Feeling unqualified for "that thing"

I have been fired twice.

One of the times was from the carnival though, so I’m not sure that counts. I guess there’s an art to putting rides together, a sweaty, greasy art and I did not possess it. I had only worked there a few hours and had not even been inducted into the “way of the carny.” (I would tell you more, but I don’t want to anger the Christian carny crowd that reads this site, “Carnies for Christ, Whiplash Warriors for the Word” etc.)

The second time I got fired was less comical, though probably equally justified. I was working for a small dotcom that had the word “net” in the name of the company. Back in Massachusetts after a few years in Birmingham, I was just starting to find my feet in the working world. I was immature and not that great of a writer and eventually that caught of with me.

The owner called me into an office and let me know they were letting me go. Then he said, “I don’t think you should be a writer. Maybe you should try to be a salesman.”

I’d like to say that I shook that off the minute I left the building for the last time. But I didn’t. I can repel a compliment with the best of them, karate blocking kind words back out into the atmosphere even as you try to share them about something I’ve done. But I treat the negative comments like P-Diddy at a night club. “Right this way sir. Here’s the VIP section of my heart. Enjoy your stay.”

For years, I made that conversation a mini god in my life. Whenever things got too good or I got recognized for some silly bit of writing, I would remember I was not a “real writer.” I created this idealized version of what it meant to be a “real writer.” They had talents I did not have. They had not made the mistakes I had. They had secrets of the written world I did not possess. They probably knew words I didn’t even know existed. And try as I might, struggle as I may, I would never attain that goal, the goal of being a writer.

It doesn’t have to be writing. “That thing” is different for everyone. You might want to be a singer or an accountant or a stay at home mom or a pastor’s wife. A woman posted a comment on this site once that said, “I just have struggled for a long time with ‘what is a pastor’s wife?’ and often feel like I don’t measure up.”

At some point, regardless of what “that thing” is for you, we all don’t measure up. We all don’t have enough. We are all missing pieces to a puzzle we feel called to complete but unprepared to finish.

But then there is Paul.

Paul is a gift to the mess ups like me. Paul is an early birthday present to people like me that have broken their lives and their talents and chased other things for so long. Paul is the truth.

If you don’t know the story, Paul’s conversion tale is told in the book of Acts. He once persecuted Christians as a man named Saul but through a miraculous encounter with God grew to become the greatest missionary our faith has ever known. And there are two sentences that kind of provide the key to Paul’s life and maybe some insight into ours too.

In Galatians 1:23-24 Paul quickly explains how his life, “that thing” for him, works:
“They (the Judeans) only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”

I love that. As I’ve admitted before, I’ve made a mess of my ability to write. I’ve used it to feed my ego and gossip and lie and a million other forms of abuse. I haven’t made a nickel from this site and I know my temptation to abuse my writing is going to multiply exponentially if I ever do. But in this verse Paul is accused of trying to destroy a faith. He is accused of persecuting a people group. And it doesn’t disqualify him.

If anything, his past is used to amplify his present. Like bookends made of dynamite, things that should be criticisms, are actually used to blow up the power of the middle statement, which is “preaching the faith.” He persecuted. He tried to destroy. He is preaching. The collision of those three thoughts is explosive. They were not left out or edited. They were not hidden. His past is a key component of his story.

And what’s the result of the sentence we read in verse 23? Verse 24 says, “And they praised God because of me.”

Sick. Amazing. Crazy. The result is that God gets praise and Paul gets to say “because of me.” He is not trying to be a “real missionary” like I try to be a “real writer.” He is not sweeping his past under the rug and trying to live up to an ideal that doesn’t even exist. He is aware of his past and embracing his present because it allows God to create a ridiculous future.

You are qualified for that thing. Your ability to do whatever it is you feel God wants you to do is not “in spite of your past.” It might be “because of your past.”

