When Your Best isn’t Good Enough

My sneakers pound the black belt of the treadmill. Faster. The speed picks up. Faster. The voice whispers again. I push harder. The treadmill picks up speed and I break into a sprint to keep up. Faster. Longer. Better. I gasp for breath but my sneakers keep pounding.

I blink and I realize it’s not the treadmill that’s pushing me – it’s me. Do more. The voice whispers. Be more.  Everything begins whirling as I frantically try to gain control and keep up. But it all goes faster and faster. Keep going. You’ve got to be better.

And as I try to keep up, I begin to wonder – when did I have to start being the best at everything?  The perfect student, the perfect teacher, the perfect friend, the perfect Christian? The girl who outwardly has everything together and knows exactly where she is going in life? The girl who can never slip up?

I am constantly running, trying to be faster, better, stronger. As exhaustion sets in, I grit my teeth and push through it.  My students need me. My family needs me. My church needs me. To admit I can’t do it all is weakness. To share my struggles with someone else makes me look needy. But I’m supposed to be the person who has it all together- weakness and neediness are not options. And so I push – harder and harder. I will be the best. I will succeed. And I will do it on my own.

And the treadmill spins out of control.

I fall down. Hard. Embarrassed. Glancing around to see if anyone witnessed my disgrace. The voice that urged me on now cruelly sneers at me. Way to blow it. What a failure. Did you really think you could be good enough? Now look what you’ve done – you’ve ruined it all! And I sit there on the cold ground as the treadmill keeps going beside me. But I’m not on it. And I wonder if I’ll ever be back on it.

Maybe I have failed in an aspect of my classroom management. Maybe I missed the deadline. Maybe I disappointed my administrator or my students’ parents. Maybe I let down my own family.

But as I sit there humiliated in the stillness, a kind voice calls to me. Come unto me and I will give you rest. Give me your heavy burden and take mine instead, for it is light, and you will find rest for your soul.

Tears stream down my face as I pant heavily. No, Lord, really, I can do it! Just give me another chance! I’ll try harder. I’ll do better.

 Daughter, you can’t do it. And that’s okay! You were not meant to be able to do it — to bear this burden of perfection. I have already borne it for you. I have taken it off your shoulders yet you insist on fighting me to try and take it back. Be still. Be still and know that I am God (and you are not!).

And it hits me – I am not God.  I am not perfect. I do not have everything under my control.  I can’t be enough for my students, their families, my family, and my church. I can’t meet all of their needs.

But God is  enough for them – and for me.  I just have to step back, slow down, and trust Him with what I can’t do.

So when my best is not good enough – when I fail? By God’s grace, He will help me to stand back up. He will put me back on the treadmill…but He puts His hand over the controls. He is the One who is going to set the pace this time. He knows what I can handle with His help.

He is not disappointed that I can only do a 2.0 mph pace instead of the 8.0 mph that I want to do.

He allowed me to spin out of control to bring me back to the point of dependence on Him. He knows that other than Satan, I am my own worst enemy!

It isn’t His voice I hear telling me that I am a failure. His voice is whispering,

I have loved you with an everlasting love…

Nothing shall be able to separate you from my love…

And knowing that God’s love for me didn’t change because I wasn’t good enough today? Well, I can face anything if I know that He still loves me! Back when I accepted Christ as my Savior, God knew I would fail. He didn’t adopt me into His family because He knew what an amazing addition I would be! He chose me, knowing full well all the ugliness and messiness I would bring along with me!

How thankful I am that I serve a God who rewards faithfulness, not perfection.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again… (Prov. 24:16A)

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  1. Thank you! I try to remind myself of this often. As a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, sister, Christian, friend, there never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything I think I should do in all these roles. Many times we think we must be everything to everyone, and as humans,
    it simply isn’t possible. God is everything and anything that anyone will ever need. 🙂

    1. You are so right, Robin! For me, I think my problem is just that I don’t trust God to take care of all the things that I can’t (which is pretty crazy, considering who He is!)

  2. This was me two weeks ago. I completely “fell of the treadmill” with a verbal response to a student that still makes me shutter. For days, the word echoed in my mind.
    This piece is so timely and accurate. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us.

    1. Karen, we have all been there and done that! Praise the Lord that He is a God of second chances (or however many I may need!). Satan would love to keep us down over our failures, but that is what I love about Prov. 24:16 – God didn’t say that the righteous NEVER fall…they fall, but by God’s grace, they GET BACK UP and right back to serving Him!

  3. This is my now. I vacillate between the chaotic running and the numbed inactivity of failure. Thank you for the reminder that God knows all this and does a far better job with it than I do. I am running out of inspiration and will to keep teaching after 14 years. Perhaps God has an alternate route planned. I need to listen and trust, taking one step at a time. Thank you for this timely post. I believe You were God’s vehicle to me today, so I could hear this and cling to The Truth.

    1. Aimee, thanks so much for sharing! I just prayed that God would give you wisdom as to what He would have you to do career-wise. 14 years in the classroom is great!Teaching is hard, but I have been so thankful for the way that it has pushed me towards Christ. It’s definitely not something that I can do in my own strength!Praying that God would guide your footsteps -“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

    2. Amber, This is my 26th year in teaching and I have lost my joy several times during this tenure! I too am praying HE will renew your strength and give you His perfect peace as you rest in Him! Teaching is such a demanding job!!!! Know you are not alone in this quest for balance!

  4. Thank you! Once again God uses you to speak straight to my heart just when I need it. This is a life lesson He keeps teaching me as I embrace His grace and let go of the drive for perfection!