I could see her clearly in my mind’s eye: A 30-something woman standing quietly at the rear of the sanctuary, her left hand holding presentation notes in a death grip. She was clearly nervous. Those same notes, which had been prayed and pored over, now bore the markings of her insecurity. Last minute thoughts were scribbled in margins emphasizing key points. Pages were dog-eared and worn from excessive review.
The Lord had called her to share her testimony more than a month earlier. At the time she felt grossly inadequate. He transformed her uncertainty into zeal, led her in the scriptures and gave her an unnatural assurance that, when delivered, this message would be “a word in season” (Proverbs 15:23). She had diligently prepared. Why then was she suddenly filled with self-doubt? Why so self-conscious?
Perspiration beaded on her upper lip. Negative thoughts bombarded her, “What if the appropriate words escaped her or the audience didn’t engage? What would people think of her? Where was the calm she had so fervently prayed for?” Just then, like a lightning bolt, the Holy Spirit convicted her: Why this obsession with “self?”
And there it was: Arrogance.
“This isn’t about me, it’s about Jesus!” she chastised herself. In that instance, the Praise Team took their seats, which was her cue. She’d have to examine her heart later. Shooting up one last arrow prayer she moved to the podium. Exhaling slowly, she smiled at her audience and opened her mouth to speak. Just as God had promised, the Holy Spirit took over. The voice was hers. The words were His. She strode across the platform with great purpose, gesturing with a passion that can only originate from above. She was not in control and that was good. Finally, as if waking from a dream, she invited her listeners to join in a closing prayer. After an echoed “Amen” chatter filled the sanctuary as several nods of affirmation were sent her way. She smiled, pointing heavenward. The glory belonged to the Lord. Another slow exhale. This mission–this beautiful, spiritually exhausting, exhilarating blur of a mission–was complete. She whispered a private prayer to thank God for choosing her as the vessel.
Humans are curious creatures. We tend to repeat the same mistakes, learning oh so slowly. God knows that. He created us. Throughout history we see one common failure in mankind: Not trusting God to be God. We bring “self” into nearly every transaction with Him. The cycle goes as follows:
Many greats of the Bible were no different. When we arrive on Mount Horeb in Exodus 3 we find a barefoot Moses standing before the burning bush, stunned and afraid. God is sharing His heart for the enslaved Israelites whose anguished cries have reached His ears. He proceeds to commission Moses to be His spokesperson to Pharaoh. Wait, what?!
In Exodus 3:11 we see Moses’ knee jerk reaction, “But who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Sound familiar? We can already feel the waves of self-doubt engulfing him. God reassures him of His presence. Moses again counters with questions. God reminds him that He is God: “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14a). And from that moment on, God walked with Moses through the many challenges that his commission presented—including a hard-hearted Pharaoh and forty years of wilderness wandering with the often disgruntled, finally freed Israelites. Not once did God instruct or expect Moses to handle things himself.
It must seem ironic to God that, in our human frailty, we would assume when He commissions us that He plans to rely solely on us. As if He needs us, which He doesn’t. His purpose will be fulfilled with or without our participation. Even though we claim to comprehend the greatness of God, our minds immediately go there. This welcomes all of our insecurities in.
In His omniscience God sees our limited abilities and resources vividly, but our arrogance prevents us from recognizing that. He calls us despite our shortcomings for what my non-theologian brain sees as three reasons:
- To draw us into deeper communion with Him through prayer and scripture study,
- To develop and utilize the giftings He chooses to bestow on us, and
- To glorify Himself through His mighty works in this world.
Do you see the juxtaposition? The call is never going to be completely handed over to us. He’s simply inviting us to carry it with Him for a while and to be an active, willing, passionate participant in what He’s doing.
Never will He hand us the ball and run downfield. He’s present for every gruesome and glorious step of every call. In essence, the place where His omniscience and our arrogance (insecurity) meet becomes the proving ground of our faith. It’s where we stand before Him spiritually naked, where, as in Ezekiel 36:26, He replaces hearts of stone with fleshy, malleable organs that can be molded in His beautiful, capable hands. Our fears and doubts are exposed as unfounded. What He requires is that we trust Him to be God.
As someone who battled low self-esteem throughout my teen years and into my thirties (which was crushing and exhausting) I’m all too familiar with this sin cycle. At age 27, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and my reality began to shift. Still, I struggled to reconcile the old tapes in my head with the promises of scripture. Then, one day the Lord sent me a word in season through an unnamed preacher: “Our insecurity is a form of arrogance; because of it we make everything about ourselves.”
Mind blown! Those words were a game changer for this recovering hot mess. I was a new believer with very little knowledge of all things Holy, but I knew that I wanted to honor God with my life. To think that He would see my insecurities as arrogance was mortifying. And so began His work in me to let go of self. The transformation continues today because the old tapes occasionally gain access. So you see, that 30-something woman mentioned earlier was me. And she may also be you. My sweet sisters, if you share in this struggle let’s break the cycle and accept this challenge together: When He calls, graciously accept. No questions asked. Trust Him to lead. Lean in to Him—learn and grow. And be amazed at how He moves.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make straight your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV).