Imposter Syndrome

I  knew this pastor who, every time he got up to preach, would pray a simple prayer before he began to speak that went like this: 

"God, if these people knew what you know about me, they wouldn't listen to a thing I have to say." 

I've never felt the urge to pray that kind of prayer out loud, but I can attest that I've thought those words a time or two. 

Humility in my line of work is a good thing, and if I've ever begun to think too highly of myself, I often quickly get brought down to earth in a hurry.  

In one of the churches I served, a tiny, older lady would sit on the second row, right in front of the pulpit, when I preached.  She would fall asleep about a quarter through the sermon and wake up when we started singing the closing hymn.  

And every Sunday, she would go out the door, shake my hand and tell me, "That was such a nice sermon."  You don't know how often I wanted to smile back at her and say, "You mean that was such a nice nap."  

I'd been thinking about how I had just killed the sermon, wowed everyone, brought heaven to earth, and that lady would give me a good old dose of humility with that soft handshake and her sweet little comment.  

I think that was one of God's little jokes on me, to be honest.  

Truthfully, her little comment would always touch a nerve, so I still remember those moments all these years later.  It hit me right where I live, a place covered in signs saying, "You don't belong here" and "Who do you think you are?" 

Imposter syndrome is a real thing for many people, not just pastors.  

We all have had moments when we didn't feel like we belonged where we were standing.  We have all had times when we wondered if we were worthy or up to the challenge.  We have all had doubts about our abilities or qualifications. 

And for some of us, those feelings of being an imposter are even more potent in our life of faith.  

We wonder how God could possibly use us.  We doubt that God has a great purpose for our lives.  We think we are unworthy to serve in our church.  

And even when we take that step, we sometimes struggle because we secretly believe if people knew who we really were, they wouldn't want anything to do with us. 

Author David R. Dawkins once wrote: 

No amount of riches can compensate for an inner feeling of poverty. 

The fact is, we still need to figure out everything. We are all flawed.  We're all imposters, if you want to put a fine point on it because none of us can be just like Jesus, no matter how hard we might try. 

But when we clothe ourselves in humility and go ahead anyway, when we own our brokenness and just follow Jesus, when we step up to be used by God even though we feel unworthy, something incredible happens: 

The world gets brighter.  Others get blessed.  The Spirit of Christ is felt.  

And this happens not despite our brokenness and feelings of unworthiness but because of them.  We can become authentic, genuine, and vulnerable in that space of humility, which touches more people than any amount of certainty. 

So step up, step out, and raise your hand to be counted and used by God.  If you keep waiting to get ready for the day when you're ready, you'll miss out on all that God has in store for you now. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 


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