Today, I’m rewriting Galatians 1:23 for my own life. Today, I want to make that idea my own and put to death the desire to be a “real writer” or a “real husband” or any other fake mini god in my life. Here’s how my version reads:

“The man who formerly used his words for filth is now sharing the beauty of a God he once tried to run away from.”

I hope you’ll rewrite it with me and share your version in a comment.

p.s. This is kind of a companion piece to Shining up our Scars so check that out if you haven’t. If this is your first time to the site and you’re thinking, “Ugh, that was heavy,” check out “Not knowing how to hold hands.” It’s a lot funnier.

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  1. David says

    Great post…the midwestern ‘humility’ I was raised with makes me still incapable of accepting compliments. Not exactly the same thing, but similar.

  2. amy scott says

    Dear Jon,

    Don’t worry it’s not that kind of letter. Just wanted to mention that Dr. Suess’ “books were originally considered too outlandish to appeal to children. His first, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937), was reputedly rejected by twenty-eight publishers before it finally found a home at Random House.” (Thanks Google.)

    Hope that helps! :)

  3. lin says

    Great blog. I enjoyed the weight of your words. I have often created the mini god, as you mentioned, and have always had a hard time discerning it. I felt encouraged in many ways by this article.

  4. Kathy Grubb says

    Oh my! This is the story of so many writers that I have met recently!
    This seems to be especially rampant among women, who think they can hide behind their homes and children (which are very noble callings) and not even attempt to use the gifts God gave them out of fear. (Of which I am way guilty!)
    I’m trying to address this at my blog (10minutewriter.com) and I linked to your post. It was a fitly spoken word.

  5. David H says

    I too have found that words have the power to “haunt.” This is especially true when it comes to men and occupational hazards.

    Words from leaders in your life – your dad, your boss(es), mom, spouse, and even trusted friends can “ring” in your head for a lifetime. There is a time to listen and accept and a time to listen and rebut (quietly).

    I have found that the key is to know the truth, consider the motivations of the source, listen to God for what you know to be right and move forward with firm, gracious, humility. Bold and humility should not be mutually exclusive.

    Do not let the bully of those words ring.

  6. bub says

    Wow, great blog. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Being the former singer for a punk rock band named Baldheaded Jesus with quite a few of the songs denying God even existed or scorned those who believed in Jesus Christ, I can relate. In fact, I rarely bring it up in conversation anymore because I’m a tad embarrassed. Actually, more ashamed I guess. Sorry God. So let’s see, here’s my Galatians 1:23: “The man who formerly sang of his hatred for all things of The Lord now lives in the love and grace of the Holy Spirit.” Ahhh, I like the sound of that. Thanks Jon!

  7. Mariahs Mom says

    The woman who formerly tried to fix everything wrong she came in contact with is now letting God be in charge.

    Thanks for this post! Made a big impact!

    Tricia :)

  8. Jake says

    “The man who once wanted all that the world has to offer is now wanting the world to have all that God has to offer”

    I love the heavy ones, Jon.

  9. Christianne says

    jon, this post gave me goosebumps. serious goosebumps. specifically, this part:

    “The man who formerly used his words for filth is now sharing the beauty of a God he once tried to run away from.”

    i think that is because i have truly seen you do this — share the beauty of the God you once tried to run away from — on all your blogs. you really are an example of what this can look like: a life redeemed.

    i think you are right on when you say that God qualifies us not in spite of our past but because of it. he is in the redemption business, and he’s also in the business of making all things personal through each and every life he uses for his work here on earth.

    thanks for this. i’m not sure yet what my version of the verse would look like, but i’m going to think on it today. maybe i’ll come back and share if i realize what it is.

  10. Howie says

    The way you described letting criticism into the far reaches of your heart is ingenious! And I do the same.

    Now I have to be the typo police: it’s persecuted, not prosecuted. Prosecuted would be true if Paul was a lawyer. :)

  11. Anna says

    Wow. I’m leaving for a job interview in less than 20 minutes and was totally struggling with this exact issue. I decided to check my email before I left and your blog post caught my eye. I’m giving this one to God, and you have no idea how big that is. Thanks.

