The Problem with “White Lies”

The Problem with "White Lies"

White lies are lies that are harmless and trivial. At least, that’s what the dictionary says.

But I disagree with the dictionary, if that’s allowed.

I tell white lies often. So often in fact that I don’t always realize I’m doing it. I (white) lie when it’s convenient, comforting, and easier than being honest. I tell a few different types of white lies on a regular basis:

-I exaggerate or embellish events that happened to me to make them sound more interesting or dramatic.

-I give unnecessary and untruthful compliments to people, like “I love your bag!” When really, I don’t love your bag; I just want you to like me. So, I compliment you.

-And, my personal favorite, I tell half-truths.

Half-truths occur when everything you’re saying is indeed true, but you strategically leave out a crucial piece of information, so the person you’re talking to only hears part of the story.

The Half-truth is my favorite because my legalistic side tells me that technically I have been truthful. Then, I go home and my heart tells me I lied.

That’s exactly what happened to me the other day when I was talking to the owner of the building I work in. Our alarm system was down, and I had a sneaking suspicion it was my fault. I had been the one to set it the night before, and I had had some struggles. There had been some beeps. And then, there had been a loud siren sound. I knew I had done something wrong and sure enough, the next day, our building owner explained to me that it was broken.

But instead of confessing to him the struggles, beeps and siren sounds, I simply said, “Well, I hope I didn’t break it,” smiled as charmingly as I could and looked away.

Typically, this would not bother me. After all, I didn’t lie. Did he really need to know all of the details of my shenanigans with the alarm system? No, but for whatever reason, the truth about my half-truth would not leave me alone that night.

It kept me up as I tried to sleep. It occupied my mind as I tried to shop at HomeGoods. It didn’t even pipe down after the glass of wine I drank. Fine! I told myself. Tomorrow, when I see the owner, I will tell him the whole truth.

Sure enough, when I walked into my building the next morning, the owner was hovering right outside my office talking to the receptionist. (Isn’t that always the way?) It took a couple minutes, but eventually I told him the entire story, including the parts I had conveniently left out the day before about the beeps and the reentering of doors and that when I joked about being the one who broke it, I actually meant I was 85% sure I was the one who broke it.

I told him all of this, and guess what. He didn’t care at all. In fact, he just laughed and said he didn’t think that would have broken the system, then walked out of my office. My telling him the whole truth made no difference to him. But it made a difference to me. It made a difference in me.

A smile crept onto my face, a weight that had been on my shoulders when I was walking around HomeGoods completely disappeared. I felt so much better, and this got me thinking, maybe sometimes we need to tell the truth only for ourselves, only for our own souls.

No matter how tiny our white lies are, they affect us. With each one we tell, lying gets easier and easier, and the truth gets harder and harder until our realities are skewed in such a way that confessing you maybe tampered with a security system on accident feels like an impossible thing to say.

I don’t want to live a life where lying, even white lying, is the norm and the truth is hard to find and hard to say. If my story is boring, let it be boring without the embellishment. If I meet you and don’t like your purse, let me say nothing about your purse. And if I know I’m telling you only part of the truth, may I stop myself and tell you the whole story.

Deciphering God’s Will (+ a Book Giveaway)

The Grand Paradox


Mikki Jacobs

Pedre Decupe


Kim k

Congratulations! You will each receive one copy of The Grand Paradox. Please send me your mailing address using the contact page. 

In my former life as a book publicist, I got to know a man named Ken Wytsma. Ken is an author, a pastor, a husband, a father or four girls and he founded a rather large annual gathering called The Justice Conference.

One week in the cold of February, Ken and I traveled to Pittsburg, where he had some media lined up for his first book Pursuing Justice. My job was to drive us around and make sure we were on time and Ken was prepared. This is always the job of a book publicist when traveling with an author.

