The Gift of Inadequacy

What if inadequacy is actually an advantage?

This story didn’t begin in a place of loss.  Friday was a day of triumph for me–a day of small victories that all added up to make me feel that potent combination of warm and fuzzy and exhilaration.  I hadn’t felt so good in a long time.

After my late shift, I sat at the kitchen table with a bowl of fruit and yogurt, and basked in the glory of the day–the weekend that had finally arrived, the goals I’d finally met, and the crucial conversation about faith I’d finally opened with a coworker.

And then I realized that this sort of conversation was exactly what I was meant for, even called to.  That beautiful feeling vanished. Instantly I was scared, and I said to God “No, I’m not smart enough, I don’t have time to study for it, I’m not brave enough. I can’t do it!”

And this story, from C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, came to mind:

The Narnian soldiers stand on the banks of the river Beruna, stern and triumphant. The Telmarines cower in terror at the sight of the great lion, Aslan. The talking animals of Narnia surge around Aslan’s feet, in joyful adoration.

And Peter pushes Prince Caspian forward to meet the Lion.

“Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”

“I-I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”

“Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not. Therefore, under us and under the High King, you shall be King of Narnia.”

After a couple days of digesting, I realize that darn right, I’m not smart enough and brave enough, nor do I have enough time to study all I could study. That is all beside the point. No, it is BETTER that way. Recognizing that I can’t do it brings me to the place of humility and openness that precedes great learning and personal change.  It opens me up to ask for help.

I’ve sometimes been offended when I’ve celebrated some small success, only to have someone say “I wish I could do that” in the sort of tone that says they’re sure they can’t. I want to jump across the table and say ‘Why the HECK not? Do you really think I succeeded because I’m so much more special, heck, lucky than you?”

I realize now that I was doing the same thing.

None of the people that I admire started with themselves all together.  They grew into that role that I admire them for.  You weren’t born able to walk, even though you had legs and muscles, and everything else you needed.  You grew, and became strong, and you watched people around you walk.  And one day, you walked.

Feelings of inadequacy ARE and advantage, because if I know I’m not good enough, I know I need to learn.