A couple of years ago, I was on my way to a gig with my friend and colleague, Ruth Dickinson. The gig part isn’t important, but my going to it does make me sound slightly cooler than I am in reality. Ruth is the Editor of Christianity magazine, and has done quite an amazing job with it. But back then, she and I were both experiencing a moment of self-doubt.
I can’t speak for Ruth – who seemed to echo much of how I was feeling – but certainly I had been struck with the realisation that, well, I’m a bit rubbish. That I’m far better at preaching the Christian life than I am at practicing it. That I frequently let people down – especially and most painfully including my wife and children. That I make mistakes. That I do things that are not good, and I often don’t do things that are good. That I serve God while walking with a metaphorical limp. And so I couldn’t help wondering about why God had chosen to use me in a position of leadership and influence (however relatively small that might be).
And then, somehow, Ruth and I had another moment of realisation. If you’re of a certain persuasion, you might call it a word from God. Either way, it hit us both between the eyes. We may not feel worthy of the tasks God has put in front of us, but he isn’t sending anyone else. We’re it. We’re the cavalry.
From talking to others about this over the last couple of years, I’ve realised that there’s an awful lots of us who carry around that sense of unworthiness. Whether your responsibility extends to a group of young people or an international organisation, you may well have the same questions. Why would God use me? He knows what I’m really like – what I think about; how I behave when no-one’s looking. Why on earth wouldn’t he choose one of the millions of other people who have far more together lives than me?
If that’s you, I give you the same piece of wisdom. And don’t hear it as a threat, but as an encouragement. Yes, he knows your flaws. Yes, he knows you’re not the finished article. He isn’t sending anyone else. He wants to use you.
Flawed, broken, brilliant little you.
I’ve no idea where the list below originated, but I’ve seen it on various posters, and on those awful pictures-of-clouds-with-writing-on that you get on Facebook (and also adopted into sermons as original content – naughty). I always find it amusing and encouraging – I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but anyway…
“The next time you feel like God can’t use you, just remember… Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses had a stutter, Gideon was afraid, Samson was a long-haired womaniser, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah and Timothy were too young, David was an adulterer and a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist ate bugs, Peter denied Christ, the disciples fell asleep while praying, Martha worried about everything, the Samaritan woman was divorced (more than once), Zaccheus was too small, Paul was too religious, Timothy had an ulcer… and Lazarus was dead!”
God chooses to work in the world through people. Flawed, limpy people like the ones on this list. People like you and me. He doesn’t wait for us to become perfect – he puts us to work while we slowly lumber towards perfection. He’s gives us a unique job to do – in collaboration and community with others of course – but our own small part of it is just for us.
He’s put you where you are, and that is qualification and affirmation enough.
He isn’t sending anyone else. He’s sent you.
Rachel Jordan (CofE) gave the sermon at Cranmer Hall on Tuesday and she was preaching on the same “look at the church … there’s no second plan… we are it! #sermon shocker says Rachel who reads Glamour mag… ” – and then said so many people “put their hope in a handbag”, can we not help them see more than that…
Brilliantly encouraging Martin… and another dont forget Jesus used tax collectors too!!! Grrrr hate that bit lol
Throughout the Bible, God uses the least likely individuals to serve as his emissaries to the world. In so doing, he demonstrates the HE is the arbiter of truth and the architect of change for the better. Such an arrangement also affirms our worth in his eyes, even the those of us who feel least likely to adequately represent him. I take great comfort in that, and your article sums up that position extremely well. Always a pleasure coming here to read. Thank you for your post.
Thanks for this interesting blog. I picked up on the idea of ‘collaboration and community’ you touched on at the end, as this is an area of interest for me. As a teacher, I read a lot about collaboration in terms of learning and mentoring. I find that there’s overlap between the academic theory and how we grow in our faith-walks. Learning how collaboration and community are essential in fulfilling our God-given purposes is an area that I feel called to open up to people.
This hits me right between the eyes as well. Thanks for this word…
I’m still trying my best and sometimes actually making progress. Thanks for the encouragement!
This is just like a blog I wrote yesterday, only Mary was my example, following focus on her at church and youth group over the past 3 weeks.
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