There are times when I feel inadequate, that I don’t measure up, pass muster, prove myself, or generally feel worthy. A colleague once wrote a newsletter article professing that she felt like an impostor at times, as the career she fell into demanded core competencies—skills and knowledge—that wasn’t part of her course of study but her clients expected her to use. With my career path being similar to hers I often feel the same way, but for different reasons.
I recall a time when my best friend invited me to his office to meet informally with his boss. He was working in the multimedia field. I was working at my purchasing job but looking to change careers. His boss owned a company that built interactive CD ROM applications. My friend had just spent the last two years working for this company’s sister outfit in Tokyo, Japan, which specialized in localization and user interface design. At the time of our meeting he had recently relocated back to Vancouver.
During the meeting I experienced a wild range of emotions. On one hand I was comfortable because I knew my friend really well, having grown up through high school, shared life experiences (both good and bad), and generally came of age with him. On the other hand I found myself completely in awe of being in the presence of these two geniuses at the same time. My friend was a premier origami artist, and his boss was an expert in Japanese history and culture. As I listened to them talk (they did all the talking), I felt out of place, unsure of myself, and at one point I became very small, overshadowed by the others’ combined knowledge.
Recently, after attending an event my friend helped create, I felt similar feelings of inadequacy. Even after 15 years I was still capable of feeling that I couldn’t make the grade. That night I shared my feelings with my wife, comparing them to my earlier experiences. Without batting an eyelash she responded, “Isn’t it great that God uses every part of the body in order to keep the whole functioning properly?” In all the time I’ve known her she has always managed to say something so simple, yet so profound. Every part of the body was essential, and considered equal in God’s eyes. If any part were to perform a function it wasn’t made for, the body would surely suffer, and possibly die as a result.
At that point I realized that my feelings of inadequacy were really rooted in pride. Because my friend and his boss appeared to have a higher position, I used this as an excuse to feel low, not realizing that whatever place I was in was equally important in the sight of God, regardless of its visibility. For instance, if we were to compare the heart to the hand, we would immediately rank the heart higher because if it didn’t beat regularly the rest of the body would die. However, the hand is also essential, because it enables both provision and protection for the body, without which the the heart couldn’t function either. Neither part should feel inadequate to the other because they are both essential. Also, neither should feel superior to the other because each relies on the other being where it’s supposed to be, and doing what it’s supposed to do.
In fact, our systems are so complex that each finger of the hand performs a unique function which when put together enables the hand to do its job properly, and each chamber of the heart fulfills a completely different purpose even though its core role of pumping blood is the same.
Inadequacy. Insecurity. Pride. We don’t often see these terms together, but I’ve come to realize that they are related. When I feel inadequate, I am really telling God that I don’t trust that He knows what He’s doing, and that He’s placed me in the wrong place. I forget that I am where I am for a reason, will be here for a season, and should He desire, at the right time He will move me somewhere else. His grace truly is sufficient for me. If it’s not, then I haven’t really grasped the concept of how much His grace really means to me.
In the Message translation, 1 Corinthians 20:12-24 says “…I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance….” We often think that self-importance, or pride, appears as a lofty, nose-stuck-in-the-air sort of attitude. However, pride also masks itself in false humility, which I experience as feelings of inadequacy. The next time you feel inadequate or overshadowed, check your pride. Chances are you think you know better than God as to where you should be at that moment. Offer this revelation up to Him, and finally come to rest in His adequacy.