I am not so great at directions and was nervous to be driving around Ken Wytsma because he is kind of a big deal. Because of this, I got lost going to almost every destination we needed to get to over the course of two days. We spent more time in that rented SUV driving through mysterious roads in the snow than we did doing interviews or being indoors.

At some point Ken took over the GPS, which really hurt my publicist pride, and we started arriving at our destinations much more quickly.

Even though Pittsburg was kind of a fail logistically, it did give me an opportunity to get to know this author/pastor/conference leader man, and I’m so glad it did.

Ken truly lives out his life message: that justice is central to the gospel, and in order for us to know God’s heart, we must seek justice for all of His people.

Right before I left my publishing job last fall, I got a sneak peek at the manuscript for Ken’s new book The Grand Paradox. I read 20 pages and wanted more. The book finally released a few weeks ago, and I was not disappointed by the other 180 or so pages.

If I had to pick a favorite part about The Grand Paradox, it would be the way Ken talks about the will of God for our lives.

As a millennial, I am obsessed with God’s will for my life. As Ken points out, this type of fixation popular in current Christian culture is not helpful. Not to us as individuals and not to God’s big, overarching will for humanity.

“We all like to think God’s will for our individual lives is to write us into the story as the central character,” writes Ken (p. 82). Yep, I like to think that most days. That God is going to do HUGE things through ME.

Ken goes on: “Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God’s will with my life….God doesn’t promise that all will play the central character. What God does promise, however, is that He will love all, lead all, meet us all, and provide guidance and wisdom needed through the Holy Spirit to find, rest in, and follow His leading in our lives” (p.85).

I am incredibly guilty of trying to decipher God’s perfect will for me, my exact next steps to take. This has paralyzed me in decisions and caused great guilt and fear that I made, or will make, a wrong move. God has been gently freeing me of this mindset lately and reading Ken’s book came at the perfect time to affirm the truth that discerning God’s will does not have to be a hard and scary thing. In fact, if it feels that way, I’m probably trying to make myself the central character. I’m probably thinking that I’m a way bigger deal than I actually am.

Ken ends this chapter with a beautiful and simple thought: “What is God’s will for your life? Simple. It is that you live out His will for the world. That you bring goodness, truth, and beauty to the world. Christianity doesn’t serve me; I serve the cause of Christ.”

I’m doing something today that I’ve never done before, a giveaway! I have four copies of The Grand Paradox to give away to four lucky recipients. Leave a comment below and consider yourself entered into the drawing. On Thursday, March 12, exactly one week from today, I will collect all commenters’ names and select the four winners. I’ll then announce the winners via my Twitter and Instagram accounts. So follow @AndreaLucado and/or @AndreaLucado to find out if you won!

May the odds be ever in your favor.

When You Realize You’re the Pharisee

When You Realize You're the Pharisee

Often when I read stories in the Bible about Jesus, I consider myself one of his disciples in the story, and I consider the Pharisees my enemies. But in reading a story in Matthew recently, I realized the reverse was true.

Matthew 12 begins with Jesus and the disciples walking through some cornfields on the Sabbath. While they were walking, they picked some corn to eat because they were hungry. Some Pharisees saw this and accused them of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus stepped in and reminded them that even King David broke into the priests’ pantry and ate “sacred” bread because his soldiers were hungry.

Point being, the Sabbath allows for acts of necessity and acts of mercy, so if you’re hungry and find yourself in a cornfield, just eat the corn.

When Jesus came to earth, he revealed the flaws in the way his people were practicing the law. They would get so bogged down in the details, they were unable to extend mercy or fill a basic need, like hunger. They would miss the overall purpose of the law—to love and worship God— and obsess over how to follow it correctly.

I love rules. If I had lived during Jesus’ time, I probably would’ve studied the law like it was my job. I would have been a Pharisee for sure because rules are comforting for me. If this is always right, and this is always wrong, my world is nice and neat and black and white. I have made up a certain list of rules for my life and for others’ lives and when someone breaks one, I judge them, and when I break one, I beat myself up about it.

