Friday, June 19, 2009

Come without your "competence"

My daughter Amy graduated from Seattle Pacific University last weekend. She had a wonderful experience there.

On Sunday, we visited University Presbyterian Church and heard an excellent sermon by Pastor George Hinman. He told how he is not a very good golfer. But when he is playing on occasion with friends, he always is worried at the first hole because there are always a lot of people standing around waiting to begin their round looking on. He shared how he wants desperately to get off a good first shot, in spite of the fact that he is not a good golfer (I have felt that way too..."Please God, let me not miss, or totally hit it sideways"). Relating that to his and our problem with pride, he said something to the effect that, "the point of greatest pride is wanting to present myself as something that I am not." In the case of his story, he goes to the tee, and wants to present himself as a good golfer so that he will not be laughed at as a bad one, and that he will get praised by those looking on who might think him a good one. His point in the golf analogy was that we should come to God, without our "competence" at least our self perceived competence.

I immediately thought of my friends with disabilities and how they model that for me. My friends with severe physical disabilities cannot fool me into thinking that they have great physical abilities. My friends with intellectual disabilities cannot fool me into thinking they have great intellectual disabilities. One friend in particular who because of his intellectual disability cannot read, tries desperately to impress those around him with an ability to read, and although we attempt to help him, or point out correctness when he reads something right, we recognize that he is fooling himself and those of us around him see that.

What competence do I think I am impressing God or those around myself with? I guarantee I may be very impressed with myself, however, God looks on and probably "shakes his head" pointing out to me how I sometimes get things correct, but also recognizes that I am fooling myself in thinking that I am something that I am not.

But the pastor also made the point that it is not God's desire that I live in despair at my lack of competence. No, God frees us from the burden of despair by always giving us hope. Not hope within ourselves, but the hope that faith in Christ brings. I have a hope of forgiveness through Christ. I have a hope of acceptance through Christ. I have a hope of growth in obedience through Christ. I have a hope of being used by Christ. I have a hope of a life together with God through Christ. That hope makes me smile! I come to God as I am, he sees me as I am (maybe I sometimes see myself as I am, too), and we move on from there.

One last point on the church in Seattle. Beautiful service, wonderful music, powerful sermon, friendly people, however, those at the information booth knew nothing about a program including people with disabilities that we were told was a ministry of the church.



  1. Stephanie Grzeszczak1:12 PM

    I can relate to this as I'm sure I do it myself, but more than that I can see it in the children I watch on a regular basis. One little girl in particular likes to show off to her ability to count and add and subtract. Quite often she'll add or subtract wrong but she'll say it in such a matter of fact type of way, not at all humble or open to any correction. I can see how a person who is intellectually disabled would do this though, as he probably does not want to appear "stupid" or "less competent" than you or I. Being born with a disability and having to grow up dealing with the teasing and harassment of those around him probably cause him to feel if not resentful, then wanting to prove himself by acting as if he knows what he is reading. He may think that he can fool those around him if he appears to know what he is reading despite his inability to know how to read. I'm sure God knows I sometimes front and pretend like I'm competent all on my own when really all I need is Him.

    Stephanie from EDU341

  2. Anonymous10:28 PM

    I can relate to this, myself. There have been so many times when I have tried to look like I know what I am doing and deep down I know that people see right through it. I was not born with a disability but, I do know what it feels like to realize I'm not as smart as someone else when discussing certain topics. Even when I was in high school, I wasn’t able to read as well as the other kids, so I hated when the teacher would have us read a paragraph at a time. I would count the students before me to find out what paragraph I was supposed to read and practice it. The last thing I wanted was to stumble on a word and look incompetent in front of the rest of the class. Thank goodness God doesn't expect us to know all and do all. If he did I don't think one person would be able say they could even talk to God because of their lack of competence. It teaches us to be humble in the things we excel at because we know there are things that we don't.