It was sticky that day—typical Tennessee summer air after a good long rain in the valley. I was on a two-hour break from working at camp—just enough time to eat something other than mac and cheese and reflect for a while. The humidity clung to me like the inside of my navy blue rain coat, worn and fading from years of wear—hood pulled up to keep the left over drops out of my eyes. I sat upon a fence post—rough, and wooden, looking out upon a pond of geese. The light from the slowly setting sun reflected upon the pond, making everything seem so very golden. But something else clung to me—a lie that the sly one loves to whisper in our ears. You are not enough. And it clung harder and harder to my sun-burned skin, sinking down into the cavity of my beating heart. With every pulse of life, its grip tightened. It probed me, questioning my faith to the one whose mercies were handed to me each morning. Will you ever be enough? Will you ever be anything more? Why are you the way that you are?
And that’s when a note, crumpled—as if it had been held tightly to a little chest, was slipped into my pocket. It was written in neon pink highlighter and signed, Love Jenna.
She had been in the crowd that night—the night I stood in the spotlight holding a microphone, hair in a braid down my back, sharing the story of how I met Jesus. I wanted to share more though. I wanted to show them that he could free them from comparing themselves to other people. That perfection needed to be rejected. That insecurity comes from a rooted lie that who we are and what we have to offer is not enough. Their faces looked up at me, as if my words were the sweetest things they had tasted—as if I was unlocking some secret to life and the universe by simply breathing. I had felt that once too. Thirteen year olds feel things deeper than society suggests.
And so I told them who I had been at thirteen, words coming out of my mouth with no thought, no hesitation. I used to look in the mirror and think that I wasn’t good enough. Everyone else seemed better than me. I used to live fearfully—clinging to perfection—afraid to try anything I might not be good at, all because a fear of failure haunted me. And then I let the Holy One give me freedom. He can give you that freedom too.
I didn’t tell them that I still had doubts, fears, and anxieties. I didn’t tell them that I had woken each morning that week and looked in the mirror and asked what on earth I was doing at camp that summer—a college graduate with no plans, no direction, and seemingly no ambition. Wasn’t it best to leave those things out?
But Jenna knew. And God spoke through the chicken scratch of an eleven-year-old girl. And God can speak through her again. I am tempted by a desire for perfection. I am tempted to compare myself to the achievements of others—the relationships of others—the circumstances of others. But then I remember. Her note is framed in my bedroom—a girl whose face I saw only once, but whose words of encouragement remind me that we are all purposefully placed. We are where we are for a reason. We are who we are for a reason. We are enough. We are designed. Our days are ordained. We simply have to remember it.
She wrote, “if you’re looking in the mirror and thinking your not good enough, you are.” This letter was written for me. For you. For all of us.
With love, from Jenna.