is this:
Because God has already loved them enough, sacrificed enough, I am free to love them out of a desire to glorify God, not out of a sense of duty or of obligation. I am still working to live out in practice that I have been declared to be free from obligation, and instead seek after a desire, a joy that is the motivation for these things. C.S. Lewis states that “Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people), like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it’s idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc.) can do the journey on their own.”
I am praying that God strengthens my legs so that I might cast aside the crutch of duty and obligation and that He might work in me a joy to delight in Him and do His good work. I know that God will be faithful to give me this desire.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
His understanding is unsearchable,
He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
And young men stumble and fall exhausted;
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings like eagles;
They shall run and not be weary;
They shall walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40: 28-31