Be a Beginner
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly
loved, clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
During my senior year of college, I got a full-time job as a sign language interpreter at a local high school.
This was a big deal because part of my coursework as an interpreter-in-training was to complete at least a one-semester internship. This was a requirement for students whether or not we got paid for it. I was able to finish my senior year, satisfy my internship requirement and earn money while doing it so I could pay my rent. Win-win-win.
Even though it was my full-time job, I was still a student, which meant I had to have a supervisor come and evaluate my performance from time to time. The first time the supervisor came, I was proud to have her there, to show her what I was capable of and the good work I was doing.
At the end of the day, she handed me my evaluation form. She was kind and encouraging, and I felt pretty proud of myself. After she left, I scanned the page, past the numbers, past the checked boxes and formalities, because I wanted to see the comments she wrote at the bottom. What did she say without a form to guide her? What came spontaneously to her mind about me and my performance?
Quickly scanning her cursive writing at the bottom of that page, I was pleased to see she had good things to say, a few specific suggestions and generally positive feedback. Then at the very end she summarized with this statement: “Good work for a novice interpreter.”
My heart sank. She called me a beginner. The worst.
As a new interpreter trying to find my way and establish my identity in the field, the shame of being a beginner was both heavy and invisible. I couldn’t name it at the time, but that’s what it was: shame. Why was I only good for a beginner? Why couldn’t I just be good, period? I didn’t like being called a beginner, even though that’s exactly what I was.
Once you take the time to get honest about where you are, one thing you might uncover is this: You are a beginner. This is a respectable, worthy place to be.
See if you can find a way to access the child you still are on the inside. Though our bodies age, our souls stay young in so many ways — always looking to be loved, to be safe and to be welcomed. Rather than becoming experts, children are free to be curious. Children are able to sit down and accept other people’s knowledge. Children observe, watch, make mistakes and learn new things. You are in Christ, and your smallness is not a liability. Your smallness is a gift.
Remember Jesus is not only your King and your Friend, your Savior and your Shepherd. He is also the smartest man who ever lived. You may not know how to navigate this new beginning, but He does. With Him by your side, you have everything you need.
Our key verse reminds us of who we are and how God has given us all we need to be all we need to be: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, emphasis added). Being God’s people means that we, whether beginners or experts, are to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient.
Embrace this unique time of being a beginner. Let Him teach you what is right, what to say and how to think. There will come a time when this new beginning will not be new anymore, and you may not feel the need for Him in this area as you do now. So let this new role teach you what it has to teach you. Let it form you into the likeness of Christ.
Let yourself be a beginner and receive all the gifts beginning has to give.
Oh God, we confess our longings to be the smartest people in the room. Reveal to us the true fear hiding beneath the surface. We are afraid of not having the answers, of looking like fools, of being beginners. As we fall from the crumbling wall of our own reputation, status and ability, we trust that You are the solid ground beneath our tired feet. As we face those who have doubted us, remind us how You stand in front of us, behind us, beside us and within us. When we look for courage elsewhere, remind us to turn to You instead. You have all the gumption and moxie we could possibly need. We accept our smallness in Your presence. Replace our shame with laughter, and our doubt with love. Teach us to begin again with joy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.