I've always struggled to push away a low-humming, background noise of anxiety that whispers, "MORE." There's more I could be doing, more I could achieve, more miles to run, more books to read, more pounds to lose, more activities and household effects to organize, more crafts and baking to do with my kids (according to the internet, if you are a mom, you MUST do the crafts and the baking).
We live in The Land of More. There's an app or a cream or a product or a solution for that. At its best, America is possibility, opportunity, freedom, choice. But it can also be a trap, a maze, an endless labyrinth of dead-end mirrors of always striving, never resting, go, go, go.
Punctuating the quiet, steady drumbeat of "more" is another, louder rhythm of fear, that if I try to do more, I will fail. My inadequacies and faults will conquer me. Whatever I produce will only demonstrate how much I fell short of the task. And more menacing still, beneath it all, there is a BOOM BOOM BOOM that rattles my deepest parts—If I fail, I am worthless. I am my performance and nothing else.
"In these unprecedented times" (is anyone else really sick of that phrase? Just asking), when so much of life has been contained and restricted, so many opportunities shut down, schedules emptied and paces slowed, I was at first relieved. Suddenly there were fewer choices to make, fewer chances to be blown, fewer possibilities to pursue. There was an automatic excuse for being and doing less. I could just drink wine and watch Netflix and not even feel guilty. But as the weeks turned into months, the anxiety resurfaced and the rest proved short-lived. Sure, I don't have as many opportunities outside the house, but am I really am making the most of the ones inside the house? I could have written three novels by now or at least mastered sourdough baking like every other middle-aged white woman out there.
Based on my interaction with and observation of other human beings, I'm not alone in my angst. While there are some people who seem sublimely content to marinate in leisure and mediocracy, most of us have a drive to do and be more. At its core, it is our innate, primal need for self-preservation. In caveman times, drinking wine and watching Netflix all day was a good way to be killed by someone/thing. We human beings have persisted, overcome, created, invented, built nations, cured diseases, and ventured to space spurred on by the survival instinct. But we've also destroyed, betrayed, cheated, killed, and abused ourselves and others according to its insatiable demands. It's the reason middle-school girls are so mean to each other, why racism remains a scourge, why so many people can't bring themselves to apologize.
God offers us an exit ramp off this tortuous merry-go-round and onto a higher way of living in which we work and do and strive not as a way to save ourselves or prove our worth but as an expression of love, joy, God-given purpose and connection to something larger. The gospel of Jesus operates from a starting point of our fundamental, inalterable worth. If we can breathe in this truth, even a little bit, it begins to free us from ourselves. It prevents us from being consumed by our inadequacies or enraptured by our successes. It allows us to truly love others because we no longer fear them and their success doesn't threaten our own.
To our anxious chanting of MORE, God says, "ENOUGH. What exactly are you trying to prove? You literally need to get over yourself. We've already established you are amazing, just having been created. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, go in peace and do what fills you with life."
OK, so he doesn't use those words exactly. He uses these words (via Paul), which are also pretty good:
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 37-38