What’s wrong with being good enough?

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“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness…” Luke 12:15 ESV

I tumbled.

From an inflated view of myself.

Before the fall, the Father let me get away with preening for 36 hours. Then came the painful slap down. I felt shocked, humiliated, shamed, and sad.

My life’s vocation centers on language acquisition. God started me off with German at age 11 followed by French, thanks to a dad in the army and assignments to Germany and Belgium. Attending 9th grade in a French-speaking school introduced me to French and provided a strong base.  Eventually, the door opened for me to get certified to teach French and German.

French was my prime focus, for it is a more common offering in American schools. I did all I could to improve my French from using a French study bible, to trips with students and our family to listening to daily podcasts, reading novels and the occasional movie.  After 27 years in the classroom, I felt fluent.  I could talk with ease about most anything. Not native fluency.  But fluent for an American learner.

In March 2019, I retired when we moved to Huntsville, Alabama where Mike took a new job.  I turned my attention to learning Spanish.  With intense focus on this new language, I set French on the back burner, confident that I wouldn’t lose my facility with it.

Then suddenly, a French friend whose video content I used in my classroom for enrichment, asked me if she could interview me in French for her YouTube channel.  She thought that my ‘aha!’ moments about language acquisition, given that I was now learning Spanish, together with my experience teaching French by means of comprehensible input rather than grammar would interest her audience.

I started listening to French podcasts and watching videos to refresh my skills.  We recorded in early September and the interview posted this past weekend on her channel. 

I knew I had made errors in French because my brain has been processing Spanish for the past 30 months. So, despite the inevitable grammar and vocab mistakes, I

felt pleased as I viewed the interview.

Before it posted, I had listed all the French speakers I knew with whom I could proudly share this interview.  I forwarded the link to some 15 contacts.  Yes, I felt proud.  And it felt good.

You can see where this is headed!

Sunday afternoon, I opened the video to copy the link to send to someone else. I paused and read the comments some viewers had posted below.

Here’s what popped my pride balloon.  Someone had written: ‘What level conversation would you say this is?’.  Alice, the host, replied: ‘intermediate’.

There it was, an objective evaluation of my ability to speak French. I was shocked.  Intermediate?  Me?

This hurt SO much for two reasons: First, I thought I was reasonably fluent. Second, shame flooded me in realizing with what pride I had forwarded on this interview.

The sadness grew deeper. Fatigue set in after dinner.  And I could hardly wait for bed.

I didn’t sleep well, awake some of the time going over and over how I felt.

But God!  This morning, with my journal opened, I read today’s passages.  Then I moved on to some scriptural prayers and devotions.

The Holy Spirit was speaking to me through scripture.  Slowly, he led me through the obvious pride diagnosis to deeper matters, more serious sins. A verse highlighting contentment shone a light on my covetousness. 

Picking up my pen, I wrote out a one-sentence prayer asking Jesus to strengthen me to be content in him, rather than seek contentment in my skill level of languages.

Then it hit me: “I have coveted fluency in languages for the praise of all people!”

My actions, my feelings, my thoughts, my goals have broadcasted for years: Christ is not enough to satisfy my deepest longings. Thinking that fluency in other languages will satisfy the desires of my heart, I have been off wandering, away from God.

People say pride is the worst sin. I agree.  But without seeing what fuels my pride, I can’t kill it.

Strangely with this Holy Spirit insight and my confession, I found hope rising, knowing that this new lesson is one step in God’s ‘holiness and happiness training’.

And what about being ‘good enough’? What a lovely and freeing life philosophy!  I’m embracing my intermediate-level French and where my Spanish is at this point.  Their levels are GOOD enough to help people.  I DID teach kids French for many years.  I AM ministering to Hispanic gals during my Tuesday morning shift at our city’s pregnancy resource center. The Spanish feels broken, but it is ‘good enough’. 

May I embrace trusting Jesus as my number one source of contentment and not wander off to other lovers.

The sovereign Father and the persistent momma bird!

