“So how was your day?” my husband asks. Our eleven-month-old is sleeping at last and, in the quiet, we unfold our day over the dinner table filled with plates of roasted potatoes and rice.
Well let me tell you, I think to myself, recalling the serpentine to-do list that’s been strangling me all day. I sigh suggestively, settle into my mask of martyrdom, and recite each flurried step of my day. My multitudinous accomplishments, as follows: tackling the small city of dishes that sprang up over the weekend, scrubbing the floor (because, “scrubbing” sounds more Cinderella-like than “wiping”), loading the washing machine with a baby strapped to my body, running (literally) to the bank, waiting on hold with the airline for an hour and a half (emphasis on the time) to confirm details about an upcoming trip. The list goes on.
When I finish my performance (curtain closed), my husband kindly suggests that I rest this evening. But I bat away his compassionate commonsense. There’s still so much left to do. The truth is there’s always so much to do. At the end of each day I have a bad habit of listing all the tasks I have completed. Not to say that listing all my completed tasks is bad. The bad part, however, is that the list becomes my litmus test for self-worth. The more work I complete, the more valuable I am. In the courtroom of my mind, I (as defendant) offer my litany of all the reasons I’ve earned an evening of rest after a day of hard work. But most often, I (as judge) condemn myself for not having done enough.
There are always errands I didn’t get to. Always people I forgot to text. Always new needs jutting up like weeds. Constantly. Continually.
My to-do list will never end. Ever. But recently, God’s been showing me a liberating truth. He’s been showing me that my work is not only not enough most days. It’s never enough — and it’s never going to be.
No matter how many tasks I accomplish during the day, I will never be able to earn God’s kindness, God’s invitation to enjoy His presence while simply sitting on the couch with a cup of chamomile tea. No matter the many hours I volunteer or the many meals I make for hurting church members. No matter the many words of encouragement I give or the many dollars I donate — it will never be enough.
In offering His body on the cross and rising to breathe again, Christ already accomplished all there is to make us enough in God’s eyes and to enjoy His presence. In one act of cosmic sacrifice, Christ completed the ultimate to-do list for all time. And, if I believe in Him, there are no good deeds or completed chores I can do to make myself more desirable to Him or more worthy of His rest. Any Christ-less, goody-two-shoe attempts to make myself acceptable are garbage. Clothed in the sufficiency of Christ, I am already enough before God.
At the root of my anxiety to configure my worth at the end of each day is a hunger for acceptance. Underneath my litanies of completed tasks is a quaking desire to be loved. Rather than berate myself for all the things left undone at the end of the day, I can remind myself that, in Christ, I am infinitely loved — loved beyond my wildest fantasies or deepest desires. And in that love. . .I can rest.
That’s not to say that doing good things isn’t essential to a Christ-centered life. Again and again in Scripture, believers are called to action, to offering our time and energy for others, especially the weak, the losers, and those unlikely. The abundance of God’s love should overflow into a continual outpouring of love to our children, spouses, grandmothers, neighbors, and, yes, even and especially the woman behind the cardboard sign at the freeway exit. Even loading the dishwasher and preparing a spaghetti dinner are acts of obedience to Him.
That’s the key. Obedience. So much of what I expect from myself is not what God expects from me. So much of what I labor over are achievements to prop up my own facade of self-worth, rather than make much of the God whose breath and blood give me the grace to do anything at all.
Many of the tasks He might call me to are things that don’t fit on a to-do list. They appear unexpectedly in the day, are quickly forgotten and largely unnoticed. Snuffling into my son’s neck as he giggles joyously mediates the love of God. My son may never remember this laughter and I certainly won’t win a “Funniest Mama” award, but it is a small act of obedience. And this small act is a sign of the true labor of a Christ-follower.
My prayer is to live so in tune with the Spirit that I move in step with Him, the tasks He is calling me to. He knows the hours I have. He knows the energy I have. He knows I am most definitely not Superwoman (though I too often try to be).
But He is Superman. And that is enough.Leave a Comment
Many years ago, I had a wise boss. She sat me down at her desk one day, and pantomimed taking off the cape, folding it, and putting it into the draw. Her message to a very stressed out me was that I do not have to be superwoman, supermom, super anything. It is a message that I have relayed to others and have reminded myself of time and time again. But, this is the first time that the message had to do with a loving God and grace. So I think you for this.
Marilyn Kok says
Amen, He is Superman, King of Kings, Wonderful, Counsellor, Lord of Lords! ✝️
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Elise people tell me you don’t have to Super Woman. Thinking you have to do it all. I think I have to do this and this for my Dad when doing Home help for him to help him. I say to myself if I don’t do it not get done. The house will not look right for my Dad. As he elderly 82 in February next year. My Husband keeps on saying to me. Dawn if it doesn’t get done for your Dad don’t worry. As no one else will notice it not done or bother to do it. That is true. But I just like to leave everything done. Then I exhausted. As I have to go home to my own keep it right. Do the cooking. Even though my Husband is offal good he do his part too to help me with the house work. Not the cooking. God has told me not stress of don’t get done in my Dad’s or my own home. To slow down and think I have to do it. Thank you Elise for this message. It has spoken to me loud and clear. As if I don’t I end up no good to no one. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Jenn Zatopek says
This is a wonderful essay and reminder to be compassionate with ourselves when we fall into what I call my productivity trap. It’s so easy to do in this culture! Reminds me of Henry Nouwen’s words: “I am not what I do or have or what people say about me. I am God’s beloved.” Glad you are resting in that instead!
Ariel Krienke says
Love this message. God loves me even though I can’t be Superwoman but so many of us do try to be because we love our family, friends, and God of course. Thanks for the encouragement.
Beth Williams says
Beth Moore said it best in her book “Your Best Yes”. “Saying yes to everyone & everything won’t make you super woman. It will make you a worn out woman with nothing left to give.” I fall into that same trap. My belief is that I want my husband to understand what ALL I get done on my 3 day weekends. Appreciate me more I say in so many words. Perhaps he is finally getting the idea.
God doesn’t expect us to be strivers constantly doing things. He wants us to use our talents to glorify Him & also rest in Him. Take time daily to be with Him & realize that He loves us immensely. He paid the price for our sins & that’s enough. Let’s quit striving, doing & take time daily to just be with Him!