My husband ran his first 10k in a long time last week. He trained for about twelve weeks. Every day, he diligently followed a Garmin running plan and stuck to it. Sometimes it involved getting up before the sunrise or even running after dark. Some days were short interval runs, while others were long and focused on endurance. It was inspiring for me to watch him set his goal and then accomplish it. After the race, I asked him how he felt and what he was thinking about while running. Surprisingly, he said that around mile four he felt like an imposter. He recalls telling himself, “This was a mistake. Why am I doing this? I’m not a runner!” His mind was second-guessing his capability. The irony is that in the end, he PR’d: he ran his Personal Best and he accomplished his goal! How interesting is it that during a personal best, he felt like an imposter?
From my perspective, I wasn’t cheering for an imposter; I was rooting for a runner. He set a goal, trained for the goal, and accomplished the goal. It didn’t matter what his time was or how long the race was; as far as I could see, he was a successful runner.
I remember feeling the same when I went back to my teaching job. After teaching for two years, I decided to stay home with my four kids. After ten years of being a stay-at-home mom, I was excited to reenter the classroom. I clearly remember the feeling I had before my first “Meet the Teacher” night. I was gripped with anxiety. I remember saying to my husband, “I’m so nervous, I don’t really know what I’m doing.” He looked at me and said, “Amy, yes you do. You’re a teacher. You’ve trained for this. You’ve done this before. Just put one foot in front of the other.” So, I did my best that night. I talked to the parents, answered questions, and told them about my passions and goals with their kids. Was I a “seasoned” teacher? No. Did I know how the year ahead of me would go? No. Did I feel like an imposter? Yes. But I stepped into it and did it. Since then, many years and much experience have provided me with knowledge and confidence that would never have come without just doing it.
As I read and study Scripture, I believe that most major biblical figures felt like imposters as well. They weren’t necessarily trained or prepared for the tasks to which God had called them. They didn’t know what they were doing before they did it. In fact, when God asked them to do something, many of them quickly stated their inadequacies and fears to him. However, we can learn many things from how they responded to God’s call. Let’s take, for example, the story of Gideon. We find Gideon’s calling in the book of Judges, chapter 6. Scripture says that the Israelites had done evil in the sight of the Lord, so he gave them into the hands of the Midianites, and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. In response, God called Gideon to lead an underdog Israelite army to defeat the very powerful Midianite army. In the end, miraculously, they did.
First, while there are many times we may feel like imposters, we must remember our feelings can deceive us. God named us for his purposes. He knows the end of our story. We see God naming Gideon in Judges 6:11 when an angel appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.” At this point in Gideon’s story, he had yet to defeat anyone and think of himself “mighty.” But God knew the story that lie ahead of Gideon and that he would be a Warrior. Knowing this, God called Gideon in to the greater storyline; the one that Gideon couldn’t see. Rather than embracing the name God had given him (“Mighty Warrior”), Gideon first questioned how this could be possible. How could he save Israel? Judges 6:13-16 NIV says:
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”Judges 6:13-16 NIV
Do you see how Gideon felt like an imposter? He openly confessed his inadequacies and fears to God. He said, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.” He felt like he had no business leading an army. He didn’t have the confidence or the resources. But do you see God’s response? He says, “Go in the strength you have…Am I not sending you? I will be with you.” God tells Gideon that he is the perfect man for the job, right in his present moment. He is perfectly equipped even if he doesn’t think he is because God would be his strength. God promised to do the work. And God doesn’t break his promises.
The story goes on to show Gideon (like many of us) struggling to trust God. Three times Gideon laid out a fleece in the morning dew, asking God to give him a sign proving to Gideon that God would be with him. God patiently reassured him each time.
Next, when we feel like imposters, we must lean into it—not fear it. Gideon had an army of 32,000 men. That number was nothing compared to Midian’s 135,000 soldiers. Through a series of conversations with Gideon, God reduced Gideon’s army to 300 men so that God’s mighty power would be displayed in the defeat of Midian. God does this to demonstrate his power and so that the victory is not mistaken as human victory. In order to lean into our calling, we must take a step of obedience toward what we think God has called us to and trust that he will handle the details.
Finally, when we feel like imposters, we must pay attention to what’s happening around us. Scripture tells us that Gideon’s friend had a vivid dream describing the victory of his army over Midian. By that time, God had already spoken to Gideon through an angel, reassured him through raining down dew on a fleece (three times), and now spoke through the interpretation of a dream. It took a lot for Gideon to trust God and take steps of faith. Sometimes it takes a lot for us to do the same. But in the end, Gideon blew the trumpet, lit the torch, and God met him and provided a miraculous victory.
The story ends with Gideon defeating 135,000 Midianites with 300 men, 300 trumpets and 300 torches. Just like God said, it was by his strength and against all odds that Gideon found victory. Unlike my husband who had trained for his race, and myself who had two years of teaching under my belt, Gideon had zero training and preparation. But he was right where God wanted him.
Gideon is one of many biblical figures who felt like he was an imposter. However, while we are still living in the middle of our story, we get to see the end of Gideon’s story and be encouraged. We see that he was in the right place at the right time, and God used him for his greater purposes.
Where do you feel like an imposter? In your job at work? At home with your kids? In a certain relationship? With a hobby or a goal you’ve set? Where are the places you’ve feel like you’re just not good enough? Identify them. Then, trust God’s greater storyline and your part in it. Let God be your strength, lean into it, and pay attention to how God works around you and in you. Let’s not run away from the feeling of being an imposter; let’s embrace it. These are the places where God will be glorified and not us, and that’s exactly where we are supposed to be.
Amy is a Cincinnati native. She met her husband in high school, and married young. They have four kids: one in college and three teenagers busy at home. Teaching has always been one of her passions, so she spends her days with 4th graders teaching them to find their voice through writing. She loves Jesus with all of her heart and knows that her calling in life is love God and love others well. Amy loves colorful food, coffee with friends, being in nature, and playing music with family.