  12. .:meagan.rae:. says

    This is so true! Maybe as confirmation to your post, know that this has been a theme in my little circle of blogs. And i believe a theme in the church global.

    I have a post similar to yours from this last week called “moment(s) of affirmation” at:

    And an amazing friend of mine wrote a post similar entitles “guess what? God actually likes you, not just loves you”

    An amazing concept in itself but i love the even greater theme of the grace and unfailing love of God.

    Jesus didn’t pick the most qualified disciples to follow him. In fact, contrary to Judaic tradition he picked the “left overs”, the young boys who had been told they weren’t smart enough, and couldn’t possibly learn the trade.

    God simply wants our obedience. His grace is enough!

  13. redbliss says

    What a great post. As a former stripper I sometimes feel unqualified in many areas of my life. I’m going to rewrite Galatians 1:23.

    “The woman who used her body to entice men is now enticing other to Christ with the light within.”

    Thank you for inspiring me today.

  14. Anonymous says

    The woman that used to let family and societies expectations run her life is now finding the courage and faith to let God run it!

    wow. How encouraging. I have been down lately – but just thinking through that lets me know that I have come a long way (even though there is still so much further to go)

  15. daphne says

    My Gal 1:23
    The girl who once perverted the beauty God gave her now reflects the image of Christ to all who see her.

  16. Rob Bailey says

    Jon, I’ve been reading your blog for several days now and (I know I know, I’m a young SCLer, but I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly), and am overjoyed by your biting sarcasm concerning the contemporary Christian community/culture. In part, you relieve much of my frustration with so many of the idiosyncratic tendencies of the Christian culture, and say many things with much more tact and responsibility than I ever could.

    Also, I’d like to provide a link to your blog on my own personal page, if you’re not contrary to the idea.

    – rb

  17. Carson Day says

    Jon – Thank you so much for this post. I recently was let go from a position in student ministry that I gave my all to. I know that it is all in God’s hands, and trust that He will take care of me. Your words of encouragement are greatly appreciated…I do have “that thing”, and am glad for the reminder.

  18. Nichole says

    God really just spoke to me thru your blog today. With two oppertunties in the near future and me feeling as unqualified as ever before, God has reminded me that I am his own and that He can equip me. Thank you for using your gift to minister to me:)

  19. Anonymous says

    The girl who failed out of law school and thought God had left her is graduating with a Master’s degree cloaked in the blessings of God.

    I think I did it right. God is so amazing! This is me right now, right this very second. I can be, I will be, I shall be, and I am! And they will praise him because of me!

    I love this blog!

  20. alexita says

    this post is great! i’ve been feeling “unqualified” to pursue my career path, and I’m working through this right now.

    Thanks again.

  21. Anonymous says

    This made me cry.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have asked God why He has given me the unbelievable privilege of serving Him in ministry, considering my shady past. Today, for the first time, I feel set free to do “that thing” He has called me to do, which is mentor women. So….The woman who made every wrong, sinful and selfish choice possible is now using her past to teach other women of God’s amazing love, forgiveness and grace.

    God is so beautiful.

  22. Anonymous says

    Thank you for this post. I was in broadcasting for almost 30 years and got lots and lots of appreciation….now that I have quit to be a full time wife….not so much….I really struggle….I keep reminding myself that I live and work for the Lord and I need only to please Him….thanks for letting me know I am not alone in my doubts….I have recently had my book published but it still doesn’t feel like enought. Pam, South Bend

  23. Anonymous says

    I’m so often told that I am so joyful. Smile…I struggle with depression and have cancer. But, He has comforted me greatly. And, yes, the joy is real.

  24. K Storm says

    I struggle with this all the time. It is hard to remember that it may not be my qualifications but willingness to be used. God shows Himself more when I am lacking. Also, those “ghosts” of the past that make me feel inferior are non-existent to Him.

