Day 67: Still ordained. They haven’t figured out I’m internally freaking out.
I was ordained two months ago. I wore my most woman-preacher-power blazer and sensible flats. We sang my favorite hymns, mentors gave me advice, grandparents read scripture, and I cried. A lot.
Two months later I still cannot believe that my ordination happened. I keep thinking that someone is going to hear me tell a bad joke or get Peter and Paul confused and revoke my ordination certificate. This feeling that I snuck into the party without being invited has been with me since college. I used to wonder if one day a professor was going to confiscate my student ID and say I’d been caught. In seminary, I knew the day would come when what I thought was a good sermon was actually inspirational poster quotes strung together for thirteen pages. Those things never happened, but . . .
I imagine myself walking through life with Groucho Marx glasses on my face, hoping no one calls my bluff. There is a term for this: Imposter Syndrome, which describes people who are unable to internalize their accomplishments despite their competence. They think that it was luck or perfect timing that helped them get a job or finish a project. I have struggled with Imposter Syndrome for a long time, and I’m pretty sure I am not alone.
I like to think that the disciples had the same feeling. Maybe they counted the days until Jesus would discover they had no idea what they were doing. But the good news is that Jesus knew who he was getting when he invited them to be his disciples. And he accepted who they were and knew they were capable of much more with him. This is why I love the story in John 21 so much. Jesus’ three questions to Peter about his love for him counters Peter’s three denials of Jesus. Jesus constantly redeems us and gives us the power we need to step out of the shadow of self doubt. I think this is why Jesus had twelve disciples instead of just one or two. I think he knew they would need partners on the journey who understood their struggles and stood with them in times of in doubt and and times of assurance.
When imposter feelings start to creep up on me unannounced, I think of the sea of people in the chapel on the day of my ordination who prayed over me and reminded me of God’s gracious love through community. I remember the whispered words of encouragement that people spoke over me as they passed by the kneeling bench. I did not feel like an imposter that day in October.
Ordination does not make us holier or make us better than the people who affirm us. Ordination is the time when we witness the physical proof of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of both the minister and the village who brought them up and shaped their story. Ordination is a reminder that God sees beyond our Groucho Marx glasses and knows we are good enough. (Hey, that phrase would be neat on a poster!)