I’m graduating this weekend.
Well, that’s not quite accurate. I’ve been done with college for months now. I have my diploma. I just finished my first semester of grad school.
But I’m still going to walk across a stage in a cap and gown and throw a little party with my family. My best friend says she’ll get emotional. And knowing me, I probably will too. But I smile and roll my eyes at her a little bit, because while I’m sure I’ll enjoy the day’s festivities, right now my graduation feels more like a formality than a milestone.
When I sit at commencement and hear the speaker they brought in from Scotland talk about God’s plans for the rest of our lives, I’ll probably smirk a little. Not because I don’t believe God has plans, and not because I don’t like Scottish people, but because in many ways I feel like I’ve already moved on. The graduate glow has already faded from me. Now I’m just a little nonplussed. A little disillusioned. A little scared.
I graduated in December with a lot of wild plans of hitting the ground running, being a go-getter, and starting my writing career with a precocious flourish. Goodbye menial, part-time, minimum wage jobs! I’ve moved on! I’m good enough to go pro!
But now it’s May, and I didn’t do any of that. I was too busy living, I guess. Too busy taking care of other things.
I wasn’t good enough.
My biggest fear is that I’m not good enough. It’s been my fear for a while. The fear waits for the perfect moment to whisper to me, and it knocks me down every time. Friendships dissolve? You weren’t good enough. Arguing with the husband? You aren’t good enough. Didn’t finish a project? You weren’t good enough. Can’t find a job? You aren’t good enough.
The worst thing is, a small part of this is true. I can always be better and do better. And because I know this about myself, I will believe the fear every time.
Yesterday I went to the store to find a dress for graduation. Five years ago, when I graduated from high school, I got a beautiful, silky dress with a smocked waist and bateau neckline and full skirt. It was white with pink flowers, and it made me feel like Jackie Kennedy. Every time I wore it I felt perfect and beautiful and… good enough.
But this time, there was no magic Jackie Kennedy dress. Just a bunch of weird limp things with no lining and odd cutouts and garish prints. (My mom will be at this graduation, guys. I can’t wear stuff like this.) I did not feel perfect. I did not feel beautiful. I didn’t feel happy at all.
I drove home in tears. “God, this is a really stupid thing for me to be upset about,” I said. “Like, talk about first world problems. I feel bad even talking to you about it. I do have clothes. I will be wearing something under my graduation gown.”
And then my fear whispered to me: “There was nothing wrong with the dresses; it was you. You weren’t good enough.”
So of course I cried more. Because I know, I know, I know I’m not good enough. I will never be 100% good enough. I will always have shortcomings and faults and bad habits. I will always have parts of me that I regret and hide and smooth over.
I will always despise myself just a little bit, cringe at myself just a little bit. I will always feel guilty for asking people to stand in the gap for me, for asking God to stand in the gap for me.
“I know I’m not good enough,” I said. Got it, duly noted. “But what can I do about it?”
The fear didn’t really have an answer to that. And honestly, neither do I. I still don’t know the balance between getting better and being okay with never being good enough. I’m a little depressed that I couldn’t just pray about it and suddenly have an epiphany (or at least find the perfect graduation dress).
But I do know this: there is life beyond not being good enough. I haven’t reached it yet, but I know it’s there. I am told that God’s grace meets my weakness and makes me not just good enough, but perfect. That Jesus stands in the gap, and that He chose to do so even before I knew I needed him to. I am clad in righteousness even if I never find another Jackie Kennedy dress.
I poured out my clothing woes to my husband, who, even if he doesn’t fully identify with my struggle, still tries to understand.
“Wear that green dress you wore the other night,” he said. “It’s you. It looks great. You look beautiful.”
“I don’t think it’s good enough,” I said. I really meant I didn’t think I was.
“Who cares what other people think? It’s you. It’s perfect.”
To those who love me, I am loved. To those who love me, I am good enough.
And that’s good enough.