Have you ever felt like what you bring to the table is not enough? It could be any table, like at your workplace or in your family or in your contribution to society. Have you ever felt like your efforts are unappreciated and you feel like you’re not even causing a ripple in the great ocean of life?
One of my big inadequacy moments happens to be the potluck at church every week. I must confess that I have dreaded having to cook something for that weekly meal together for a few years. Now, don’t get me wrong! I love the fact that we get together as a church and have a meal together. It has a special way of bringing people together which is awesome! But you see, my inadequacy comes from feeling that I am not a very good cook. I have so many moments that I look back now and laugh about burnt dinners, mushy soup, gooey-half cooked desserts and many more kitchen failures. I have oversalted, under salted over flavoured, under flavoured, overcooked, undercooked everything that you can possibly think that one shouldn’t do to food, I have done it. So, you can imagine my hesitancy when it comes to the kitchen. No, my creativity ended at lunch and dinner and definitely improved with dessert. Now that is where my cooking niche lay, and I knew it! I loved making desserts that I would carefully follow recipes for and loved to surprise my family with. No, for all other cooking, I was more cautious and when we were children, I struck a bargain with my sister that if I would do all the big cleaning chores then she would do all my kitchen chores and this arrangement worked quite well for a while. Over the years however, I learnt to cook certain dishes that I really liked and knew I could cook well.
When I moved out on my own, I began to quickly realise how my repertoire of dishes diminished significantly when I no longer had my sister or mum to rely on for food. But I still had not realised the underlying issue for why I did not enjoy cooking. When we began a project to feed the homeless in the city, there was a lot of food planning that I had to start and so, feeling completely inadequate, I began going to the ladies who’s cooking experience and amazing food I really loved. They planned menus and helped me work out quantities and so I began learning and adding more recipes to my repertoire of dishes. But still, even after having all these wonderful experiences in the kitchen, I still felt inadequate. I still would not bring a dish to potluck at church because I felt that whatever I would bring would never be good enough. It was so easy to compare to all the other amazing cooks in the church and they prepared healthy, vegan food too! Comparison is truly the killer of joy and I hadn’t realised that I was falling for the oldest trick in the book.
You see, the devil knows that one of the easiest ways to get us to put up a ceiling on our potential and growth is by placing comparisons along the way and have us believe that we will never come into our own identity because there are enough people doing great things in this world. And if that is not enough, he has us fear trying and failing more, than never trying. That was the issue with my hesitancy in the kitchen and one that God chose to show me quite simply that I had to overcome.
This is how it happened. This year, I decided that I would bring a dish to church every week and contribute rather than avoid doing so for fear of my dish not being good enough. Still, I failed to keep that end of the bargain for the first two church days in the year and nearly missed out in the third week but instead, God showed me that my little bit was needed, in fact, required of me. I had brought a few things to make a salad that day. I knew that I should go and make that salad but I got involved in a music practice and so when lunchtime rolled around I ignored the voice of guilt in my head for not preparing my salad and reassured myself that it was only a ‘little’ salad anyway and that next week I would bring a better offering. Well, as I began to plate up, I noticed that the salad table was looking quite low on salad and that was a loud enough message for me. I went to the car, took my salad things out and proceeded to make a salad. Turns out, that small salad fed a few people who had missed out and I realised that my problem with cooking and contributing was rooted in nothing more than comparison and fear of failure. And that brings me to the last thing I wanted to share…
Friends, God has not created you with the current abilities that you have or don’t have in order to keep you from succeeding. Let me say that again but differently.
God made you just the way you are in order to contribute in your unique way to a world that needs as much light as it possibly can get. Right from the beginning of the world we see that God takes the light and divides it from darkness so that both the light and the day can be distinguishable, so that we know where to go. Genesis 1:4 says “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness”. God wants us to choose the light every single time and to walk in the assurance and confidence that one has when the path is clearly lit. Jesus said (John 12:46) “I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me should not live in darkness”.
That light is so powerful that the dark cannot live where that light is. How do we throw out the darkness that overpowers us and threatens to engulf us? With light! The light of God’s word tells us that if we accept the words that Jesus speaks to us, then we will continue to walk in an ever-growing light. What does it mean to walk in light? The definition for light is the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible or understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment. Light makes things visible that otherwise would be impossible to see and, in another sense, it provides understanding of a problem or mystery that we have been dealing with. In other words, when we ‘walk in light’ we are making actions on the problem that once was unsolvable. We are moving forward in the understanding that the ‘light’ has brought to us. The mystery that Jesus came to bring light into was sin, to show us that this thing that keeps us trapped in an ever-repeating cycle of wrongdoing, pain and addiction is sin. An inherited heartsickness that only Jesus, his love, forgiveness and sacrifice can make us healthy again. In Jesus, we find the answer to our problems of self-worth, addiction, hate, selfishness, self-protection and self-abuse. The light that Jesus declares into our life, is the life that he desires to give us and be for us. John 1:4 says that “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
When I focus on that light, I no longer see my small offerings as insignificant and pathetic, I see them as a stone in the road that we are all paving towards spreading more light in this world. When I try and fail in my cooking or anything else I do, I don’t have to give up and decide that I will never be a great cook or that I will always fail at what I really want. That’s just part of the process of learning and growing. What I can see it for, is finally testing my faith boundaries, and realising that if I work consistently and bravely, then I will see the results that God knows I will find. It is placing my hands, my inadequate, and small hands and allowing him to feed five thousand through me (this is such a cool story, you can find it in Matthew 14:13-21). All I have to do is believe that Jesus loves me so carefully and wonderfully that I can give up my pride and my self-protecting mechanisms and allow him to lead me through my hang ups and trust in his coaching program for my life. It is not easy, as I write this I am struggling with the thoughts of, what if I can’t follow through on what I have written here? For every what if, there is a greater reason for success that I will find in the words of Jesus. We can bring it all to the table, no matter how big or small and trust that Jesus will do what he will with it, he may choose to feed five thousand with the offering or it may feed one. The important part is that, the offering was there, it was available, the rest, is up to Him.