The Gospel of Enough
I love words. I am an English major born of an English major, and the only thing I love more than books are words. I love that words create meaning, that they inspire emotion, that they define and refine the very way we understand ourselves and the world around us. I love some words just for the sounds of them (Crevasse! Quark!) and some I despise for the same reason (Slacks! Moist!). But there are still other words that I don’t love because they simply do not inspire emotion. One of those words is enough.
No one really seems to like that word, to be honest. It rarely gets used in a positive way. When we refer to someone as “good enough,” we say that who or what they are will do just fine, but we’d really prefer something bigger, better, or bolder. When we say “enough is enough,” we don’t mean that we’re surrounded by sufficiency, but that we are rolling in ridiculousness. When a detail is “enough to go on,” it falls short of telling the complete story and instead just barely tells the story in a way that allows an investigation to continue. Think of all the words we put alongside enough: adequate, decent, admissible, tolerable, satisfactory, requisite. Check your thesaurus, and prepare to be underwhelmed. Those words make enough seem barely enough.
No, enough isn’t fun. Who wants just enough? We deserve more than enough. We need a better word, one with more excitement, one that looks good on a glossy magazine cover, one that will ring in your ears when you hear it. You deserve a word like . . . surfeit. Surfeit means excess: plentitude, plethora, profusion, repletion. Now that’s a word you can’t get enough of, right? Why settle for enough when you can demand surfeit?
We have been taught to believe that you can never have too much of a good thing, and strangely enough, we seem to believe it. (back to top)
My brother-in-law has a great concept that I am not ashamed to say I have stolen and fully integrated into my life. He calls this profound piece of practical theology: Ultimate Fun.
Ultimate Fun is the point in a great event where you have had just the perfect amount of fun. You’re out with friends, or at a dinner party, or at the park with the family, and you realize that, at that precise moment, you will never have more fun than you have had up until that point. It is the ideal amount of fun, and no more. You have reached Ultimate Fun. If you leave at the moment of Ultimate Fun, you will always look back on that party, night, or trip, as an absolutely perfect time.
But wait, you can’t have too much of a good thing, right? Not true. Without fail, if you push past the point of Ultimate Fun, you do not get more fun for your effort. Instead, you get tired, cranky, and overwhelmed. The previously perfect evening is ruined. We are not meant to move past Ultimate Fun, because after that point, it’s just not fun anymore.
When I watch for the boundaries of Ultimate Fun during my day, I am reminded that I only ever need or want enough fun. Ultimate Fun helps my family and me put limits on how much fun is enough fun, because sometimes enough of something is really all you need.
I may not love the word enough, but enough has all sorts of other beautiful synonyms, which you can find if you left your thesaurus open: bounteous, copious, satisfying, lavish, plenteous. Enough fulfills, never turns sour, does not implode on itself. Enough is Ultimate Fun, giving you always only exactly what you need, meeting your desires so perfectly that you are never overwhelmed by too much. It is an enough that we can be grateful for, never making ourselves or our appetites more than they must be. (back to top)
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
Enough doesn’t sound like enough, but it’s a whole lot more than words like surfeit, excess, or luxury. You should know exactly what you’re buying into if you expect surfeit, because surfeit also means to cram, gorge, or glut. None of those words sit well with me. A legitimate dictionary definition for surfeit is “an uncomfortably full or crapulous feeling due to excess.” I’m not convinced crapulous is a real word, or that I can even repeat it in polite company (I dare you to try it, and tell me how it goes), but you know what it’s like to feel crapulous. You know how it felt to push past Ultimate Fun. You felt stuffed full of things in your stomach and in your house and in your purse and in your day planner and in your life and in your soul. You don’t feel satisfied from surfeit. You feel sick. Whether it’s the swollen pain of an over-full belly or the gnawing anxiety of an over-full schedule or the empty echo of an over-full demand for wealth, you know how surfeit feels. And it doesn’t feel good.
So why is it that we always want more? When we know how poisonous surfeit can be, why do we consistently ignore enough?
Maybe it’s because we are afraid.
