Let Go of Measuring Up

Jennie Allen + Nothing to Prove + Christian Author + Discipleship

“Mom, I feel like everywhere I look, I am not measuring up.”

My 14-year-old daughter, Kate, sat beside me as we drove through Austin, running a few errands. I was disturbed by what she said. Kate is bright and likable and easygoing. She’s dreaming about become a neuroscientist, but she’s down-to-earth enough to talk boys with her girlfriends for two hours, giggling. I like her so much. Why was she feeling like she was losing?

What made this moment ironic was that one day earlier, I sat with my ministry teammates in a conference room and cried, saying almost the same words, “I feel like I’m not enough.” Then I listened as nearly every teammate said the same thing.

What is this? Why do we all feel like we are not measuring up? We’re all exhausted from trying so hard to do so.
I have the privilege of encouraging and serving women around the world, and I’ve found that so many are tired and thirsty just like us. And do you know the question I hear more than any other? “I want to please God — I just don’t know what he wants from me?”

Does that sound familiar?


As Kate and I drove down that Austin highway, three words came to mind: “rhythms of grace.” I remembered these words from The Message, a popular interpretation of Scripture. I said, “Kate, grab my phone and look up ‘rhythms of grace.’” She pulled up the paraphrase of Matthew 11:28–30, which reads,

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Kate looked at me as if I’d just handed a parched person a glass of cold water. “Mom, what are ‘unforced rhythms of grace’?” The rhythms of grace are found in John 15, where Jesus tells us to stop trying to be vines and learn to be branches. He’s the Vine, and we’re meant to live out of his abundance. It’s as if he says, “Listen, your work is to stick near me, abide in me, pray to me, soak in my words, be with me, and love me. All you need to be is a little, dependent branch; I will make you to bear fruit.”

Yes, Jesus has a big mission for us, but he will cause the big part to happen. He says to us, “You’re going to display me and my power, not yours. I’m going to give myself to you in the form of the Holy Spirit, and then you’re going to go out and I will grow fruit through you.”

What if instead of waking up feeling empty, you were so full of wisdom and joy you were giving it away?

What if instead of living in fear of others’ disapproval, you were watching God touch others through you in ways you didn’t think possible?

What if instead of feeling intimidated, you were seeing a future bursting with potential?

What if instead of craving things that always seem out of reach, you were content and at peace?

What if instead of numbing your exhaustion and anxiety with Netflix, you were free to enjoy your life as God intended?

Jesus has a remedy for our emptiness, our fatigue, our inadequacies, our sin: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37–38) Do you hear what Jesus is saying? Keep coming back to me and I will keep satisfying you. And out of that life with me, you will overflow and bring life to others.

How do we do that? We begin by really believing Jesus — that he will satisfy us if we trust him. We go to Jesus thirsty — thirsty for him. We get alone with him. We pour out our heart before him. We get in his word and we soak in it, memorize it — we drink from it. We ask, seek, and knock.

We also jump fully into our local churches to receive the grace Jesus wants to give us there. We receive biblical teaching and pursue authentic community. We decide to be honest about our struggles, and stop pretending and performing. And we force ourselves out of our own discouraged heads by serving others.

We abide in Jesus. And the more we do, the more his Holy Spirit fullness will overflow out of us to refresh others. That’s what the thirsty world out there needs — not impressive people, but an impressive God. Your neighbors are going through divorces, the death of children, the effects of abuse, and many hope there is a God and long for what only God can do for them. You can take God to them. Do not miss getting to give God away to people. It’s what we were built for; it’s what our gifts are for.

Don’t worry about size or numbers or reach. Think about souls. The biggest things don’t happen on stages or in books or online. They happen face-to-face, around tables, in living rooms, and in neighborhoods. The people who have the biggest impact on our lives are almost always those who personally invest in our lives.

We need to give up trying to measure up. Because what we really need is to be filled up. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). But nothing can stand against the force of God moving through a soul completely in love with him.