These aren’t even all moral rules I’m talking about. They have to do with a general idea of how life should be done, how success should be accomplished—an expectation of the way a Christian life should go. I could write a book of rules that would stress out Emily Post.

But I wonder, if while flipping through my rules book, I miss opportunities to look up and extend mercy, to look up and see a basic need that needs to be met, to see a chance to give grace rather than a subtle look of disapproval.

The freedom Jesus offered the Pharisees in the cornfield is convicting and scary. It tells us that our rules and regulations glorify ourselves rather than God. It tells us that our rules don’t save us, and only he can. It tells us life is much less about us and our behavior, and much more about him, about his forgiveness, and about his grace.

The Journey Was His Idea

The Journey Was His Idea

We all know the story about Jesus calming the wind and the waves, right? (Mark 4:35-41) Jesus was on a boat with his disciples and then a storm came. The disciples freaked out because they were afraid the boat would capsize, and they would drown. They woke up Jesus because, yes, he had been sleeping, and Jesus told the wind and the waves to stop. “And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Seriously, that story never gets old for me. But the other day, I was reading it and noticed the beginning for the first time. I should know better. The beginnings of stories are so important! But, I had never noticed the first verse of this one. Mark 4:35 says that after preaching by the sea of Tiberius, Jesus told his followers, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Of the sea, that is. And by boat, of course.

So, let’s get this straight. Whose idea was it to cross the sea? The sea that would, in a few hours, be hit by a storm that made the disciples fear for their lives? It was Jesus’. The journey was his idea.

I think we all know what a “storm” feels like to us. Maybe you’re in one right now. Life feels out of control as usual, but in the storm, you are more acutely aware of your inability to control it. That’s what storms are for me–challenging times when none of my efforts to fix, work, perfect, smile, try harder, master, get over it or get through it are working. I’m just here, in a boat, shaking Jesus to wake up and help me.

But if it was Jesus’ idea to cross the lake, he made the decision knowing there would be a storm. It’s not like Jesus said, “Ok, guys, let’s go!” and then a few hours later he was like, “Oh, whoa, sorry guys. I’m God in flesh, but I had no idea this storm was coming.” No. Just like he knew it was time for us to cross the sea; he knew a storm would meet us somewhere in the middle, and he planned on being there in it. Not disappearing for a moment and then coming back when things calmed down, but sticking around during the most scary part and eventually (it doesn’t always happen right away) calming everyone and every wave down.

He is in it. With you. The journey was his idea, so we can be confident that we didn’t do something wrong to deserve the storm, and we can be confident that this storm will not be the one that finally, officially does us in for good. If God said go, and we went, He is with us. The storm will subside, and his presence will sustain us.

What Creatives Can Learn from Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird

You’ve probably seen the news about the upcoming release of the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Lee’s much anticipated follow-up, Go Set a Watchman, will come out this July, 55 years after the release of To Kill a Mockingbird.

I’ve read a lot about the excitement over the discovery of the manuscript, and a lot about the skepticism over it. Could the reclusive author who claimed again and again to not want to release another book really be deciding now, in her weak state of mind and body at the age of 88, to release a sequel that was “recently discovered”? It is certainly suspicious, but regardless of Lee’s involvement and willingness, this news can serve as a lesson, and maybe a warning, to those who create art, in whatever form.

A little over a year ago, I attended Donald Miller’s Storyline conference, a conference where attendees are encouraged to determine their dreams and passions and then create a plan to begin achieving those dreams. At one point in the conference we broke up into small groups and were asked to go around the circle answering this question: What will the world miss out on if you don’t tell your story?

The way this question was formed has been helpful to me in my creative pursuits because it takes the focus off of the creator and puts the focus on the potential recipients of the creator’s work. The pressure’s off. Now, you can view yourself as a servant of art, rather than an artist of art. Your job is to help people with what you do, and if you don’t do it, people will miss out.

