There was a status on the Torch’s Facebook that was a pretty simple, yet thought-provoking statement: “You are enough…” I particularly like that one, I must say. Sarah writes most of the status updates for the Facebook page, and she is a thinker for sure. We live in a society that does not often encourage the philosophy behind that thought. If we fully embrace the idea that you are enough, and I am enough, just by being you and I, then suddenly we have to re-think how we approach fellow human beings who inhabit this planet with us.
What is nearly the first question most adults ask when they meet somebody new? Think about it. They ask, “What do you do?” Meaning, of course, what do you do for work? Why do people ask that? Either consciously or subconsciously it is a measure, or a value-judgment, of those around us. I work with people who have disabilities, and have for nearly my entire adult life. When I answer that question people inevitably say something like, “you must be a really special person to do that.” But I know I am not, I am just me, and regardless of what I do with my time, that should be enough. I never ask people what they do. I am currently exploring a business opportunity, and I realized today that I don’t know what many of my friends (except for those I work with) do as a job. I know about the things I most deeply care about: their families; their characters; their hopes; their worries; the things in their lives that make up who they are. But often I do not know what they do for work.
People are not their jobs. Jobs are something they do. People are not their choices in life. Their choices are based on their experiences and what they have learned. Sometimes those things are destructive and harmful, and sometimes they are empowering and beautiful. Either way, they do not increase or decrease the value of a human being. What you can or can’t do for me should not play into how much I value who you are. Neither should what you do or don’t do for me, or even what you have or have not done to me. I always need to be striving to allow my heart to be compassionate enough to accept that you are enough for this world. And so should you. Nobody’s opinion or judgment or attitude should diminish that you are enough, and if you find that they powerfully try to force you to be what you are not, then you should probably consider moving on so you can accept that you are enough.
I see how, without even acknowledging it as we worked on all the planning and preparing that has gone into building a foundation for The Torch, we have embraced the philosophy that “you are enough”. Whoever you are, wherever you are at in your life, you are enough. You are enough to deserve our compassion. You are enough to receive a free hot meal. You are enough. You don’t have to bring anything besides yourself to us, ever. You are enough. Just by being a member of the human race, you are enough. We value you, and your family, and your presence in the world. All of you are enough, and you always will be.
I think, deep down, we are all a bit rebellious. We want so desperately to make a difference in the world, for our lives to matter, and something about being told we have to measure ourselves against the status-quo grates on our sense of individuality. Early on, when Sarah and I were trying to learn everything we could about food trucking, we met with a man who owned a food-truck catering business. He had had a very successful business, but was winding things down and was in the process of selling all of his trucks so he could move to California. Sarah and I met with him and, as we looked inside his quite-magnificent trucks, we asked him lots of questions about running a food truck. He inevitably asked us what we were thinking of doing - and as soon as we told him we wanted a food truck to take to directly into neighborhoods to cook and serve free hot meals, his countenance and attitude changed. His voice and words gave us the verbal equivalent of a condescending pat on the head as he quickly ended our meeting. I won’t forget his words - “Well, girls, it’s one thing to have a good idea…” He let his voice trail off, and his eyes spoke the rest - “but in reality, it won’t work.”
Something inside me reared up at that, and rebelled against the unspoken challenge. Of course, I can see how he could come to his conclusion. Sarah and I were rookies. We didn’t know hardly anything about food trucks. For him, the food truck business was work - it had proved very lucrative, and he couldn’t see any other purpose besides profit for having a food truck. He also clearly didn’t know about the God factor, which I was relying on heavily. I was surprised at how much I didn’t like his insinuation that what we had was a good idea, and nothing more. It was too far outside his ability to reason, or even care, for him not to dismiss it as if it were nothing more than a whim for us. For me, it was a passion, and his indifference and mocking tone fueled that passion.
I spent most of my life trying not to rock any boats. I did what was expected of me and worked hard to keep everyone around me happy. I was hesitant to try new things, and avoided change at all costs. When I was finally forced to make big changes in my life, I was terrified, and completely expected to fail. Poverty, homelessness, crushing rumors, and the loss of friends threatened to overwhelm me. But in the midst of it all - as I began to sense there were many people in my life who were hoping, yes HOPING, I would fail - that I would fall and not be able to get up - I found, deep inside, a rebellious spirit that would not allow me to succumb to all the pressure and to surrender my optimism and faith.
I believe God puts that spirit inside us and then uses our circumstances to fan the flames which spread and grow and keep hope alive. We don’t have to be overwhelmed by the bad influences in our lives, or by other people’s opinions, or even by the consequences of our own or others’ stupid actions. We might have to endure some difficult, or even horrible, circumstances, but that rebellious spirit is inside, refusing to let us give up. I look around and I see things that are wrong. I see things that are accepted in the Christian world - and they are wrong, and when I point them out sometimes people get angry. There was a day when that anger would have caused me to scurry back into the safety of nonchalance and casual acceptance in allowing them to believe I was wrong for questioning the status quo. But that day is gone. Instead, I think about how things should be, and I speak up, and I have continual hope things can change. I feel good about myself and my confidence grows.
I read an article the other day which was written to a Christian audience. It talked about how some Christians show too much love for others. That’s right, too much love and not enough judgment. When I think about my life, and the things that drove me into a relationship with God, it always points to love. I didn’t really think I was all that horrible when I became a Christian. I was very hungry to be loved, though, and as I started working to get to know God, that is what I found. I had some crazy beliefs, ideas, and thoughts that I held on to for a long time after I began to interact with God regularly. People’s criticisms and judgments didn’t cause me to accept the Bible. A fear of going to Hell didn’t, either. How can you fear what you don’t believe in? It was love that captured my attention and drew me. It was peace I sought, and hope. As I entered into the family, accepting God as my Father, and learned more about His nature, my desires and thoughts, and attitudes changed.
I feel the familiar twinge of rebellion when I am told to love less and judge more. If there is no love, there is no hope. If there is no hope, there is no purpose for The Torch. But there is love, there is hope, and I have found my purpose.