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Momma Bird's Nest Yes, it’s a dying petunia we have hanging up over our back patio.

A dried up, intentionally left plant that reminds me of God’s sovereign timing and the trust of a little ordinary sparrow.

Mike and I love birds and as soon as we moved into this house in March, we hung up our bird feeders. Our new house backs up onto a disc golf park and greenway.  Big shady trees housing many birds hang over our postage-sized back yard, satisfying us with a feeling of the spacious outdoors.

But not one bird came to the ‘table’.  Maybe that’s how Jesus felt when his banquet invitees provided excuses for why were choosing not to attend the readied feast!

Mike and I asked God daily to direct his birds to our feeders.  I even enjoined my friend Jill in the UK to pray !  FINALLY…..they flocked.  We rejoiced, thanking God for the gift of observing and savoring these happy feathered members of creation.

So….. you would think, that when a momma bird chose my hanging petunia to construct her nest, I would have felt proud to aid the cause of providing for the next generation of birds.

Sadly for momma bird, my miserly side dominated.

By July in Alabama, the plants we had first put out in late April had withered with the heat.  So I replaced some of my flowering hanging baskets mid July. Now here was this bird choosing one of the new pots to feather her nest.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to water the petunia any more, I removed her construction work, throwing it away.

Two days later when I set the hanging basket down to water, I saw the new nest.  I tossed it in the trash as well, reasoning that this bird would soon get the message and build her nest somewhere else.

I was not counting on her determination to stay put.

She built a 3rd nest. It, too, went the way of the others.

And then God! Immediately I thought: ‘I bet this bird SENSES her body about to lay those eggs! She must feel desperate to have a safe place for them, one where she and they can be out of sight and protected. AND I HAVE INTERVENED 3 TIMES, to the potential possible murder of baby birds!

I repented and prayed that she would persevere yet again.

And praise Jesus, who loves his creation, she did build yet another nest, a FOURTH time.  I was so relieved.

She was just in time, for the very next day, she lay her eggs.  Whew!

All I could think about was how much stress I must have caused that little bird just because I wanted to save $12.99!

But God rewarded my repentance with some valuable, illustrated lessons, such as:

  • His control of all events including when the Holy Spirit pinged me, bringing forth my repentance IN TIME for that momma bird to lay her eggs
  • The example of perseverance in the cause of life, the next generation of baby birds
  • The reality that being in God’s will does not block hardship.  That bird was doing what He created her to do – prepare for and care for family.  Despite huge obstacles and persecution – ME!!!

Momma Bird is still there; the babies haven’t hatched yet.  Even when they grow strong enough to fly off, I might keep that dead petunia on my back patio as a reminder.  Our LORD and Savior doesn’t waste a thing.  Definitely worth the $12.99

Luke 12:24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!

Matthew 10:31 Fear not therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.

How many hairs do I have on my head?

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Hairs are numbered

Big deal – so God knows how many hairs I have.  I’ve never understood why Jesus even bothered to say that?

But this week, all of a sudden, Jesus’ words as recorded by Luke stopped me cold.  I realized that I myself don’t know THAT fact about my hair.  What else don’t I know about myself? And what kind of God must our creator be to have that kind of detailed knowledge?  And if he is always aware of the minutia of my life, then he must be intimate with everything else about me, to include the really big stuff.

Suddenly it made sense that God cares enough to keep up with everything about me.  Don’t I care about what I fashion? Don’t I feel a sense of pride and affection and a close bond with my grown sons?  And I didn’t create them, I ‘merely’ raised and loved and taught them.

I like this now, that my heavenly Father knows even the tiniest FACT about me before I ever notice.  That feels like love. And in the preceding verse (Luke 12:6) he even says that I’m way more important than sparrows. And the level of care he shows to these common birds is phenomenal.  Not a single one is “epi-lanth-a-no-mai” – that is forgotten, neglected or uncared for.  If that is how our heavenly Father takes care of the animal kingdom, then how much more valuable am I or are you?

Hmm….so how should I treat my neighbor, whom this same God also created?

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