It’s easy, and natural, for creative people to get bogged down in the perfection of their craft. I think—and she has been known to say this in not so many words—Harper Lee was afraid of failure, and this prevented her from releasing a second novel. It also prevented criticism from coming her way. It prevented comparison to her first work that has been hailed a masterpiece, and truly is. It kept her safe from these things, but look at her readers. It’s been 55 years, and the announcement of a follow-up novel has us cheering and clapping and standing in our seats. And we would have done this 50 years ago, had Lee decided to release another novel at that time.

I wonder if the encouragement would have encouraged her to keep going. I wonder if she would have kept writing, expanding into other genres, written children’s books, or lectured in universities. I wonder what the world has missed out on from this great novelist because, in her words, “When you’re at the top, there’s only one way to go.”

Lee has said the story in To Kill a Mockingbird was the only story she had to share. Something in me says that is not true. Something in me says that a person who can write a novel like that has much, much more to say about society, family, race, and culture. So while I’m thrilled about Go Set a Watchman and will be pre-ordering a copy soon, I’m sad that we, the world, have had to miss out on so much Harper Lee could have said to us and taught us over the last 55 years.

May we vow to be giving of our art; it’s a gift we’ve been given to share.

Do You Want to Know God, Or His Game?

Are You Getting to Know God, Or His Game?

{This is a big question that requires much more than a blog post. Here today, I will simply examine one molecule on one piece of ice that sits at the tip top of the iceberg. A question like this deserves a book, of which I’m sure there are many.}

I’ve caught myself asking “Why?” a lot lately. After a decision here, a decision there, an event here and a disappointment there, my knee-jerk reaction has been to look toward the sky and ask God, “Why?” Why did this happen? Why do I feel this way? Why couldn’t this have worked out? Or, why did this person do this or that? It’s endless and relentless and I’m surprised God hasn’t put some sort of divine muzzle on me already. But I guess that’s not really how God works.

Instead, He is gentle with us. He sees us (as a friend’s blog reminded me recently). He loves us. He cares for us. At least, these are the things I tell other people. These are things I write on my blog and make readers think I understand and know with everything in me. But the truth is, I think I often doubt God’s love and His ways more than I care to admit, even to myself. You see, in all of this recent asking of “Why?”, I’ve realized that my chief goal has not been to understand God; it has been to understand what God is up to, to understand His game, as if He has a game, and He is playing it.

Deep down I think weird and dark things like this: If I can know why something happened, then I can know what God is up to. And if I know what God is up to, then I can know what’s coming next. And that means, I can predict what leads God to do or allow certain things in my life. And then, jackpot! I can decipher what I need to do in order to get what I want from God.

If you are so pure-of-heart, and this isn’t resonating with you yet, then think of it this way. When you are in a relationship with someone, in order to feel close to them and to grow to love them, you must get to know them. In order to get to know them, you spend time with them. You ask them questions. You allow them to get to know you, too. What you do not do is camp out behind a tree and watch them from a distance through a set of binoculars calculating their every move.

-Susan buys coke from soda machine

-Susan opens can of coke

-Susan takes two sips of coke

-Susan says “hello” to coworker who passes by

What have you learned about Susan from your little detective work? Susan was thirsty or tired or bored and so she drank a coke. What have you learned about her character? Do you feel closer to her now that you learned that she drank a coke this afternoon? Are you now on a path to a loving relationship? NO. Why? Because you were simply interested in her behavior, rather than who she was. In order to love someone, you must want to know who that someone is, aside from his or her behavior.

Sometimes when I’m being a whiny, why-asker, what I’m actually doing is watching God  from behind a tree with my binoculars. I’m not actually interested in getting to know who He is; I’m more interested in knowing what He’s going to do next, and what that means for me and my life and the things I want.

