So I like to write about God. I teach a Bible study. Perhaps someday, God willing, maybe I’ll be back to preaching sermons to humans instead of the steering wheel of my car. Many of my friends, knowing my ministry experience, come to me with spiritual questions or to perhaps tell me what they think. (Try mentioning that you’re studying divinity in a bar and every drunk philosopher in the place will find you to talk about cosmic goo or what beer Jesus would drink or which commandments I think God really cares about the most.)
Between all these things, I find myself with frequent albeit brief opportunities to speak the truth to people. And when these opportunities arise, I find myself fighting an old familiar battle. If you are a writer or an artist of some kind you may be familiar with the concept of the inner critic. Anne Lamott calls it a radio station that plays in your head every time you sit down to write. It’s a voice in my psyche that tells me all the reasons I’m not qualified to speak truth, why I’d make an awful minister, and all of the sins I’ve committed that steal validity from whatever I have to say. I have sinned, failed to practice what I preach, and have said things that I regret via text, email, in-person, and probably all forms of social media. Fear grips me as I imagine the repercussions when all these rise to the surface and people find out that Kelsey is a fraud.
If you’re the spiritual type, you might call this the voice of the devil. I hesitate to blame him so quickily. I know full well the capabilities of my own mind to carry me deep into the woods of Paranoia without any help whatsoever.
And from conversations with friends, this is a common struggle. I like to call it Who Am I syndrome. Who am I to claim to know the truth? Who am I to teach anyone, lead anyone, influence anyone?
Maybe this isn’t you. Maybe you’re perfectly qualified to represent God and you know it. (In which case I would not be surprised if the rest of us aren’t overly extending ourselves to be your friends.)
The fact of the matter is that none of us are qualified and we’re all just different degrees of good at covering it up. Comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides isn’t really fair. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Instead, let me tell you a story:
In Numbers 22, a spiritual man of God named Balaam is called by this King Balak to come visit him to have him speak a curse against the Israelite people, who are camped nearby, which makes Balak nervous. God gets mad that Balaam accepts this invitation from Balak and sends an angel to stop him on the journey and turn him back. Only Balaam is in his own little world and is unable to see the angel of God blocking the road in front of him. His donkey, however sees the angel full well and veers off the road to avoid colliding with it. Unable to understand why his donkey can’t walk in a straight line, Balaam beats his donkey until he gets back on the path.
This happens three times until the fed up donkey miraculously begins to speak. “Yo hey ouch! Aren’t I your favorite donkey? How long have we been together? Don’t you think I know how to walk in a straight line? THERE’S AN ANGEL THERE.” (Yeah okay I may have paraphrased that.)
And then Balaam listens. Because, well, I assume the donkey had never really talked before. And that’s what it took to get Balaam to notice what God was trying to say.
Now I can’t fully speak to the true depths of your self esteem issues, friends, but my Who Am I Syndome tends to stop short at the knowledge of this story. If God can use a donkey, then he can certainly use little old you and little old me.
In truth, God spoke through a donkey, not because the donkey was qualified or super godly, but because Balaam would listen. When we list all the reasons we aren’t qualified, 1.) it’s not as if God doesn’t already know these things and 2.) it’s not the reason God wants to use you anyway. It’s like saying “I can’t eat with this spoon because it’s not yellow!”
It’s this simple: God has something to say to the people who will listen to you.
This is such a freeing realization. God already sent a perfect example for us and you aren’t him. So don’t feel like you need to pretend to be. And don’t let fear keep you from sharing what’s on your heart. So speak up! You may not be yellow, but you’re a perfectly useful spoon.