Like most little kids, when I was small, I often parrotted back words and phrases that the adults in my world used frequently. One of the earliest signs of my flair for the dramatic, I’m told, was how easily I picked up and imitated my family members’ quirky comments. My maternal grandma, whom I totally adored, babysat us regularly. She got a kick out of my repetition of her classic catchphrases: “I can’t stand it!” and “I love you a bushel and a peck!”
My favorite Grandma exclamation was “You’re too much!” Delivered with a loving smile and a little mischief, this phrase made both of us giggle as we traded it back and forth between us throughout my childhood. “You’re too much!” “No, you’re too much!”
As I moved through adolescence into adulthood—particularly as a young woman with all my 6-foot-tall “big-ness”— big passions, questions, and longings—this phrase gradually took on a different meaning. While I’ve always felt truly loved by my family and friends, here is some of the “constructive feedback” I’ve been offered over the years:
“You’re just a lot.”
“You’re so intense.”
And variations on “stop over-thinking”… or over-feeling… over-talking… over-analyzing… over-loving… over-doing… over-expecting… over-imagining…
Or, in other words, “You’re too much.”
In her hilarious, poignant toast at my wedding, my sister said to my partner Kevin, in part, “I hope you are prepared for a lifetime of shower ballads, feminism, and considering the environmental and humanitarian impact of every single decision you make.” And to the room, she explained, “Kevin’s not afraid to tell Katie when she’s overreacting. Well, maybe he’s a little afraid.” Honestly, it was amazing.
There have been times of insecurity in my relationships when I’ve wondered whether or not it would be better for everyone for me to shrink. I’ve thought, It’s not always easy being friends with me...or family with me. Maybe I really am too much.
Now, please don’t hear this as excessive self-deprecation or as false humility. In all its imperfection, my ways of experiencing and expressing love for God and for the world can be “a lot,” and they sometimes result in overly high expectations for myself and for other people. My desire to “go deep,” and even just my tempo sometimes, can be overwhelming for some, and that’s fair. I have accepted, mostly, that every positive quality has its shadow side. That’s real. And I’ve learned that occasionally it is actually OK to just “chill” a little. But sometimes being “too much” can feel isolating, and even embarrassing. I sense I’m not alone here. Authenticity can be lonely and vulnerable.
In recent years, praying with Scripture has revealed to me a part of Jesus’ heart that I hadn’t named before. Jesus could be “too much” too! This Jesus we meet in today’s Gospel, just like Jeremiah and other prophets before him, reminds me that none of us are alone in our “too much-ness.” Like me, like many of us, Jesus couldn’t not say the thing that felt deeply true and important, even when it caused some conflict. He used intense language about setting the world on fire, aware that doing so would leave the status quo in ashes. He sought liberation—within systems, communities, and individual hearts—aware of the pain of loss that would precede it.
In the depth of his love for God and the world, in the big questions and hard truths and flipped tables, Jesus reminds me that there is hope and magic there too, not just “too-much-ness.” Along with the prophets and “so great a cloud of witnesses”, Jesus surrounds me, and all of us, reminding us that we are enough.