Battling the Voices of Self-Doubt

There are moments, when I’m alone, that I find myself questioning my sanity.

Wendy and I have had a string of life decisions that have shaped who we are. There are seven transitions I think about often: 1) choosing seminary over the pursuit of med-school, 2) leaving college ministry to work at a church in inner city Baltimore, 3) leaving that church to try a radical experiment in church life with a small group of people, 4 ) helping found and putting our kids in a innovative charter school, 5) going to work at a dying traditional church, 6) being asked to resign my position from a non-profit for a lack of humility, 7) and finally publishing my first novel.

Each step required a leap of faith, and each time, as we bent our knees and prepared to jump, there was someone there, questioning my understanding of reality. The person always changed, but the voice was the same.

“Jeff, I think you misunderstood what was said.”

“Jeff, you’re being extreme.”

“Jeff, you’re reading of that passage is incorrect.”

“Jeff, this isn’t a good idea. You’re making a mistake.”

“Jeff, there isn’t anything wrong with us. You are the one who has problems.”

“Jeff, this isn’t how things are suppose to be done.”

“Jeff, the way you see the world is wrong.”

I’ve had people say a lot of crappy things to me over the years. Most voices fade quickly. Almost all disappear with time. The only ones that continue to haunt me, are the ones that questioned my understanding of reality. They come back at unexpected times. This morning they were whispering to me when I made my coffee.

“That time when that guy said that thing? Maybe you misunderstood. Maybe you were wrong.”

“That time when you read that book and took that action? Maybe you misunderstood. Maybe you were wrong.”

“The way you remember that event? Maybe you are wrong, and maybe they were right.”

The voices stab like a knife in my heart, leaving me wounded and staggering.

While I could do without the pain, there is a good side to being routinely stabbed. I’m ready for it now.

I know that when Wendy and I are getting ready to take a  leap of faith, there will be someone there, standing to the side, questioning the sanity of our decision. And now, as I bend my knees and prepare to jump, I find joy and peace in looking them in the eye and saying, “Enjoy the show.”


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