I think I would stomp my foot and demand “Why?!” less often if I trusted who God was. I’m never going to fully know why anyways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Not until I am an immortal being who lives above and outside of time and can see from beginning to end. Not until then, which will be never. So while I’m here, maybe it’s more worth my time to get to know the immortal being who lives above and outside of time. To get to know and trust Him and to just finally put the binoculars down. He may already be much closer than I think.

My Big Plan To Reduce Stress in 2015

My Big Plan to Reduce Stress in 2015

I’ve been a little stressed lately. I know because my body tells me:

-I have a consistent and annoying pulse in my right eye.

-According to my dentist, I tense my jaw at night and need to purchase a mouth guard asap (sexy).

– During a massage–the second massage I’ve ever had in my life—the masseuse told me I have some of the most tense muscles she has ever felt. I told her about my mouth guard, and she told me, “That’s great, but you should really just fix your problems.”

Point is, I’m stressed, and you probably are too. Maybe more than I am, maybe less, but I’ve noticed a theme since entering adulthood about seven years ago: it’s stressful. As my dentist explained to me while examining my disintegrating jaw, our bodies cope with stress in different ways as we age. As children, we cry. As teens, we break out. As adults, we grind our teeth, tense our jaws or do one of the numerous things I’ve heard about and/or experienced first-hand: back pain, shoulder pain, insomnia, eye pulse. Oh, the eye pulse!

I would love to do what my masseuse so lovingly suggested and just “fix my problems,” but sometimes when you’re anxious, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact problem, or problems. And pinpointing the problem can cause even more stress when you’re not sure what it is. This got me thinking that maybe fixing my problems, even when I know what they are, may not be the long-term solution to stress.

What is stress at its core? Feeling worried about things that aren’t going your way, or didn’t go your way, or might not go your way. It’s discontentment. It’s distrust. It’s completely natural and human and ok and simply needs to be embraced at times, but I also believe those living the Christian life can fight stress, at least a little bit, and I think it’s worth a try.

Someone left this verse in the comments of my last post, and I think it’s a wonderful response to the definition of stress I made up: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

After reading this verse, I worried (of course). “I have a hard time trusting God,” I thought. “This is exactly why I’m stressed, so will I never be in ‘perfect peace’?!” Then I calmed down and realized the verse actually tells me how to trust God. If our minds are stayed on him because we trust him, then the reverse is true: We trust him because our minds are stayed on him.

Phew! So, maybe if I keep my mind “stayed” by reminding myself daily of who God is and what he has done for me, I will remember how to trust him, and as I remember to trust, the trust will deepen, and as the trust deepens, I will be brought closer to perfect peace and farther from stress and anxiety.

It’s a theory, but I’m going to put it into practice this year. How? Each day, I will try my hardest to start my morning by writing down five things I am thankful for and five things I know to be true about God’s character.

It’s simple. It’s small. It’s quick. But I think it could be huge. Because the power of gratitude and truth in the face of stress and anxiety cannot be underestimated.

The goal is not to be 100% stress-free. That’s lofty and doomed to make me feel like a failure. Instead, I will take baby steps and hope for a little less stress, a less anxiety, a little less fear. A little more trust, a little more surrender, a little more love. Baby-stepping toward God and away from anxiety, one piece of gratitude and one piece of truth at a time.

Are You Overthinking It? The Dangers of Introspection

no text bike image

I’ve written about this tendency of mine before—to daydream, to overthink, to create scenarios in my head and then have a difficult time returning to reality. I’m one of those people who’s been journaling since age eight and will disappear from time to time to sit on a beach, climb a tree or ride a bike simply to get away and think.

I am of the overanalyzing persuasion. It’s something I’ve grown to accept about myself, but it’s also something I’m learning to watch about myself. I think it’s important for we over-analyticals to be aware of when it’s time to JUST STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.