Maybe you don’t feel afraid. Maybe you feel empty, tired, or frustrated from a world or a life that doesn’t ever seem to provide enough. But in that perception of scarcity, we act in ways that are not consistent with the truth. When we operate from not enough, we operate from fear. Maybe the reason you’re always grabbing for more, always convincing yourself you deserve it, maybe it is because you fear that you are not even close to enough. Perhaps you try to be more because you believe, somehow, that without an abundance of surfeit surrounding you, you are afraid that you don’t have enough. Worse than that: You are afraid you are not enough, and you never will be.
For people of faith, fear is truly not an option. We live in the confidence of a God who not only creates, but who provides. God does not leave us to fend for ourselves. “God helps those who help themselves” is not found anywhere in the Bible, no matter how many people think it is. God gives. God is enough. And we, who are made in the image of God, are enough.
At the end of the day, how is that surfeit working out for you? How satisfied do you feel in your quest for bigger, for better, for more? Might you feel unsatisfied? God has a different word for us, a word that fulfills, one that satisfies. God’s word is: enough. God’s enough is good enough in all the best possible ways. It is only what we need, and it is always what we need. You are enough because God is enough, and in our Creator’s abundance we are never left wanting. (back to top)
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
As you hear the good news about Jesus in the miracle of the loaves and the fish, hear it with the ears of one who hungers to have enough, who fears she is not sufficient, who is exhausted from searching fruitlessly for surfeit. Jesus and his disciples are traveling and teaching, helping and healing, moving from place to place. No matter where they go, they’re surrounded by crowds, and those crowds are hungry.
Jesus asks his disciples, “So, where shall we go to buy food for everyone?” Can you imagine the look on their faces? “Enough money to get enough bread so that every mouth will have enough to eat? There will never be enough—we could spend six months working non-stop, and we’d still only have enough money for everyone to get a bite. It’s impossible.” There are among them a few loaves of bread, and a few measly fish. But Jesus is not discouraged. He blesses the food and sends it out into the hungry crowd. He tells the thousands to eat, and as Jesus asks, they eat until they are satisfied. Each person has enough. In the hands of Jesus, there is enough. In fact, just to prove the point, the people gather up the broken bits that are left over, the crumbs on the ground left behind by satisfied mouths. Those humble leftovers filled basket upon basket.
On that day, there was enough for all. Here today, there is still enough. You want to know how I’m so sure about that? Because, child of God, you are enough.
Maybe it’s not enough for me to say it once. Let me say it again: You are enough.
Think of those loaves and fish, up against the hungry bellies of thousands of people. They did not seem like enough. But in the hands of Jesus Christ, the bread of life, they fed thousands. They were enough. You might not feel like enough—you might feel paltry, insubstantial, the human equivalent of dried bread and stinky fish. Still, your God calls you—calls you to feed the hungry, tend the sick, visit the imprisoned, condemn the unjust, befriend the stranger, protect the orphan, sustain the faithless, preach the word, and this without fear or without fail, because in God, there is enough.
You are enough. Through the potency of the Holy Spirit brewing inside you, there is enough in you and enough of you for the rest of the world to have enough. It is not luxurious or superfluous, but it is enough—and that is all you need to have. (back to top)
ENOUGH TO GO ON
You are surrounded by a world that demands surfeit, a world that monetizes your fear by fooling you into thinking you need more. I challenge you to respond with the gospel of enough. God can and will work in you so that your offering, no matter how small, might be enough not just for you, but for your family, for your congregation, for your community, for your country, for your world. There is a world that is hurting to hear the good news, and you are the one to bear it. You are the one God is calling to love and serve your neighbor, to live in the abundance of God’s good gifts, because you are enough.
Words create meaning. When you were baptized, you were named a child of God, and those words worked together with the water to shape a new reality. In this reality, God promised to always be enough for you, and that all you had was enough for the world. This baptismal calling promises that we are blessed with ridiculous abundance. There is enough of God, and with God that enough is you.
Maybe I can learn to love enough after all. May we each discover the ridiculousness of God’s enough as it gives us exactly what we need, each and every day.
The Rev. Megan Torgerson is the associate pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, Minn., a writer for books like Crazy Talk and The Lutheran Handbook For Pastors, a graduate of Concordia College and Luther Seminary, a former Miss Minnesota, a beleaguered owner of two dogs and two cats, a macaroni-and-cheese connoisseur, and beloved by an incredibly patient husband. (back to top)