“I’m taking too much responsibility trying to make everyone happy at home and at church.”
So says one of my coaching clients in a recent call.
In this chaotic new world of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all scrambling to respond to radical changes in how we work, in how we connect, and in all areas of our life.
Am I Enough?
In the midst of this disruption, I hear many pastors asking this question: “Am I enough?”
“Am I enough as a spouse and as a parent?”
“Am I enough as a pastor to earn my paycheck in the midst of dwindling contributions?”
“Am I enough of a leader to my staff and our congregation?”
“Are we doing enough in offering online services and Bible studies?”
During these anxious times, it is especially challenging to keep up with ministry demands while learning new skills and overcoming new barriers.
Ministering in a pandemic is like re-learning to ride a bike with one hand tied behind your back and a bandana covering one eye.
Let’s face it, most of us are not equipped to lead in a pandemic. We never took a seminary course on “Pastoral Care in the Age of Social Distancing.” Most of us are not experts in video production, live streaming, and Zoom meetings, although many pastors are acquiring proficiency in all three!
In times like these, we are challenged to prove our worth to our congregants and our peers, but perhaps most of all, to ourselves.
Jesus Is Enough
This challenge reminds me of Jesus’ time in the wilderness immediately after his baptism. In that barren and isolating place, Jesus was tempted to prove his identity based on what he could do (by turning stone into bread), on what he could have (all the kingdoms of the world), and on what other people thought of him (by successfully throwing himself off the temple and allowing the angels to catch him in front of the crowds).
Jesus refused all three temptations.
Instead, Jesus based his identity and worth on the baptismal affirmation from God: “You are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”
I believe that these same baptismal words also affirm our identity and worth even in this pandemic. God continues to tell us, if we have the ears to hear:
“You are my Child, whom I love. There’s nothing you need to do, nothing you need to have in comparison to others in order to earn my affection. And I hope you’ll put more stock in what I think of you, than what you imagine others might think of you.”
If you believe that you are a beloved child of God, then … You. Are. Enough.
Signs that I Am Enough
During moments and seasons of “being enough,” I experience these things:
I am clear about what I’m called to do and what I need to stop doing.
I am less afraid to risk and to fail.
I reframe failures as learning opportunities for growth.
I am more compassionate to others, and to myself.
I gladly share credit for my successes.
I celebrate others’ achievements without becoming jealous.
I am grateful for what I do have, and less anxious about what I don’t have.
I work to combat systemic injustice so that more people can have what I have.
I am more generous, not out of obligation but from a place of abundance.
I am more connected to God, to myself, to others, and to creation.
I feel joy.
Jesus’ time in the wilderness prepared him for his public ministry. What if we treat this pandemic as preparation for future ministry in a radically changed world?
During this season, here are some questions to ask yourself:
What does it look like for me to be enough in God’s eyes?
What does it feel like to be enough in my own eyes?
What is at stake if I continue to believe the voices that tell me that I’m not enough?
For what purpose am I striving and working?
What would have to change in order for me to stop comparing myself to others?
What spiritual and emotional muscles would I have to strengthen in order to remain in God’s approval, even if that means incurring the disapproval and disappointment of others?
How would my identity change or remain the same if I shifted my leadership style from being the “chief expert” to being the “chief learner” or “chief experimenter”?
During these past weeks, many pastors are already wondering how “doing church” will have to change and what church will look like when the pandemic is over.
I believe that if we also spend time answering the why and the who questions, we will be in a better position to address any of the how and what questions that will come our way.
The good news is that we don’t have to tackle these questions alone.
A big part of “being enough” is being in relationship with God and with others. We are all in this together, and we can learn and support one another as we go forward.
Contact me if you would like a thinking partner in addressing these questions on your journey.
In the coming weeks and months, may we be encouraged by the words of our Lord as recorded by the Apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
May Grace abound in you and yours in the days ahead.
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