“Just” Is a Four-Letter Word

We were at my son’s baseball game. And while a new pitcher warmed up on the mound, the umpire walked over to get his water from the chain-link fence separating us. He saw one of the dads’ Music City marathon/half marathon shirts and asked him if he’d run the marathon.

“Just the half,” the dad answered.

The ump’s unashamed response was a splash of cool water in my face: “You ran 13 miles! I ain’t running no 13 miles! Don’t say, ‘just the half!’ That’s 13 miles you ran!”

I wanted to shout, “That’s right! Exactly! Why do I answer people with a measuring stick in my hand?”

That week, the umpire’s words rolled around in my mind and awakened me to all the times I say “just” and hear other people say “just” and, in essence, wave off the beauty of their life and their work:

“I’m just a mom.”

“I just have two kids.”

A teenage girl, one of five children, asked me the other day, “Do you just have three kids?”

For me, “just” becomes an apology for my life, an apology and a recognition of all I am not, all the ways I’m not enough, don’t measure up, don’t compare to the full people. I’m just half. I just ran the half not the whole marathon. I’m just a mom. I’m just, I’m just, I’m just. It never stops for me.

“Just” is my way of cutting my listener off at the pass: Before she can tell me I’m not enough, I tell her I know I’m not enough. I save face by defacing myself. I save myself the pain of watching her judge me, which she probably wasn’t doing in the first place, possibly because she was too busy thinking of all her “justs.” But my pride tells me everyone is looking at me and thinking about me, and, more specifically, they are thinking of all the ways I don’t measure up to them or to everyone else.

But the truth is that I’m exactly who God made me,
and you are exactly who God made you.
There’s no room for “just” there.

 He, the God of the entire universe, put the planets in motion, decided the ladybug would have her spots, and he decided I would be me.

I’m learning that when I apologize for who I am, for taking up space, I’m not giving him any glory: I’m putting focus back on me and my shortcomings, which are maybe the very weaknesses through which he has planned to show his strength:

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
-2 Corinthians 12:9, The Message

What would it look like for us
to accept, and maybe even embrace, our limitations
as beautiful
because God chose to make us who we are
and thereby show his beauty?

May you and I, as God’s children, believe that we are whole
only because our lives are hidden in Jesus,
who is whole
and who stood in our stead
so that we don’t have to be enough
because he is.

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