When I was a senior in high school, I reluctantly joined my school’s brand new speech team. Until that point, I had pursued things more artistic things, but I was looking to beef up my college applications and some of my teachers thought I’d be good at speaking. I haughtily told the coach that I needed to do only limited prep events as I was far too busy with other pursuits to devote a lot of time to his activity. But I dutifully showed up for practice and enjoyed the challenge of coming up with three-point speeches in a just a couple of minutes. I remember early on, after one speech that I thought was particularly impressive, my coach, Mr. Meadows, told me “That was good. Now you need to use that writing talent you have in your speeches.” It was a bit baffling to me—in all my haste to get up and get speaking, in an event where you don’t really have time to prepare much of anything, he was encouraging me to write! But he saw that a gift I had would enhance my speaking, and wanted me to see that it could be used in a way I hadn’t thought of. Mr. Meadows didn’t want me to change what I already had, he just wanted me to recognize it and grow it.
Now, so many years later, I have begun to enjoy the idea of adopting a theme as each new year roles around. While re-focusing can certainly happen any time of year, January presents a natural opportunity. This year I’ve decided that it is time to EMBRACE my gifts, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. What does that mean? It means that we need to take stock of and recognize what God has given us. And it can be so many things: specific talents, learned skills, burgeoning interests, people who have been put in your life, or situations you’ve been placed in. Now, this may be more difficult when you are younger and haven’t had time to uncover or develop talents. It can also be hard if you have been taught to pursue someone else’s goals for you rather than to cultivate your own. And another challenge is when you have gifts that the culture around you doesn’t value—but that God does. But whatever they are, in order to embrace our gifts we need to become mindful of what we have been given.
Once we realize what our gifts are, it’s time to learn to love them. My daughter has an adorable sign she made in a girls’ Bible study that says “It’s okay to be happy about a skill I have.” I appreciate this so much because for too long the prevailing notion has been that to recognize that you have something good means you are not humble about it. But the exact opposite is true—humility is a choice to put yourself lower than others, which requires knowing that you might actually have something they don’t. It is not prideful to realize “I’m good at this and intend to use it for good.” Or, “I have this money/resource/thing and I can be useful with it.” In fact, to NOT recognize and use what’s given to us is wasteful and displeasing to God—numerous scriptures tell us that if we do not use our talents we invite the ire of God (Matt. 25:14-21, Luke 19:12-27). You can’t love or use a gift if you don’t know what you’ve been given.
Perhaps the most difficult part of embracing our gifts is realizing that when we choose to embrace and use certain gifts we may need to give up other pursuits. I don’t at all mean that we should not do necessary things as they arise—of course we need to respond to urgent needs even if they are outside of our comfort zone. But when we talk about what we are actively growing and using, it may mean accepting that some things we have been eyeing or trying to do are actually better left to others.
I would love for you to come along with me this year… it’s not a resolution or even a goal, but more of a journey, a chance to be more mindful about what we’ve been given and grow in it. I’ll be posting different thoughts on how to find and embrace our gifts as the year progresses and I’d love for you to join me! If you have an idea of what gifts you need to embrace, or if you have questions about how to find them, please leave a comment and I’ll try to incorporate your thoughts into future posts on this theme.
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11