In early 1994, I saw the movie Schindler’s List, which is based on a true story and had a profound effect upon my life. Oskar Schindler is a German businessman who travels to Krakow, Poland in 1939 to make his fortune from World War 2. Schindler joins the Nazi party to help his career and staffs his factory with Jewish workers for economic reasons. An opportunist, Schindler manages to protect his Jewish workers … and his profits. Eventually, however, Schindler realizes that he is actually saving their lives.
Oskar Schindler literally saves the lives of 1,100 Jews from being gassed at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. At the end of the movie, Schindler is given a ring in front of all his workers as a sign of their gratitude. The man presenting the ring to Schindler says about the ring’s inscription, “It’s Hebrew from the Talmud. It says, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”
In the movie, when Schindler realizes the extent of the Nazi extermination of Jews and what he has done to protect his workers, he breaks down and weeps. “I could have got more. I could have got more. If I just … I could have got more.”
“1,100 more people are alive because of you,” the man responds.
“If I made more money… I threw away so much money.” Sobbing, Schindler continues, “You have no idea… If I just …”
“Generations will remember…”
“I didn’t do enough…”
“You did so much.”
“This car. Why did I keep the car? That’s ten people right there… Ten people. Ten more people. This pin is two people. This is gold. Two more people. It would have given more two more, one at least. For this I could have gotten one more person and I didn’t… And I didn’t.”
I thought of Schindler’s List as we neared the end of the Iowa Annual Conference and were trying to fit in everything that was on our agenda. Could we have done more? Was the offering to God of our commitment to be difference makers enough? Whose report was left out? What words were left unsaid? How could we have done better? Was annual conference enough?
I have struggled my entire life with enough because God’s claim on me has been so strong. How can I rest when people are hungry? How can I say “no” when people in my church are counting on me? How can I stop when the to-do list never ends? I could have done more. When is enough? What is enough, anyway?
At the conclusion of Annual Conference on June 12, I shared with the body these words, which could apply to many different settings. “We have done enough. Over the last several days, we have worshipped, prayed, ordained, served, taken offerings, hugged, debated, voted, laughed, cried… and now we are done. We pray that we have been difference makers at this annual conference. We pray that the fruit we bear when we leave here and the crosses we bear when we go back to our communities as servants will honor and glorify God. Yet there is often the nagging sense that it is not enough.
“Reinhold Niebuhr writes in his book, The Irony of American History,
Nothing that is worth doing is achieved in our lifetime;
therefore, we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense
In any immediate context of history.
Therefore, we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however, virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
Therefore, we are saved by love.
“We can’t always get everything right. No one is perfect. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and efforts, the right result doesn’t always happen. You know that because Iowa is a farming state. Farmers are extraordinarily vulnerable every year. No matter how carefully you sow, fertilize, or watch over your crops, all it takes is one terrible weather event, and you can lose it all. My first congregation in Michigan was a bunch of cherry farmers, and I’ve witnessed firsthand losing an entire year’s crop in one night of a hard freeze.
“Wayne Muller writes in his book, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, ‘We cannot control what will happen to the seeds we sow, the words we speak, the actions we take. We can only be as honorable, truthful, and compassionate as we are able. The moment we try to control what does or does not happen, we are left in a lingering state of insufficiency, wondering what more we could, should, have done to make it all come out right…’
“We have done what we could at this annual conference. We voted on constitutional amendments. We have tightened up our rules of order. We have a new vision statement. We are God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people. And we have a new mission: inspiring, equipping, and connecting communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ for our conference. We have been inspired. We have committed to bearing fruit and bearing the cross.
“As we leave this sacred place, in Wayne Muller’s words, ‘Our work is on ourselves, to be clearly certain we have listened, seen, felt in ourselves what, in this moment, is required. Then, forces far greater than ourselves, will have their way with whatever we plant, build, grow, or create. This, then, is our work and our challenge: to do what we can and have mercy.’”
I long for the day when all of God’s children will not only believe that they have done enough but will also know that they are enough.
I pray for the day when you and I know that we not only have enough for ourselves but we have more than enough to share with others.
I yearn for the day when no one will ever say to another person, “You are not good enough, smart enough, athletic enough, capable enough, or tough enough.”
I dream for the day when loving and being loved, showing grace and being shown grace, is all that we need to make a positive difference in the world. Yes, we could have done more, but God invites us to be content with enough.
- Enough: to smile
- Enough: to do what we can and have mercy
- Enough: to risk loving extravagantly
- Enough: to do the right thing today and not worry about tomorrow
- Enough: to reach out across the divide and join hands with our neighbor
- Enough: a hug, a phone call, a visit, a letter
- Enough: “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”
- Enough: a candle burning in the night, guiding us through the darkness on our life’s journey
Oskar Schindler spent millions of dollars to save his Jewish workers and died penniless … with enough. Today thousands of descendants of Schindler’s Jews are living in Europe, the US, and Israel. We are not saved by doing, getting, or serving enough. We are saved by faith, hope, and love. Each step we take toward someone else, each word that shows grace, each act of kindness … is enough.