My Faith

You Are Not Enough… And That’s a Good Thing

My test was one point away from perfect; my class grade was a half percent away from an A, and I didn’t get the scholarship I hoped for the most.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one area of life where you never fall short? Or, what if a situation existed where you didn’t even have to worry about struggling to meet the standard of “good enough” in such a way?

Hustle Harder?

Luckily for us in our pursuit of Heaven, that’s actually the case. Across the board, we could never make it on our own, but the beauty of our situation is realizing that God doesn’t expect us to. Bible teacher and Twitter user Jennifer Wilkin (@jenniferwilkin) worded it one way when she said, “‘Girl you are enough’ is not the Gospel. The Gospel is that you do not have to be.”

Since my parents always taught me to work for what I wanted, I was raised with the mindset that what I earned would reflect my effort. For instance, my grades are linked to my work; if they fall short, I should study harder. Most of the leadership awards I received in high school only began to pay off after four years or so of community service; they weren’t immediate. This feeling also provides certain ownership over the results of what you merit – you know exactly what it took to obtain them, and when fortunate, you get to reap the rewards of the effort you put in. Those things become more valuable to you because you realize exactly the cost it took. It’s human instinct to desire the feeling of ownership over something like that; the reward came after a cost you paid, and you most likely remember it well, so it is yours to enjoy or do with as you wish.

This outlook might make for a work ethic that will strongly help in the long run of life, but it falls sadly short in the area of salvation. The truth is, nothing we do can earn us a ticket to Heaven. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) regardless of how large or small we believe that sin to be. But it is the cross that changes everything!

The Gift We Couldn’t Earn

What the cross means is that Christ died so that we do not have to be condemned for our sins. We have the choice to accept the fact that Christ paid our debt, and that Jesus took our place. Where each of us would fall short on our own, the blood of Christ that covers us also offers us an heirship to Heaven. Jesus has forgiven us despite our shortcomings. He has forgiven us even though we stumble over and over. He has forgiven us and simultaneously knows we will continue to fall, but He will continue to open His arms to us in mercy each time we find our way back to His love. This gift Christ offers us – to be redeemed and welcomed into the family of God – is not one we could earn. We already realize that, on our own, we have failed. And this gift, it certainly came at the highest of prices: it cost Jesus His life.

Christ would have died for each and every one of us alone – not because we deserved it by all our accomplishments but because He loves us more intensely than anything we can imagine here on earth. He didn’t want Heaven without us; He wanted to share it, He wants us to be happy with Him and paid the high price to offer us the choice to follow Him there. Many still reject that outright; and even those of us who believe it continues to stumble along the way when we choose other people or things above God. Yet no matter how far we’ve run, the offer still stands; Christ still waits with Mercy for each time we come back home to Him.

After all, the church is entirely made up of sinners – if it weren’t, there would be no saints. The saints started out as people just like us, and in the end they made it to Heaven not by their own doing, but because they modeled their lives after Christ and kept getting up every time they fell. They were never perfect; they struggled, too. St. Augustine, for one, certainly knew the feeling when he prayed, “Lord, give me chastity… but not yet.” He knew a life of virtue would require a change in his thoughts and actions. He wasn’t born into perfection, but that also didn’t stop Him from turning to God for the help he needed.

We each have that opportunity as well. We have areas we struggle, but that doesn’t mean we should remain where we are and give up, because for once, there’s no test to pass, no quota to meet, and no competition to beat. Christ wants you to come as you are, because He wants who you are, not who you think you should be. The most perfect version of yourself is the one who pursues Christ and follows your Faith even though you slip up; not in spite of it. It’s not about where you start, but about where you go from there.

Perfectly Loved

Even for a gift as wildly life-changing as this, it can be hard to believe that Christ made the choice to die because He believed you are worthy of His love. Yet this is the truth! Nothing you can do would earn a place in Heaven, and even if you live the most perfect of lives here on earth, sin still created a barrier between us and God. On one hand that can feel saddening; but on the other hand, it’s a comfort because we don’t have to rely on our own ability. We can journey with others towards Christ, helping each other to Heaven along the way instead of walking alone. Not one of us is able to provide another with the perfect qualities only God can give. But even through a flawed human love, we are able to realize how much more is in store for us, how intricately each of us is created, and that we have only begun to understand a fraction of the power of Divine Love.

When we share this love with others through our lives, we reflect both our Creator and the purpose for which He created us – that is, to be with God in Heaven. Made for this purpose, Heaven is exactly where we will feel most alive and fulfilled. It’s not something we can find here on earth, but it’s something we can aspire to thanks to the sacrifice of the cross. The grace in our own forgiveness is a witness to others that they, too, are called to the Supper of the Lamb, no matter how far they’ve strayed away before.

In a world where we’re constantly told that we have to be good enough to earn what we want, Jesus stands with a gift earned not by our own efforts, but by His death on the cross. Instead of leaving our worth up to the standards of the world – no matter how well-meaning – He saw everything we ever did to reject His will and everything we ever will choose in the future, and still judged us worthy of Love and Mercy. We can’t provide ourselves or others with exactly everything we need in this world, but we can be a witness of how to transform our lives for the next. We can’t earn Heaven, but we can choose the Savior who won it for us. We aren’t perfect, but we are loved by the one who is – and that makes all the difference.

About the Author

Niki Mallinak

I’m a communications major at Franciscan University who loves my faith, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and making people smile! I’m up for travel, chocolate, or a good story anytime; you can always catch me with song lyrics running through my mind and a book when I’m not planning my next great adventure - preferably involving horses or hiking!