A wonderful conference that had inspired and taught me also left me feeling ancient. The younger participants were light-years ahead of me in their knowledge of technology, marketing, and social media. I felt like I’d pulled up to a jet fueling station in a horse and buggy. While their spaceships intrigued me, I wasn’t sure I could—or wanted to—drive one.
In Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath told the story of a third grade teacher who wanted to erase prejudice in her students. The story also shows the paralyzing effect of a negative self-perception.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated. This teacher wondered how she could help her class really grasp the tragedy of prejudice. One morning she told her class that brown eyes were better than blue. She moved all the blue-eyed students to the back of the room. They had to wear collars so they could be recognized from a distance. Brown eyes were given a longer recess.
Friendships immediately dissolved as brown-eyed children shunned their blue-eyed peers. One child even asked her how she could be the teacher since she had “them blue eyes.” The next day, she told the class that she’d made a mistake. Blue eyes were superior to brown. The blue-eyed children squealed with delight and ran to put their collars around their brown-eyed classmates.
The teacher noticed something else. That day the blue-eyed children were faster on their spelling drill.
“Why were you so slow yesterday?” she asked.
“Because all I could think about was those collars,” one blue-eyed student said.
A Self-defeating Focus
- As long as the third grade children focused on their collars they couldn’t do the spelling.
- As long as I focused on my age and lack of technical knowledge I felt obsolete.
- As long as Moses focused on his limitations he resisted God’s calling.
When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commissioned him to lead Israel out of Egypt, he begged God to send someone else. The self-confidence Moses had gained in Egypt forty years earlier had evaporated in the desert sun while tending sheep. His previous attempt to deliver a couple of Hebrew slaves had miserably failed. At eighty years old, who was he to deliver an oppressed nation from mighty Pharaoh?
Moses had to learn it wasn’t about who he was. His strength had caused him to stumble when he tried to be God’s deliverer in his own power. Focusing on his inadequacy was still focusing on himself.
A Success-producing Focus
In a sense God was saying, “Moses, Moses, you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about who you are. It’s about who I AM. This is My plan, and My power will accomplish it.”
Jesus has commissioned us to represent Him to the world. We aren’t to work for Him. We are to work with Him and allow Him to manifest His life through us.
“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (2 Cor. 2:15-16 NLT).
None of us is adequate for the high calling we have in Christ. But we can lay aside our insufficiencies, like the third graders shed their collars, and set our eyes on Jesus. He is our adequacy. And He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).Are you focused on “Who am I?” or on “the great I AM”? Click To Tweet
Centering on Christ guarantees our success. Moses did. Look what he accomplished.
Your turn: Please share one tip that helps you overcome feelings of inadequacy.
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Debbie W. Wilson
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 Dan Heath and Chip Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die ((New York: Random House, 2007, 2008)