What makes you enough?

“I realized I would rather follow my heart, even if it is really hard, that is worth taking a risk on.” Says Michael John, an aspiring Magician on this season’s America’s Got Talent.

“These might be the most important 90 seconds of my life so far.” Michael says before he auditions.

Handsome, humble and super adorable. He rocks it.

(Photos from Google Images.)

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They give him a standing ovation, they tell him how good he is.

He responds, “It is what I love to do.” He then begins to cry and says, “It feels like a dream. This is all I have ever wanted to do.”

And Howie says, “Your dreams are coming true.” He begins to cry.

michael crying

Validation. Enoughness. Finally someone is saying what he has always wanted, YES! You can do this. Yes, you are good at this!

I remember the day I received my book contract. I had the exact same feeling. The feeling that finally I was being validated. Someone telling me I could do it.

Validation is wonderful and necessary to live, but dangerous when we rest our identity on it.

The contract didn’t just mean I was an author, it meant someone was telling me that I meant something. The publisher didn’t say that. They didn’t call me up and say “Hey lee. You weren’t an accident. You were meant to be a successful author.” But, that is how I felt, and I imagine Michael felt the same way.

I felt validated, heard and finally someone recognizing that I had a voice and story to tell.

It buoyed me to a place I know I had been striving my entire life.

If you read my book, Table In The Darkness, you know I spent most of my life rarely feeling accepted for my choices in my family environment since I was so overly emotional, went to Christian camps, and loved theater. I didn’t fit. The book contract meant I was something. Finally after eight years of early mornings, of constant rejections, of draft after draft and hundreds of dollars at writing conferences…it was happening.

A dangerous alter to set my identity on, to believe that I mattered now because I was an author. To believe that I finally deserved to take up space in this world because someone believed I had something to say. I couldn’t help it. I was starving for the acceptance. I was striving for the acknowledgment.

What makes me successful? What makes me worthy? Is it the validation and the acceptance of others?

Is that what you are longing for too? 

The thing about Michael’s story is the even more inspiring backstory. There always is. He was a baseball player recruited to play pro. But he took the other path, the path to be a magician. Everyone thought he was crazy. Everyone thought he should have taken the baseball contract. He wanted to be a magician.

Last night, Michael returned to the AGT stage to perform again and he was quickly ripped to shreds by Howard stern. Howard buzzed him out before he even finished his act.

“Look Michael. It is hard to get worked up about what you are doing.” Stern says. Wait? Weren’t they singing is praises a few weeks ago?

Mel B. chimes in for a softer blow, “While your magic is good, there is a mismatch in how you perform. You will get that in time, so don’t be discouraged.”

Michael says, “All I can do is have faith and keep pushing forward.”

Well, until a better magician walks on the stage, “Piff” the dragon, and he is given the golden buzzer. We see Michael tearful, discouraged, and beaten down.

Compare and despair. In the world of books I see a million Piffs. Other books that are selling like wildfire. Other authors who are able to make a living off of writing and I lose my wind. I lose my desire.

When we compare, we will inevitably despair. 

So is he still a magician? Will he press on?  Which example will he remember going forward? Will he believe what they said the first time, or will he live in the darkness of failure?

A few weeks ago a false tower that I had built my confidence on came tumbling down just like Michael. A quick phone call with my editor as she relayed the sales numbers of my book.

“Wow.” I said. “Wow.”

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Yes, so odd that it just hasn’t reached the numbers that we projected.”

The voice that haunted me most of my life slithered back in and told me what I have always known. See? You are a failure. See? You don’t matter. And it has paralyzed me. Everything I have been working for, sacrificing hours and hours of my time, and this is the response? Am I a writer? Am I worthy?

I could end here and quit. I have been thinking about it. What is the point? Who cares?

No no no. There, of course, as there always seems to be in life, a valuable lesson. One I am learning, yet again, and that this young man hopefully will learn.

I am valuable and I am worthy because God says I am. I am worthy and deserve to live, not because I have published a book or make money and not because I fall on my face over and over. Neither determine my worth, or yours.

I was doing it backwards and instead I need to operate out of a place of worthiness that doesn’t come from the world. Then the waves of failure and success won’t be so defeating.

What are you falsely putting your worth in? Thinness? Success? A relationship?

When He created us… He said, “It was good.” It is good no matter what I do or don’t do.

There is nothing wrong with achievement. Nothing wrong with success. But when we rest our identity on it, as if the validation from the success makes us ok, that is dangerous. I know because I am slowly crawling out of this trap I once again found myself in. Once again numbers began to define my worth. Geese I am slow to learn.

I refuse to let it. I hope Michael presses on, trusts in his worth and the desires of his heart, and believes he is good enough, and keeps performing magic for the pure joy of it.

I will keep writing, because I love it. Simple.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4:12 (The Message)

Am I enough when the world tells me I am, or am I enough simply because God says I am?  

And how about you?

You are enough. You are adored. Live out of that!

photo (14)

Xo

Lee

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