The Agony of Insufficiency

Every humble person—and most of the rest of us as well—have at some time or another come to the realization of their own inability in a particular situation. Perhaps it was in face of an unfolding disaster, whether epic or minute. Perhaps it was in confronting some injury or disease. Maybe it was in consequence of financial misfortune. Maybe it was in those awful hours wrapped around the final moments of a loved one’s life.

Whether in a sense of complete powerlessness or in the “just not quite enough” scenario, we confront our lack of capacity to do whatever it would take to make things right again. Or, more accurately, make them as we wish they were. It matters not how deeply we care, how much energy we are willing to exert, or how amazing our intellect or compassion; it just isn’t enough.

We stand with tear-etched faces beside a closed casket, just outside an ICU room witnessing accomplished frantic action, in the mesmerizing paralysis of a flame-engulfed home, or just beyond the wreckage and turn our faces as the bodies are removed. Some endure the mutual self-blame and eviscerating disappointment of being truly in love and desiring yet incapable of conceiving children. Or perhaps simply ache with a broken-hearted teenager experiencing first betrayal or rejection.

In these—and innumerable other eruptions of humanity—we are made acutely aware of our own limitations. In this, it may be that there is a key difference between us and the truly humble: they were aware even before tragedy became personal experience.

Regardless of prior awareness or state of submission, a humble acceptance moves us toward greater awareness and appreciation of our deep need for God and for one another. Or, in darker response, we may grow more bitter or resentful of the One who has made us and this deeply flawed world in which we live. And oblivious to the empathy of others.

Connecting with that tendency, there’s a John Prine song with these lines: “Father forgive us for what we must do. / You forgive us, and we’ll forgive you.”

On the one hand, there is an almost blasphemous notion that we are ever in a position of judging and then forgiving God. And yet on the other hand, it could be an expressed awareness that no matter how ridiculous the idea might seem on its surface, it is the secret of moving through and beyond the most painful absurdities of this patently unfair existence.

Then again, if this world were truly and inflexibly fair, most of us would have perished long ago.

Aware of that, I choose to live with the occasional agonies of insufficiency, yet always cloaked with immutable grace and often spared by inexplicable mercy.

H. Arnett


About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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