Sunday, February 12, 2012

Insufficient


The last few weeks have left me feeling inadequate. I do not write this as a pity party, or as a plea for compliments or encouragement. Those who know me well are aware that I am considerably confident (egotistical might even be more accurate.) But lately, I have been realizing that I do not always have everything together, and I am being forced to realize that I am just not good enough. As crazy as this sounds (that’s sarcasm, sorry) I am incompetent. 

I make mistakes at work all the time. I mess up food orders, I forget to bring cream sodas to tables, and I make errors on tickets or giving change. Yesterday, I managed to back up all the drains behind the line by using a broken sink and flood the floor with murky water (oops.) I don’t know all the ingredients in a dish of our Spicy Shrimp and Chicken, even though I really should, and I am still unfamiliar with the names of our foreign wines and which varieties of vodka we carry. 

I forget to do homework assignments until the night before they are due. I stay up too late chatting with friends, and oversleep and miss class. I misread “miscommunication” for “excommunication” and miss a point on an easy quiz in Bible. I fail to focus in class.

I still struggle with what I discussed in my last post about focusing on others. I give lousy advice, or no advice at all. I don’t know how to tell others about a faith I am only just beginning to comprehend, and a God that I will never understand fully.

I have no training to make me a good kindergarten teacher to Zambian orphans. I have no idea how to go about teaching English to recently arrived Bhutanese refugees. I am not equipped to lead Bible studies. I don’t know how to relate to homeless people or how to convince someone to give up their heroin addiction and to not end their life tonight.

I sin. I lie, I am selfish, I gossip and think hurtful things. I judge and condemn and sin some more.

I am completely and utterly unqualified for the life I am living. I don’t know how to help the people I meet every day. Quite frankly, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I am not particularly good at it.

If this sounds like one big whine fest, don’t worry. I’m getting to the good part. Because the thing is – it’s okay. I’m not perfect (despite how often I joke that I am) and I am not qualified. You and I are both completely and totally insufficient.

In light of this, several wise people in my life have recently told me a cliché I have often heard before but have never considered fully. “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”

Have you ever really thought about what that means? It means that I don’t have to be good enough, which is helpful, because I never will be. I don’t have to be sufficient, because He is. It is He who enables me to do anything in life. It is He who put me where I am today, and it is He who enables me to speak, to breathe, to think, to read, to know, to help, to love.

The Bible is loaded with generations of people who were completely unqualified. Moses, for example, had the audacity to tell God this in Exodus 3 and 4. He tries to wheedle his way out of his calling, eventually just telling God outright to get somebody else. I think Moses had more guts than he realized; he was just pointing his bravery in the wrong direction. I’ve definitely (sinfully) ordered God to ask someone else before. But for whatever reason, He doesn’t.

There are plenty of other great examples I could use – Abraham and Sarah, David, various prophets and basically everyone in the entire New Testament except Jesus himself. Mary was just a kid; Peter was just a fisherman; Paul was the opposite of a missionary. And yet somehow, for some reason, God chose them.

The one person in the Bible I rarely consider unqualified is Solomon. For whatever reason, perhaps because of his reputation for wisdom, he has always seemed at least somewhat capable to me. But in preparation for this blog post, I spent some time at the very end of 1 Chronicles. Guess what? He was just as unqualified as I am. When he is given his commission of building God’s temple, his own father, David, calls him “young and inexperienced,” (sounds a lot like a freshman in college) and tells him that his “task is great.” (1 Chronicles 29:1) Nowhere in this chapter or the one before it is Solomon described as wise, competent, knowledgeable, or prepared, and yet it is he who is asked to build the Lord’s temple.

I feel a lot like Solomon. Young, inexperienced, and with a great task before me, even if I’m not sure what it is just yet. My parents have prepared me as well as they possibly could, just as David prepared Solomon with everything he had. Solomon was also granted a supporting cast of willing volunteers who chose to aid him in his endeavor, just as I have been surrounded by a multitude of friends who are a huge encouragement and help to me. And like Solomon, I am encouraged to “be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He won’t leave you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the Lord’s house is finished” (1 Chronicles 29:20.)

The fact that Solomon and I both started off pretty unqualified is comforting. I would like to build a temple for the Lord, which might take any number of forms, and I have a feeling that I will be able to do it, but only through Him.

If you have a few minutes, check out David’s prayer, 1 Chronicles 29:10-19. It’s a great way to humble oneself before God and spend a few minutes in meditative worship. Perhaps my favorite line is 29:12. “In Your hand are power and might, and it is in Your hand to make great and give strength to all.”

I find solace in this. I don’t have to be good enough. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t even have to be close. I do not have the skills, the training, the gifts, the abilities, the wherewithal, the wisdom, the knowledge, or strength to do what I have been asked to do. I have nothing. All that I have has been given to me by a God who is much bigger than my weakness, than my mistakes, than my fears, qualms, and doubts.

“For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand” (1 Chron. 29:14.)

He is enough. He is sufficient.

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