Now that I’m a writer by trade and work from home, my job is to think. This is great, and this is dangerous. Since I no longer work in the 8-to-5, fast-paced corporate environment, I have time and space to really flesh out my thoughts. Any problem, obstacle or doubt that’s arisen in the last few months has received extra attention. I’ve thought about it, run through various scenarios a million times. I’ve journaled and talked to myself about it. And now look, here I am analyzing my over-analyzing.

Through all of this, I’ve realized something. My tendency to overthink is really an attempt to control things in my life I can’t control. Think about it. How often to do you overthink circumstances that are beyond your control? For me, it’s the past and the future that I obsess over–as if thinking about them enough will change my past and make certain events occur in my future. It’s ridiculous. It’s a joke. But it’s what I do.

Being introspective is a good gift, but when your thoughts become a desire or attempt to control the person, place or thing you’re thinking about, it’s gone too far. That’s when we are not just thinking, but overthinking.

Something I know to be true but often disregard is that I rarely find peace in trying to control my life through my imagination. In fact, the opposite happens. When I get lost too deep in thought, I come out of it more anxious and confused than I was before I entered it. So nowadays, when my thinking becomes overthinking, I try to focus on what is true. Because that’s what the Bible says to do: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble…whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely…meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Whatever things are true.

The true things for me right now are simple and basic: God is good. God is faithful. God is sovereign.

Even though I wish I could, I’ve learned I cannot think my life into being better or different than it is, and I cannot think my problems into being fixed. I can, however, force (and it does take an act of force) myself to meditate on what is true. Eventually the truth that God is good overcomes whatever lie or uncertainty had been occupying my brain, and very slowly but very surely, I am more at peace. The fog caused by the anxiety clears, and a path toward hope becomes visible.

2015: No More Clean Slates

No More Clean Slates

The phrase “a clean slate” is kicked around a lot this time of year. People are encouraging others and themselves to forget the heartache or mistakes or tragedies of last year and begin anew.

A clean slate. It sounds so crisp. So freeing. So beautiful. So…clean.

But I’m beginning to wonder, is a clean slate actually possible? And even if it were, is it desirable? To start anew and forget last year, as if it never happened?

I walk into 2015 dragging a heavy, messy, embarrassingly dirty slate behind me, and I think I’ve been under-appreciating it.

Maybe you have been too. Think about it. On your messy slate from 2014 are all kinds of things, right? That time you lost it in the office and yelled at your boss. That time you sent a not-so-gracious email to someone and immediately regretted it. The relationship you held onto for far too long. This person you hurt. That person who hurt you. Too many drinks. Not enough exercise. Lying, cheating, stealing. Sin.

Maybe this year’s slate is a little better than the last year’s, or maybe it’s astronomically worse. Either way, here’s my challenge for you: Don’t start with a clean slate in 2015. Don’t disregard your year’s failures and chalk it up as a mistake. It wasn’t.

I’ve been writing a lot lately since it’s my job now. There are pages and pages of things I’ve written that turned out to be terrible. They’re rambly and stupid and don’t make any sense. They’re too personal for anyone else to relate to, and when I read back over them, it is clear they are crap. No other word will suffice. But, but, they weren’t wasted words. Not a one of them. Why? Because I had to write the crap first to get to the good stuff. Real writers have known that for ages, and I am just now learning this truth and seeing its value. After pages and pages of long and boring stories with no point, inevitably, I would start to write a page, or just a paragraph or just a sentence that was good, or at least decent and had some type of meaning and would maybe actually help the reader rather than confuse her. When this happened—and I wish it happened more often—I would stop and say, “Oh! Oh! This is going somewhere. This is what I was getting at.”

That’s how it is with our lives when we consider them through this annual, calendar-focused lens that we like so much (rather than viewing it as the long, extended journey that it is). The gross stuff, the things we messed up, the people we refused to forgive and the jobs we quit but shouldn’t have—all that stuff is getting us somewhere. All of it is on purpose. Your 2014—no matter how terrible—was not a mistake. I can promise you that. God did not forget to pluck you off the earth for a year, planning to put you back in 2015, because he knew how awful these twelve months would be. You, for whatever reason, were meant to live the year in the way that you lived it.

