Never Good Enough
July 20, 2017 • Blog Post
The phone rang, and I knew my well-intentioned district leader meant to bolster me up with “You can do it!” But I was covered in sweat (so much so that my makeup had melted off my face and onto my light blue shirt), the jagged rocks that were pretending to be a road were anything but a foot massage, and no one had wanted to speak to me all day. Oh yeah, and I had been experiencing an energy-sucking depression for months. You could say I was feeling a little bitter, and sadly, the phone call didn’t change a thing.
Just seconds before the call, I had been having a talk with God in my head: “I must not have faith, because if I did, people would accept the gospel, right? Either I’m sinning or going through a trial of faith—and there’s no way a trial of faith lasts this long. So I just must not be good enough. To me, “good enough” meant I should be doing what I was supposed to and living up to the expectations of being a missionary and a member of the Church. I thought good enough meant I had to be perfect, which by my definition meant waking up on time, having a certain number of lessons with members, and baptizing every month. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get there.
I wanted to get out of bed on time every morning like other missionaries. I wanted to teach the plan of salvation without thinking about the death part as much as I did. I wanted to feel like I was doing all the things I was “supposed” to do. I wanted to see the fruits that were apparently supposed to come from my being good. But instead I was dragging myself in our front door every day, eyes glazed over with heat exhaustion and the disappointment of never doing enough, falling on my bed—with light filtering into the room by our discolored yellow curtain—and crying. Because I was never going to be good enough.
Why He Is Called “Savior”
After one particularly soul-punching week, a friend—not even aware of how much I was struggling—sent me the BYU devotional, “Believing Christ: A Practical Approach to the Atonement” by Stephen E. Robinson.
As I sat at my desk, squinting to read the devotional—having printed it with a half-inch margin and an eight-point font to save money—I’d have to stop periodically to wipe at my eyes or swallow down the excess of emotion. This talk was exactly what I needed. When Robinson talked about his wife who gave up because she couldn’t be perfect, I felt just like her—giving up because I couldn’t be perfect or even good. When Robinson talked about what he told his wife, I felt like the words were for me:
After all the lessons we’d given and heard, and after all we had read and done in the Church, who would have thought that Janet did not know the gospel of Jesus Christ? You see, she was trying to save herself. She knew why Jesus is a coach, a cheerleader, an advisor, a teacher. She knew why he is an example, the head of the Church, the Elder Brother, or even God. She knew all of that, but she did not understand why he is called the Savior.
Up to this point, I had seen Christ as a teacher, an example. I thought that I could earn my way back to Him by making myself good. But the idea that I was never going to be good by my definition—being perfect—had never occurred to me. I had mixed up what it meant to be good. It didn’t mean that I had to be perfect in every way. I could be a good person even if I couldn’t get out of bed. I could be a good person even if I couldn’t say I loved my mission. I could be a good person even if I didn’t baptize a single person. I realized that I could become a good person by believing in and following Jesus Christ, because it is He who makes me good, who perfects me—not the fruits of my labor. Christ would eventually make me perfect, but before that point, I just needed to focus on keeping the commandments, loving God, and believing that Christ would make everything okay. I was still depressed, but for the first time on my mission, I felt like I was good enough. I truly had hope in my Savior.
Jesse King is an editorial intern at BYU Magazine. She’s a low-key workaholic who loves Mediterranean food, hugs what she deems “cute” trees, and wears lipstick regularly. She aspires to be a media conglomerate CEO, magazine editor, community college professor, and mother—just maybe not all at the same time.