The Sixtieth Day of 2023

Gentle Reader,

I’m writing this on Saturday, the fifty-sixth day of 2023, because as you read I am trapped in a winged metal tube making it’s way across the country to Louisville, Kentucky. My traveling companion may very well have knocked me upside the head to get me to just sleep through the whole flight. That’s how much I hate air travel and that’s how much I annoy others who are with me.

But I’m glad to be going where I’m going. For almost two years I’ve been a teaching assistant at the seminary I attend. Most days that involves keeping track of posts on forum discussion boards. On this day, it’s traveling in an aluminum death-tube to attend my first Wesleyan Theological Society annual meeting. My boss, a professor of practical theology, invited me to co-write and co-present a paper with him. That’s such a strange sentence to type.

I have always been a writer. Words on the page or screen flow easily from my fingers. It’s harder for me to verbally communicate, which is real proof that God has a sense of humor in calling me to preach and teach. I’ve said it many times: I would happily conduct my life via email.

Formal theological writing was not my initial dream, but it’s very much what I want to do now. God has a way of pulling together the threads of our natural talents and the supernatural gifts God bestows upon us to create a cross-stitch pattern we’d never come up with on our own. (A crafting metaphor. My mom is going to be so proud). And it’s beautiful.

What’s not beautiful is the bells of imposter syndrome ringing in my head. Do I really belong at a theological conference? Is it right for me to have my name on a paper? Who am I to do this and be here?

Observe and listen are my watchwords for this Lenten season. I asked God if there was anything I ought to give up or any practices I should take on during these forty days. The Holy Spirit just told me to observe and listen. At first, this confused me. Observe what? Listen to what? It took me a bit to understand. I am to observe and listen to God. To keep my eyes open to what God is doing and my ears open to what God is saying. And what God has done is open a door to this opportunity. What God is saying is that I am meant to walk through it.

Which seems arrogant, but it’s not. I have worked very hard for four years. I have poured my heart and mind into my seminary education. My boss is on a mission to encourage and raise up new leaders. God is a Good Father. God is glad to bless God’s children. When we choose to submit ourselves to God and seek to align our hearts with God’s hearts, some of the things we’ve dreamed of may become reality. Note the some here. God isn’t a cosmic vending machine. God can and does say “no.” But I think when God says “no,” it’s because God wants to say a creative, life-giving “yes.” The “no” to what won’t bring us into wholeness, and the “yes” to what will.

I think, too, that God doesn’t want God’s daughters to struggle the way that we do. Men are human. I know that. I know they battle doubts. But in my experience with and in the Church, it’s less common for men to fear being unmasked and revealed as fraud. The structures and systems tend to support the flourishing of men in both healthy and unhealthy ways. (Again, I know men struggle. If you read this as an attack on men, well, that’s a choice you’re making). Even in egalitarian denominations such as my own, it’s not that common for women to exist comfortably within scholarly circles. We’re too much, and not enough. We’re too feminine, and too masculine. Too this, too that. Never quite able to please.

Which is why we have to listen to God.

I think the only way to defeat imposter syndrome is to know who we truly are. Who I truly am. God’s daughters are not all the same. We were lovingly designed to be as varied as we are.

I am a pastor and a scholar. I am an ever-learning theologian. That’s who God made me to be.

So be who God made you be. Any definition of you that is not based in who God says you are is a prison. And you don’t have to live there.


Image Courtesy of Joel Muniz