Not beginning the year with a clean slate is not the same as dwelling on the past; it’s an acceptance of it. It’s understanding the value in not discarding the past year altogether because all the mess-ups and less-desirable things were getting you somewhere, to that good sentence. You just had to write all the crappy sentences first.

In 2015, I will be made up of richer stuff because of the crap I pulled (and wrote) in 2014. I learned things the hard way. I cried. I felt that refining fire we always sing about, and I was reminded that God is near. That He is always, always near and He is ok with my messy, dirty, tattered, disgusting slate and that means I can be too. It’s getting me to the good stuff.

A Christmas Reminder for Perfectionists

image for Christmas 2014 post

This weekend I attended The Gift of Christmas–a night of spoken-word poetry and music with Ann Voskamp, Amena Brown and Ellie Holcomb. I expected the Christmas songs and the candles and for the word “advent” to be thrown around a few times, but I didn’t expect to be so moved by it all.

I like Christmas, but I’m not a fanatic. I don’t want to get all excited about something that will last only one day. I think it’s a self-preservation thing. Anyways, that’s why I didn’t expect much more from this event than to listen to one of my favorite writers talk. But instead of the night being about her, or the music or the holiday season, the night spoke directly to the woman’s heart. More specifically, it spoke directly to the achieving, never-feels-good-enough, perfectionist woman’s heart. That was the part I didn’t expect from a Christmas service.

Maybe one of those adjectives—achieving, never-feels-good-enough, perfectionist—resonates with you. Or maybe you’re lucky like me, and all three apply at any given moment. Either way, the message that night would have moved you, too.

“Immanuel,” they kept saying. “I know,” I thought. “It means ‘God with us,’ and I could stand up there and talk all about that for several minutes because I’ve gone to Christmas things like this every year for my entire life.” What I haven’t been doing my entire life, I realized that night, was applying Immanuel to this need to be enough. I don’t think about God as Immanuel in the midst of all of my striving and hustle.

Ann Voskamp explained the connection. She talked about how in all the other religions of the world, the goal is to do enough, be good enough, check enough things off the list in order to “arrive.” The problem with that, she said, is that not one heart is good enough, pure enough or faithful enough to deserve one ounce of anything good. We are all doomed.

Enter, Jesus.

His birth means we don’t have to be any certain thing, act any certain way, perform any certain acts. What makes us enough is him.

Between songs and poems, musician Ellie Holcomb told her story. One that sounded strikingly similar to mine, and maybe yours too. It was about discovering grace for the first time after being raised in a grace-filled home and a grace-filled church. It’s amazing, and scary, how we can almost miss it. The whole point.

And it’s amazing how that message of the manger has escaped me. The message that we are enough because of this little baby, and that nothing I’ve done in my life thus far has brought me any closer to this child, and nothing I’ve done in my life thus far has taken me any farther from him. That’s what it means for God to be with us. Immanuel. Christmas means we have not strayed too far this year, yet we have not earned brownie points this year either. We’re not getting farther away from him and we’re not getting closer to him because he is with us and has been with us all along. It’s like trying to get closer to your own lungs or trying to distance yourself from them. You can’t. Your lungs will always be in the same place, and they will always be a part of you.

Immanuel is the greatest promise, but it’s also kind of a bummer. This weekend I was reminded, yet again, that all the good stuff I do isn’t actually getting me anywhere or counting for anything. This is hard for the perfectionist and achieving types to hear sometimes. Eventually though, like what is happening to me now, the idea of Immanuel grows more appealing than my list of prizes and achievements, and the holiday season becomes a reminder that I can sit down and I can rest, really rest, in the way I was made to.