Embracing My Incompetence

—Dave Stepp, Ruling Elder

I recently applied for a new job. It was for a higher level position, and the lengthy application was due only two weeks after it posted. When Lori agreed it was worth the effort, I went “all-in.” I called in favors from friends who were exceptionally gifted at writing and providing feedback. I cleared my schedule, stayed up late, worked long weekends, and submitted a polished application just before the deadline (with considerable help from friends and family).

At the appropriate time, I wrote to ask for an update. Almost immediately, I received the response, “…sent out two e-mails to inform you that you were not considered because you failed to submit a complete application.”

Things suddenly slowed down. It felt like my brain folded over on itself, my heart started pumping blood in the opposite direction, and someone kicked my stomach into my chest cavity—all at the same time. I had worked so hard! I had been so careful to make sure everything was complete. How could this be? Even more crippling, how would I ever be able to explain this to those who had given so much to help me? In that moment the Holy Spirit revealed to me a horrifying truth about my heart: I have a deep and controlling fear of being found incompetent.

Merely writing this article digs up those fears again. I am not at all comfortable with what you will think of me when you read this. Even after learning the response I received was in error and my application was complete, my fears of incompetence linger just beneath the surface—almost too much for my fleshly heart to bear.

But if the riches of Christ connect to the realities of everyday life, there must be hope for me in Christ.

The Bible is rich and deep with stories of people who were found incompetent. God found Adam and Eve doing the one thing he told them not to do. God found Moses unable to speak to Pharaoh on God’s behalf. The Lord found the disciples, right after instituting the Lord’s Supper, arguing about who was the greatest. In Jeremiah, God finds all of us broadly and inherently incompetent, asking, “Has a nation ever changed its gods?... But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.”

But the Bible is also dense with stories of how incompetent people were changed and God was glorified through them. He is not the God who chooses competent people, but “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things… ”

I want so badly to be found competent, but my desire is at odds with the Lord’s redemptive plan. I want to be found wise, and strong, and “glorious,” but He is God and I am not. The Lamb that was slain is—uniquely—competent. Only He is wise. What can compare with His strength? His glory? Even more important to my heart, my desires distract and blind me to His grace—because His redemptive plan is to redeem incompetent people like me! He promises to be with me and to guide me. And he promises that, “he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” When I cling to these riches, my eyes are opened and my fears begin to subside. When I can “be still and know that [He] is God,” when I can pray, “not my will, but your will be done,” I can embrace my incompetence (perhaps even boast in it?) and run to Him—the one who loves me, the one who dwells in me, and the one who finds me, more fundamentally than anything else, “His.”