A few weeks ago, I gave a talk at my home church about remembering the gospel. We walked through all the reasons it is so easy to forget who we are in Christ – which is the most important thing about us – and how our lives and culture so easily bend toward distractions, most of which we welcome in as soon as we turn on our phones; others we have less control over but still have to interpret through the lens of scripture and not culture. We camped out for a bit on the Greek word perrisuema, whichmeans “that which is left over or remains.” It comes from Luke 6:45, where Jesus tells us “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil, for out of the ‘perrisuema’ [or overflow] of the heart his mouth speaks.”
It’s a simple interpretation really: out of that which is left over and remains in our heart, we speak.
And act. And parent. And loveour neighbors and community. Consciously or not, our lives are going to be a reflection of what we are putting in to our hearts and minds. This is a truth that has smacked me in the face more than once as I have reflected on both my daily habits and my lifehabits – the long term, consistent ways I learn and listen. And that includes whoI learn from. So during a day when I have filled my heart with news headlines, contentious comments sections, fear-based click-bait, stories interpreted only through my own confirmation bias, pictures or posts or updates from others that ultimately served only to make me jealous or wrongly opinionated, what is my perriseuma? What is left over? What spills out of me? It only makes sense that contention, fear, more confirmation bias, jealousy, and wrong opinions of others would overflow.
I have parented from those feelings, and it always ends up with me needing to apologize. (Anyone else ever realize they were irritated with their children not because of anything they did, but because of something you saw on social media that bothered you? Asking for a friend).
I have tried to live in community from those places, but I have my eyes on myself and not on others, thus comparing and compartmentalizing each of our life circumstances as if they are in competition for most compassion or most celebration.
I have attempted to love my husband well from those places, and usually he gets the cold shoulder and cynicism when he should be getting my respect.
I have tried to write and create from those places, and then I strive too hard for relevance when I should be striving for glory – God’s, not mine.
When that which is left over spills out of me, it hasn’t always been good.
So what is the answer? I’m not one for formulas, and I also don’t want to be known for who or what I preach notto read – much ink has been spilled on that subject already. But because I believe that we need to guard our overflow – what we put in to our hearts and our minds – more than ever these days, I will say that I believe deeply in at least two things.
First, you cannot give too much time to reading your Bible. Cannot. The riches of scripture are unending, and in a lifetime we will never exhaust our search for them. I want to tell you all the historical and scientific reasons you can trust your Bible. I want to tell you about all the people who lost their lives in the pursuit of preserving the Bible for future generations. I want to tell you that we are the luckiest and most privileged generation of Christians in history to have the access and resources that we do. I want to remind you that God’s word is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing to the division of joint and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. But mostly, I just want to tell you that God’s word has been the surest anchor of my life, and that I am not the same person I was 15, 10 even 5 years ago because of it. My life is exponentially harder than it was when I started really reading scripture as a 19-year-old, but God is exponentially bigger. Meeting more of Him in His word has been the only thing equipping me for the brokenness of life, for this space between redemption and restoration we live in. If you are going to give your limited time to anything, to reading or listening to any resources, begin with the only perfect one available.
And second, immersing yourself in truth makes it far easier to discern when something is a few notches to the left or right on that truth. Our pastor always reminds us that if you’re using a compass to get to a destination, a few degrees off when you’re only going half a mile probably won’t keep you from your final destination. But if you are going 100 miles, you’ll end up in the wrong city. If you’re going 1000 miles, you’ll be in the wrong state. If you’re traveling over a lifetime, you may not be anywhere near where you need to be.
I remember this feeling so clearly in college. I was reading a very popular book at the time, one that many friends in the college ministry I attended were going through. And while some of it was entertaining and there were enough scripture references in it to make the message feel edifying, I could absolutely not shake that something was off. I would never have been able to name it (though 13 years later and knowing this author now I could), but I closed that book and thought, “yeah, not for me.” This was Holy Spirit discernment that I didn’t even know I needed, and it came because God had ignited a love for his word in that same season and because I was there, in truth so often, I understood that the messages in each didn’t feel compatible.
Today, we hear a lot of “speak your truth,” “you are the captain of your life,” and even “you are enough” messages. Self-help or self-love books are wildly popular and we are jumping in to their messages with two feet. While I believe the motives in each of those have noble purposes, “self-anything” is not the message of scripture. The Bible tells the story of a human raced so flawed by sin that we are blind. We treat each other terribly. We put ourselves first in all circumstances, beginning with our hearts and ending in our actions. We are not enough, and with just a few minutes of honest introspection we know we are not enough.
When my autistic son is having another moment of total confusion, when we can’t find the exact toy he has his mind on or the church lobby is too crowded or we are headed to the grocery store when he thought we were headed to his grandparents’ house; when I have no idea how to help him, how to assure him of our love, how to keep him from panic, or how on earth I am going to pull his strong body where we need to go while he’s falling to the ground and there are three other children I need to have my eyes on, I know I am not enough for this work.
When an unexpected phone call brought a four-day-old baby girl to our already busy home, and a positive pregnancy test three weeks later brought our “done at three” ideas to a screeching halt and threw me into anxiety and fear, I knew I was not enough to carry it all.
When I snap at my children for spilling their milk and respond to their unintentional mistake by treating it like a pre-meditated crime, I see how conditional my love can be, and I know I am not enough to model the unconditional love of their heavenly Father.
When I withhold my celebration and happiness for others because I am too busy being jealous of it or wanting it for myself, I know I do not possess enough humility to love others the way I want to be loved in return.
Daily my life shows me how much I am not enough. The messages that tell me “yes you are, you can do this, you can control your destiny!” are confusing at best and damaging at worst. The message that tells me I need a rescuer, and that I have one in Jesus, that all of life is all for him – that in the midst of autistic meltdowns and parenting failures and jealous moments and the way I have to continually correct my perspective that shows me the world through the myopic lens of my life – the message that looks at my “not enough” in the face and offers a substitute, that is the message I need. That is the truth I want to overflow from me. On our own, we will not ever be enough. With the new heart that Jesus died so that we might have, we have his sufficiency, we have his enough.
It matters so much which lane we live in, and which message we fill our lives with: my enough or His enough.