The Enough Life

Photo by  Andrew McElroy  on  Unsplash

Mid-February is a very exciting time of year and I'm not talking about Valentine's Day. I'm talking about February 15th: National Signing Day. Across the country, tens of thousands of high school athletes sit at a table in their high school gymnasiums with proud family members, coaches and teachers beaming at them as they pick up a pen and triumphantly sign their NLI (National Letter of Intent). That special signature effectively serves as the student-athlete's commitment to attend the university of their choice while playing the sport they love at a higher level. About 7 years ago, I remember lying in my bed on Feb. 15 disappointed that I would never get to sign that letter.

After years of hard work, a record-setting high school football career and recruiting interest from several coaches, I was never offered a scholarship. I was crushed. It felt like I had let my family down for all the hours they invested in me whether it was my dad coaching, my mom buying my sports equipment or my siblings cheering me on every Saturday. It felt like I had let my school down after all the love, support and hope that coaches, teachers and students showered me with as I pursued my goal of playing Division I football. But most of all, it felt like I had let myself down. After all the blood, sweat and tears; after the injuries, wins and losses; after the early morning workouts, late afternoon wind sprints and mid-offseason training session; to me, no letter meant 'not enough'. It felt like I didn't catch enough touchdowns, run enough yards or make enough plays to prove I deserve to play at the next level. 7 years and many more football games later, I still struggle with the fear of not having or being enough.

What would it mean for something or someone to be enough for you? Or put another way: What would it mean to live an 'enough' life? Is it seeing your bank account double? Maybe it's falling in love with the man or woman of your dreams. Or maybe it's simply professional success. Whatever it is, from birth, every one of us daily struggles with or contemplates living an 'enough' life. And when I say daily, I mean it!  Consider your thoughts and worries from a week ago and you'll realize how frequently it crosses your mind. Questions like "Will the promotion I deserve ever come?", "Am I saving enough for retirement?" or "Will my family ever become what I want them to become?' creep in, concern and tug at our anxieties. And each question is supported by an underlying question that gets to the heart of who we want to be: 'Will I be recognized and successful?', 'Will I be safe and comfortable?' 'Will I be respected?'" There's an unmistakable tug in our hearts driving us to want to do, be and have enough.

When I ask myself what it would mean to live an 'enough' life, I'm amused by where my heart and imagination tend to drift. Just for some background, I'm 25 years old and just completed my 2nd year as a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. By all accounts, I'm living the dream. I'm happily married to the woman of my dreams, we both have jobs we enjoy and every night we sleep in the comfiest bed either of us has ever owned! And yet, in case you were wondering, there are times when it still doesn't feel like I'm living an 'enough' life. I remember there being times this past season when I would return home to my wife frustrated at how much more I wanted to contribute to the team. Going from a breakout star my senior year in college to more of a role player in the NFL was a tough pill to swallow at times. What was my problem?

In psychology, there's a phenomenon called the 'hedonic treadmill' where we experience greater and greater pleasures and yet at less and less felt satisfaction. It's almost like how a lollipop tastes great at first, but once your taste buds acclimate to its sweetness, it begins to taste blander. Similarly, we often experience pleasures that fade in their potency over time. Perhaps the raise we thought we deserved stops feeling like enough after a month. Or even after the young married couple surpasses the 'honeymoon phase', the joy of being together all the time starts to diminish. While this reality is helpful when considering current pleasures, it doesn't necessarily explain the initial and overarching longing we experience for the 'enough' life. That's because the lifelong journey many of us are on for the 'enough' life, is a painstaking journey for lasting joy. We long to experience pleasure and satisfaction as long as possible and nobody had to teach us to want it. Children must be taught manners and what it means to 'play fair', but did you ever hear of a child that had to be taught what it means to grab her favorite dessert at the bakery? Or have you ever seen a mother chide her son, "Billy, you should really make friends with children who make you happy and not with kids who make you cry!" No, by nature we desire lasting happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. In fact, I'm convinced that God created us all with this desire, but I don't think he means for it to be filled with things subject to the hedonic treadmill. After all, we can see how those things truly AREN'T lasting in bringing satisfaction. So God, being immeasurably good, has offered to us lasting satisfaction in an everlasting person: Himself. In Psalm 16:9 it says, "In your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." The infinite, immutable, everlasting God offers us complete joy and pleasures that will never stop! Isn't that EXACTLY what we're searching for? And the best news is that it doesn't say we have to be a certain age or earn a certain amount of money or have a certain amount of social media likes to gain this. Instead, the basis for tapping into this life-lasting satisfaction is simply being in the presence of God. Through Jesus Christ, anyone can have unfettered and unending access to the presence of God. For me, that means that whether I'm playing in the Super Bowl or put on the practice squad, full joy and pleasures forevermore are available for me to be satisfied in.

Looking back on the sad teenager that I was 7 years ago, I realize now how much I misunderstood about God. It's not that my disappointment wasn't real or shouldn't have stung, it's just that I had been chasing a pleasure that would fade quickly. Endless joy and happiness was offered to me through God's presence, and I was whining over how little college coaches thought of me. If I had just fixed my eyes on how much God offers in Himself, I would have experienced what 'enough' felt like. Indeed, we must realize that nothing on earth can feed the fire that the 'enough' life requires to burn. There is a loving God to turn to for every joy and pleasure we ever wanted.