We’ve all heard the statement since we were young, “you can be anything you put your mind to.” It’s been ingrained since grade school. Almost all of us had someone speaking this “encouragement” over us as we grew and dreamed and looked forward to our dazzling futures.
But somewhere along the way, the phrase started to irk me inside.
We all have the head knowledge that none of us can be “everything”. Yes, that’s easy to swallow. Nobody can be everything.
But a pill that’s a little harder to swallow is the truth that we can’t always be “anything”.
That one’s not so obvious.
Does it make you uncomfortable to hear that you can’t actually be anything you want to be? Or do anything you want to do?
It made me uncomfortable at first too. But eventually, it led me to some freedom that my soul truly needed.
To shed light on this, the message that “you can be anything you want to be”, it’s actually a technique that shames us and isolates us.
It’s not true. You actually cannot be “anything”. There are just some things that are outside your capacity. Outside of your skillset. Outside of your abilities. And some would say, “that’s too restrictive”, or “that’s unkind and limiting”. When in actuality, it’s freeing. And it connects us together. Because if I can’t do “anything” then I need someone else in my life to do it. It’s letting go of the need and the expectation to be more than who we are.
It’s whispering to your weary heart that you are enough right here, right now, in this very moment.
I can think of a handful of my friends who can do amazing things. They’re gifted in certain ways and are truly remarkable. Or they’ve been given endurance for a season they’re in. And there was a phase in my life when that intimidated me. I felt “lacking” because I didn’t have a great eye for design, or a certain professional skill, a dedication to an activity or natural ability in a certain sport, and so on. So one of two things happened. I either strived against my own strengths to obtain a gift I didn’t actually possess, or the relationships suffered, because instead of speaking life into those women’s lives, I nurtured envy and heaped shame on myself for not being “more”.
But freedom came for me when I started celebrating the way others around me were uniquely and specially gifted.
When I leaned into their worlds to support their passions and gifts. And when I began to celebrate their good things, I became a part of those good things with them. And I hitchhiked my way to new experiences and relationships that never could have been if I’d remained in my envy and shame striving to be the source of the “anything” I willed myself to be. Maybe it’s true that your greatest claim to fame, your greatest gift, your most beautiful skill is that you showed up for your people and loved them and supported them hard. You joined them on their journey.
I don’t know how you’re the room mom.
I don’t know how you raise your kids while enduring chemo.
I don’t know how you’re handling the reality that your kid is receiving chemo.
I don’t know how you survive the week alone because your spouse travels for work.
I don’t know how you survive now that your partner has left forever.
I don’t know how you manage your work-from-home business while also raising babies.
I don’t know how you’re surviving as a widow.
I don’t know how you keep your house so organized.
I don’t know how you support your husbands political career the way that you do.
I don’t know how you work two jobs and also coach your kids soccer team.
I don’t know how you are so fantastically artistic.
I don’t know how you teach the bible so genuinely and applicably.
I don’t know how you manage your home while caring for your special needs child.
I don’t know.
I don’t know how any of you do the things that you all do.
But I know you inspire me. And I love when the friends in my life endure and shine and grow and bloom. And I don’t care that I can’t do “everything” or even “anything” because I am so amazingly in awe of the “anything” that you can do.
And I also know that if it were required of me, my great, big, all-powerful God would walk with me through it. I know He gifts us in ways that are unique and beautiful and complementary to one another. I know seasons come and go and I know we are all given a limited capacity. I know we will be pushed past our own limits at different times. And I know that he weaves us in and out of each others lives in a beautiful way because He is a relational God.
And the truth is that we’re all balancing, and reworking and guessing and sacrificing and surviving.
And there’s not a phase of life that will stay forever, so whether you’re currently barely surviving, or celebrating, this too shall pass. And might we all stop apologizing for the phase we’re in, lying to ourselves that we should individually be able to do “anything”.
Might we start reaching hands down to pull others up, and unashamedly reaching up to have life breathed into us by someone who has the margin to lift us.