It Would Have Been Enough (Jul-Aug 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

by Logan Sandrock Baird
July – August, 2003

As I was growing up, I don’t remember Passover being particularly significant. I have a vague elementary school memory of a classmate’s parent leading us through eating crackers, salty parsley, and apple something-or-other. I certainly didn’t know anything about the Haggadah, the storytelling rite of the Seder meal — a recounting of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. So recently as I reclined at a low, candlelit table while a pastor led us through the Search for Leaven, the First Cup, the Four Questions, it was all new to me.

Remembering, giving thanks, celebrating — these are at the heart of the Seder experience. And these are illuminated by each section of the Haggadah as the meal progresses, particularly in what is referred to as the Dayenu. Just after the Second Cup (the Cup of Plagues) and before the Hallel (Psalms of Praise), the Dayenu is a folk song, a recitation, an oral history.

If He had brought us forth from Egypt, and had not inflicted judgment upon the Egyptians — Dayenu! It would have been enough for us.

If He had supplied our needs in the wilderness during the forty years, and had not fed us with manna — Dayenu! It would have been enough for us.

If He had led us into the land of Israel, and had not built the Temple — Dayenu! It would have been enough for us.

The Dayenu recitation is about remembering the former bondage, giving thanks for the liberation, and celebrating the freedom not only in Israel’s past but also, as I learned this particular evening, in my own life.

The pastor noted that when translated from the Hebrew, Dayenu means “it would have been sufficient,” and as each step of the journey out of Egypt and into the Promised Land is detailed in the narrative, the response of “Dayenu! It would have been enough for us” reflects a deep gratitude and acknowledgment of grace not only for God’s liberation in the broad sense, but also for each small step taken toward freedom.

This last point resonated deeply within me, and as he finished the explanation and led us in the recitation, I experienced an epiphany. Growing up in the church, I was weaned on testimonies of former addicts and notorious sinners of all sorts being miraculously and instantaneously freed from their bondages. But I always had difficulty reconciling these accounts with my own awkward stumbles toward freedom from the inner-Egypts of lust, selfishness, distraction, spiritual pride, et cetera ad nauseum. Even when others reassured me that the overcoming process takes time, the seemingly interminableness of it led me only to a sort of despair as the light at the end of the tunnel seemed impossibly distant.

But in the Dayenu mindset, I can recognize that each step is miraculous, because each movement forward is only by grace. When I respond to what God has done with, “it would have been sufficient; it would have been enough,” I acknowledge that each step is given, not earned — ergo the grace. And because I am celebrating each progression as a gift, I am able to avoid the despair that so often accompanies the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel mentality. My gratitude for this unmerited favor then becomes the impetus for taking the next step with God as I celebrate the step just taken. And as I sat there, I thought how fitting it is for God as my Father to delight in even my awkward child-sized steps toward freedom. How in keeping with Jesus’ declaration that He came “so that they may have life, and have it to the full” is it to continue to give to us even after we have said “it would have been enough.” And how many steps have I taken, unnoticed, uncelebrated?

So I began to write my own Dayenu story, my own narrative of liberation.

If You had freed me from pornography, and not given me a brother to spur me on — Dayenu! It would have been enough for me.

If You had changed my selfish nature, and not blessed me with others’ hospitality — Dayenu! It would have been enough for me.

If You had healed me of seeking after distraction, and not taught me to listen to You quietly — Dayenu! It would have been enough for me.

If You had humbled me in my spiritual pride and not given me opportunities to speak and to write — Dayenu! It would have been enough for me.

To remember, to give thanks, to celebrate, and to move onward.New Wineskins

Logan Sandrock Baird graduated with a B.A. in English from Abilene Christian University and is currently in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is “freelancing,” which he prefers to term “gainfully unemployed.”

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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