|Photo by asenat29/Jonathan Lim Yong Hian |
via Flickr Creative Commons
I think just like when we try to find the special gift to make a birthday special, or an anniversary gift reflect the love we hold in our hearts for another, or a special something to show the appreciation we feel for someone - God showers us with gifts to show His love for us. And I think He really wants us to use our gifts to honor Him and help others. It's His way of saying, "Here. Take this. I know you will do something fantastic with it!"
I once spoke with a local potter who told me that the saddest thing for him is when he goes to someones home and they point to a display case, behind which, a few of his pieces sit behind glass. "I make these to be used," he told me. "I want people to take my coffee cups and sit around using them, talking with each other, sharing, making memories."
God doesn't want our talents to sit unused on a shelf.
How do I know what my talents are?Easy. Ask yourself, ask others and ask God.
C'mon. You know what you enjoy. You know what moves you and stirs you. Your interests are a pretty good indication of where your talents are. Think there's nothing better than watching someone hungry eat? Maybe your special talents and skills rest with feeding the homeless, or motivating others to make family dinner time a priority.
Ask people who know you what they think your talents are. Take a survey: ask your children, cousins, friends, co-workers, people you regularly do business with. Shoot, put it on Facebook! I think you'll be surprised by the answers. And I'll bet good money you won't hear twenty people say, "nope. Sorry. You got none. Nothing. Nada. No talent for you!" More than likely, you'll come to realize you're being told the same thing over and over. Everyone says I am steady and sure in the face of chaos. Huh. Maybe they're on to something. (Maybe it's time for you to check out volunteering with your local Red Cross!)
Still not sure these are your talents? Pray. Ask God: he knows what He's given to you! But make sure you listen to His answer.
What do we usually do with our talents?Too often we minimize the talents we have. Maybe it comes from being taught not to brag. But just as we shouldn't make something bigger than what it is, we also shouldn't make it smaller. Imagine if I had searched for the perfect gift for my friend and later overheard her say, it's just a candle. I mean, just about everyone has a candle. I'd feel so hurt. I tried to get the one that looked just right, smelled just right, and she didn't think it was that big of a deal.
Imagine how God feels when he overhears us telling people the talents He gave us aren't anything to be thrilled over.
We spend too much time comparing our talents to those of other people. It's easy to do, because for some reason our society gushes a lot over the Big Ticket Talents. You know, singing, dancing, painting, drawing, acting. Somehow we think if we don't share in those talents we got the short end of the talent stick. I sometimes wonder why our society doesn't give the same air time to people filled with quiet compassion, or the capacity to be a great listener.
We foolishly think we deserve something better than what we got. I remember when my Dad got me that crappy car when I turned 16. All I did was complain and compare it to all the super cool newer cars that I passed by. I was basically (and quite rudely) telling my Dad he got me the wrong gift. Turns out, it was actually the perfect car for me! It was reliable and safe and included gas mileage I could afford. (All things I didn't appreciate were exactly what I needed.) I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the one who goes up to God and asks for the receipt so I can return His gift and get one I think I deserve.
What should we do with our talents?Ultimately, it's up to you. They're your gifts. They come with no strings attached. You can decide to use them or waste them. Just understand that God will probably eventually want to know why you didn't do anything with them. (That's when you can tell Him you just didn't like His gifts or thought you deserved better ones. I'm sure He'll like that.)
But let's say you want to do something you're just not sure how your talents and skills can glorify God. Get together with some friends and have a brainstorming session. Search the Internet by entering your skill and the word charity in the search engine. Or ask random people how they see a certain skill set being utilized to help others.
- Got a talent as a hairdresser? Once a month offer to cut/trim hair for free to children of low-income families or to shut-ins.
- Possess a keen business sense? Mentor people to help them get back on their feet. Maybe this includes how to use social media as marketing, or what to expect during interviews.
- Experience a joy of cooking? Partner with a church and offer free basic cooking lessons to teens or young single mothers.
- Love bringing a character to life through acting? Volunteer to help with your local elementary school's reading program.
Don't be surprised if your talents change.Maybe you've spent your whole life using your special talents of accounting by helping others balance their checkbooks, pay their bills on time, or do their bookkeeping, but lately you've felt a tug on your heart to do some more knitting. You keep seeing things in the newspaper or online about programs that provide homemade blankets to children at hospitals. This might be God's way of encouraging you it's time to use another talent.
This is okay! In fact, it's expected. God wants us to grow and evolve and try different things just like we want our own children to be multifaceted. With each talent we express we're going to meet new people and discover new things about ourselves and the world we live in. Embrace the change! Besides, I'm pretty sure that if God wants you to move and you stubbornly refuse to, he'll find a way to make it happen.
Danger, Will Robinson!So, here's the thing about gifts from God. They're given to us to be used for good and not evil. If I give my little girl a princess wand for dress up and she turns around and starts using it as a sword to beat her brother with, I'm not going to be too happy. In fact, I'll probably very quickly find a way to put that wand out of her reach until she's learned how to properly handle the gift I've given her.
Let's say you've been blessed with the special talent of being an incredible mother. I'm talking about someone patient and loving at all times, able to bake cookies with the 2-year old and actually enjoy it, takes the kids to the park and is thrilled with spending 45 minutes pushing the same kid on the same swing even though they totally know by now how to pump their legs - that's awesome! That's such an incredible gift! But if you're using your talent to tear people down, you'd better check yourself.
God wants us using our gifts to build others up, not belittle them or condemn them for not doing as good a job as you think they ought to be doing. He didn't give you that gift so you could be pompous, judgmental and walk around feeling holier-than-thou.
Here's a hint: if reading that just elicited an unexpected and uncontrolled internal reaction, you probably need to rethink what you're doing with your talents. Because if you don't, I guarantee God's going to help you figure out a way to set things right... and it might not feel so good.
Go get 'em - but not on your own!This week, I challenge you to really look at what your talents and skills are and not discount what you are made of. Remember, it's not all about those Big Ticket Talents. What you have makes you special and that's just the way God wants you to be! Embrace His gifts! Now, think of a way you can use that gift to help build others up.
Look, I don't know about you, but at the end of my life I want God to hold my face tenderly in His hands and whisper, "Well done, good and faithful servant. I am so proud of what you have done in My name!" The only way that's going to happen is if I always put God first. I want to go wherever God leads me, using whatever talent He gives me, in whatever way He asks me to do it, without complaint. If He needs to close a thousand doors to get me to walk through the one I'm supposed to, I'll do so willingly and faithfully. And whatever He asks me to do, I desire only for Him to receive all the glory.
love each other deeply,
because love covers
over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another
Each of you should use
whatever gift you have received
to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace
in its various forms.
If anyone speaks,
they should do so as one who speaks
the very words of God.
If anyone serves,
they should do so
with the strength God provides,
so that in all things
God may be praised
through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory
and the power
1 Peter 4:8-11