    Keep writing, Jon.

  25. @ustin says

    This is an incredible statement:….
    “You are qualified for that thing. Your ability to do whatever it is you feel God wants you to do is not “in spite of your past.” It might be “because of your past.”

    thank you.

  26. Brandon says

    I had a pastor I used to serve with tell me, as a parting statement, that he didn’t see a pastoral anointing in me. This guy had been almost like a father figure to me. Even though, as these words were coming out of his mouth, God told me that this man didn’t call me to ministry, but He had, his words were crushing.

    So which of these conflicting statements did I listen to for a few years? God’s affirmation or this man’s condemnation? You guessed it, I basically dismissed the call of God for a lie or wishful thinking and fully embraced the “fact” that I just didn’t have what it takes.

    That was my “thing” for a few years. I’ve come to realize that feeling qualified might just mean I need to grow until I feel unqualified…then I’ll be ready to step into my destiny in Christ. When I come to the place that I know I don’t have what it takes, that’s when I’m ready to be used by God.

    Thanks for this post!

  27. Eddie and Laura says

    Wow, I think you and I were separated at birth. Where do you live, so I can buy you coffee one day?

  28. Kat says

    sooo good….

    From 05-07, I was a missionary (aka STINTer)….and almost every day I struggled with the fact that I was trying to be “the perfect STINTer”. My 2nd year, my team even tried to confront that myth head on by making a movie making fun of our preconceived ideas of what a “perfect STINTer” was…..we saw how un-perfect we were, and how our imperfections glorified God in our work…..

    And who woulda thunk that a girl who was terribly insensitive to a specific belief system 6 years ago would be living and ministering to that same belief system 4 years later…..

  29. Christi says

    I’ve been away for a while, I was on a 5 week mission trip that I totally felt unqualified for. Even filling out the application beforehand took me 4 months because I didn’t feel like the right person for the job. I didn’t think I could be a “Pro-Life Missionary” I came home and I still felt like someone else would have been better where I was. God gently tapped me on the shoulder and tried telling me that He wouldn’t have let me go if He didn’t think I was the right person for the job. I didn’t listen so God smacked me in the face and had the first post I read be “Shining Up Your Scars” I spent a lot of time hiding how I truly felt on my trip. I said I was fine when I was anything but, I would cry myself to sleep because I was a mess but I didn’t want anyone to know hide was certainly my drug of choice. I will just be completely honest and say that being on the mission trip was emotional hell. We would go pray at an abortion mill one day which would depress the whole team and the next day have to set up a booth at a Christian festival and be happy and talk to people about things. Day in and day out I would think I made no difference because I saw no visible result of my work and that made me feel even more unqualified because “if I was qualified I would see changes” It took me coming home and reflecting to see that changes were made, it might not have been someone not getting an abortion as a direct result of me but I saw people changed in other ways. I had some amazing conversations, one of the best really had nothing to do with abortion but I know the people involved in that conversation will always remember what was said there.

    Jon like you said God wants me “because of my past” not “in spite of my past” God knows that what I have is exactly what I need to do what He needs.

    That whole mess is probably jut that, a mess, but hopefully you understood what I wanted to say and if you want to have the extended version just ask and I will tell you the whole tale.

  30. minvasive says

    I have always felt that my “thing” was music. I even moved to Nashville for a couple of years but was disappointed with what I found there. Maybe my “thing” changes. For now I’m just trying to listen, and trying not to put my wife or my daughter first before God.

    I guess it’s better to be searching in the light than to be feeling around in the dark.

  31. Christy says

    I know some of you might roll your eyes when I say that my “love language” is words of affirmation, so anything remotely critical usually sends me scampering to my pity party zone.

