In the weeks leading up to college graduation, I was in the post office mailing bundles of envelopes nearly every day. One day it would be invitations to the graduation ceremony, another day, thank-you notes for gifts I had already received. Other days, I would carry bundles of resumes and carefully-written cover letters – printed on high-quality paper that used up valuable grocery money to buy – and drop them into the dark void of the outgoing mail bin.
More than once, I left the post office feeling dejected. Another single-sheet letter, with another rejection: While we appreciate your interest, we regret that we are unable to offer you a position at this time.
Sure, the job market wasn’t great. I knew that going in, and that was the main reason I sent so many resumes out. The odds would be more in my favor if I covered all the bases.
What I heard more than anything, though, was that I wasn’t being offered jobs because I lacked experience. It was – and still is – one of life’s cruelest paradoxes. How do I get experience if no one will give me a chance to experience anything? How can I be qualified if no one has ever offered me an opportunity? I obviously thought I had experience, or I wouldn’t have contacted them. Clearly, though, I was wrong. Clearly, I wasn’t what they were looking for. Clearly, I wasn’t good enough for them.
Often, we come into life as followers of Christ with the same assumptions. This time, though, instead of being overlooked in spite of what we have to offer, we are convinced there has been a mistake and we’ve been erroneously hired for a job we simply can’t do. We don’t think we have enough experience to do the great works we see others doing for the Kingdom. We haven’t been disciples long enough or our lives are free of great stories and lessons or we just don’t think we have anything meaningful to offer. As a result, we treat our walk with Christ as an endless orientation period, learning how to do the job and what the job looks like and memorizing scripts for certain situations, but never actually clocking in and doing the job ourselves. “It looks hard,” we think. “I’m not ready.”
But friends, I’m here to release you from your training period. Because friends, you are qualified. You can do this. You’re called to this not because of what you have done, but because of what has been done in you. You are equipped not because you’ve studied and trained and gathered valuable experiences, but because you’ve been offered everything you need in the One who has everything to give.
The irreplaceable contributions you offer the Kingdom of Christ have nothing to do with your accomplishments and everything to do with the unfathomable grace offered to you on the cross. It’s not up to you to become qualified to do what you’re called to do. It’s only up to you to decide you believe the One who called you.
We neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:10 MSG)
The irony is that while you feel unqualified, the simple fact that you have been called is your qualification. You feel inexperienced, but the life you’ve lived is all the experience you need. What have you been through? How have you been hurt, and how have you been healed? What have you overcome, and what still overwhelms you? Where are your deepest wounds, and where do you have the scars with the best stories? Those aren’t meaningless parts of your past.
The bitter heartaches and broken hallelujahs of your history are the very things God sees in you and wants to use. Remember, friend: He will work all things together for good.
We can be sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (Romans 8:28 MSG)
Sometimes you’ll get to see that in your own life, and sometimes you’ll get to see your pain used for good in your little corner of the world. Sometimes, just like in real-world jobs, you may not get to see the good at all. But in this case, you can trust that the One in charge sees you, still chooses you for that specific position, and won’t leave you to do the job on your own. Really, He’s the One doing the hard work. All He asks is that you show up.
Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God!
Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. (Romans 8:5-7 MSG)