It’s often said that everyone has something special to bring to the world–talents, experience–a purpose set out just for them. We all seek to live a life of happiness and meaning, but sometimes our vision can grow dim.
Confession: I like being good at my job. I like knowing what to expect. I like to feel as if I am in control. I, like most of the world, am struggling in 2020.
I wish I could say instead that I always appreciate how blessed I am to have a job. The reality? As soon as I start to feel as if public opinion is shifting out of my favor, my attitude plummets right along with it.
It’s like I use my worst days to say, “see, I knew I wasn’t cut out for this!” After repeating it enough, I start to wear the phrase like a dark pair of shades over my once clear reality. So I ask,
How does this happen?
Growing up, I was a quiet girl, a fact trumpeted by concerned teachers, friends, and acquaintances who thought word would never come back around. I also had a reputation of being excessively sweet and accommodating, leading several people (including one of my kindly career mentors) to openly question whether I could make it as a teacher–especially in a high school. As a result, in every new teaching experience I encountered, I waited for someone to say, “you’re making a big mistake!” slamming the door in my face with a, “thanks but no thanks, please change your major.”
Despite my dire expectations, every experience that I had made me feel more and more excited about teaching. A few encouragers made up for the doubters along the way and confirmed the secret whispers of my heart–with God’s help, “I can do this. I was made to do this.”
There are days when I lose sight of the beauty of the seeds I am sowing; when the toil and strife seem more than I can bear. But I know that shutting down in defeat and disappointment is not the answer. I have to remember the good times, when God used my positivity, enthusiasm, and meekness to open doors like I had never dreamed of doing, inspiring brilliant young men and women that I was blessed to get to know.
I love how Lysa TerKeurst describes this temptation in her book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely. When we feel alone, misunderstood, or different than others around us, we are not set aside–we are set apart for a holy purpose. Instead of wishing that our talents were the same as the next “competitor’s,” it is critical that we appreciate what that person is bringing to uniquely improve the world around us, and to discover how we can do that ourselves.
Here is an example of some of the work I’ve been doing to identify my own spiritual strengths. Feel free to use the questions to do the same!
What do I sometimes feel insecure about?
3. Perceived Inabilities
Are these qualities bad according to God’s word, or am I just reading too much into a few opinions?
1. Proverbs 22:11: “He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.”
2. Proverbs 17:27: “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.”
3. Exodus 4:10-12 “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
What benefits can come from these gifts?
1. Believing the best in people: setting a tone of encouragement and optimism.
2. Listening: being more likely to connect and build relationships with others by learning about and loving them.
3. Humility: others who have to work through the same challenges such as communicating more or advocating for oneself may find inspiration in my example.
What specific obstacles can I keep an eye out for that may tempt me not to use my gifts?
1. Cynicism, mocking from others, or feeling all alone.
2. Assuming that others are as aware of my worries as I am.
3. Forgetting my purpose in Christ.
We all have aspects to work on and we all have aspects to let flourish. Whether bold or timid, smart or strong, joyful or sensitive, we all have gifts to share with the ones that God has put in our paths. I pray that our eyes can be more open to this each and every day.