  32. jenn from pooler says

    Thanks so much for this – I’m copying to my 16 year old daughter who is a strong follower of Christ but struggling with anorexia. At times she feels she is “tainted” now and wonders how God will use her. Thanks for your comments! I love the funny ones, but I love love love these deep serious ones!

  33. Anonymous says

    “The woman who formerly used bitterness to deal with pain now allows Christ to deal with all of me “

  34. Janera says

    powerful, powerful stuff you’ve written here.

    Not just in one area, but in many, I struggle with feelings that I am unqualified: I’m not the perfect mother, nor the perfect teacher, nor the perfect friend, nor the perfect wife, nor the perfect daughter, nor the perfect writer.

    But this I do know, and I call on it regularly: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

    Clearly, I never will be the perfect anything. You know why? Because it’s not about me, as much as I sometimes try to make it so.

    So, I guess my version would go something like this:

    “She who formerly sought validation in accomplishment now finds it in service.”

    Thank you very much for this reminder today.

  35. Marni says

    The woman who once was positive her happiest times were behind her, feels like she has emerged from the ashes of pain, despair and anger. And she is grateful for it and praises God everyday for the pain because it brought about redemption, power and victory.

  36. Amber says

    As a writer, who’s had the kibosh put on me by editors, I can very much relate. And here’s my version:

    “The writer who formerly fretted over her words, petting them as slick silver idols that reflected her own glory, is now brandishing God’s gold Word to care for others.”

    If only I could live up to it each day!

  37. Destined2bd1 says

    Wow…you just really encouraged me in a way that I have been needing for such a long time now. I don’t know you nor do you know me, but wow…to think people from different worlds all over can share the same fears, insecurities, feelings, and the same Savior who strengthens us through all of that and loves us through all of that and uses us through all of that!! It’s great. Hope you don’t mind if I quote you or refer to your post in my blog, I will be sure to add a link back to yours (once I figure out how to!)

  38. A_Work_N_Progress says

    This brought tears to my eyes. For some reason, I can’t seem to let go of my past. Because of all the wrong I’ve done, I don’t feel like I can lead others. This is my first time reading your blog however I definitely feel encouraged from reading this.

  39. Sought-Out says

    “The mother who hid in shame because her son used illegal drugs and suffered a traumatic brain injury, is now on the internet telling her story. A story of freedom and redemption.”

  40. Belle says

    The woman who once sold our her little girl inside for words of affirmation from man, now stands firm in the Word and encourages others to base their acceptance, worth, and identity in Him too.

  41. Anonymous says

    my version of Galattions 1:23-24

    ” a woman who once used her tongue for seductive words and sexual imorality now pours from her tongue the glorius Message of Jesus Christ and the hope for all who believe.”

  42. momonthejourney says

    Wow Jon. I followed a link to this post (from boomama.net), and what an introduction to your blog. You wrote about exactly what I’m dealing with and blogging about right now. Thank you!

    PS I think I’ll link to you too!

  43. Kate says

    Wow… that’s intense. I especially loved the “they praised God because of me” part. I can only imagine how excited Paul was to say that.

    And thanks, you’ve helped with some things that I was really beating myself up about. There are alot of things I do that I don’t feel like I’m the “real thing,” like acting, public speaking, and being smart in school. People compliment me in these areas all the time, but I never feel as good as they say I am. When I messed up a line, or when my GPA dropped from a 4.0 to a 3.8, or when I couldn’t come up with much in an improv example speech… I beat myself up… but I shouldn’t.

    Thanks! I will definately be meditating on this post for awhile.

  44. voigt says

    This past year has been a lot of God bringing me out of the myth of what it means to be a quote “real artist” and your sentiments really resonnated with that process.

    I just discovered your blog today and it has been a thrilling read. Lots of solid stuff.

  45. Anonymous says

    yeah, im like a year late on this post and nobody will read it but i wanted to say that i always feel like im not a good band section leader. I have a section practice today so I will remember this when Im leading the other kids, even though i don't feel validated to lead. Im so bravenonymous

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