--Alcoholics Anonymous Prayer
It's what I call my rite of autumn.
The letter of recommendation: written by me, for a young man or a young woman, a senior in high school, who is preparing to apply for admission to college. I make it known to all the young adults I am blessed to pastor to, that if they ask me, I will joyfully and enthusiastically put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and create a heartfelt essay extolling all their virtues, the "whys" of what makes each of them as children of God amazing candidates for higher education. In a typical season I'll pen five or six such tomes, along with a few Eagle Scout letters and job recommendations too.
But first I make them sit down and meet face to face and talk to me about their hopes and dreams for the future and their lives. They always share some mighty big goals--exciting stuff! But even as they reach so high, have such huge expectations for themselves, this is what I always try to tell them, give just one piece of spiritual advice.
"You are already good enough. You know that, right? No matter what school accepts or rejects you, it means nothing about your essential worth and goodness as a person. Harvard or Haverford or UMass doesn't determine that. You already 'got in' with God. I hope you can you remember that? You are already good enough."
I think they hear me. I hope they hear me. I pray they hear me.
Because the truth is that in 2017, for an increasing number of the youth I counsel, teach and know in my work and family life, high school and college kids, young adults and recent grads, down deep inside, too often, they are somehow convinced that they are just not good enough. Not good enough, at some "deep in their bones" level.
Not thin enough or smart enough. Not intelligent enough to get into the "best" school or pretty enough to date a popular boy or girl. Not creative enough to sing in a band or write a short story. Not "successful" enough to live up to the real or perceived expectations of their parents and peers. Not cool enough to be like the amazingly hip friends they obsessively follow on social media, all of whom seem to lead such perfect lives.
Just not good enough.
And so they secretly binge or purge and use food in response to that pain. Or they pack their schedules so full of academics and activities that they stress themselves into migraine headaches. Or they spiral down into substance abuse to numb feelings. Or they shut down and stay away from school or church or family and escape into the internet and video games. Or they pin all their hopes on getting into that "ONE" school and if they don't, they are sure that their world and life as they know it is over.
If only this were an affliction of the young. I see it in their parents too, in my peers, in me, at times. A constant chronic struggle to somehow measure up to some perfect ideal. To live a curated and perfect life just like the ones we see on Facebook everyday, right? Trophy spouse. Spotless house. Kids right out of the "Sound of Music"! Vacations in paradise. This is how life is supposed to be... and if this isn't how your life is, well then there must be something very wrong with you.
You're not good enough.
So do more. Be more. Have a couple more beers or martinis at day's end to take the edge off. Kill yourself at work to impress the boss. Get up at 4 to go to the gym. Double down on the mortgage for a bigger house. Lose yourself in another relationship and forget how sad you really are. The apple does not fall very far from the tree.
The desire for good things in life is natural and good. We want and need to love and be loved. To discover and then use the unique gifts and talents God has given each of us. We see a broken world and we want to make a difference with each of our lives. We want to enjoy life in the deepest sense.
But life is not and has never been perfect. We try and triumph. We try and fail. We try and get halfway. We are not perfect, not by a long shot. But we are good and we are God's and we are good enough. God certainly knows this, but do we? Do our children know this?
Good enough. And yes, I'm happy to write a letter of recommendation for you too.