Monday, September 30, 2013
Talents, Gifts, and Such
Assigned topics are always good for me because they make me dig for new material.
Yesterday I spoke at the Harrisburg Christian Church's fall gathering. The assigned topic was "Harvesting Your Blessings," about using your gifts to bless others.
But before I spoke I got to just absorb the lovely "county fair" theme, with jars of canned goods and quilts--some a hundred years old--and mums and other pretty stuff. And it was just a fun group of warm, welcoming women.
In the last year I've probably read a hundred mommy-blogger posts about how we should stop comparing ourselves to others and God made us just how we are for a reason and perfection is overrated and we each have our gifts and just CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE.
No, probably two hundred.
Well. Guess what. I find something in every single one of those blogs to at best admire with a touch of awe and envy, and at worst to read with so much consuming jealousy that I "X" out of them in disgust.
[Yes, you, Ann Voskamp.]
The decorations. The houses. The photography: astonishing light, lovely children, composition and creativity to die for.
And words. Oh my word, the WORDS. The descriptions that just nail it, the quirky turns of phrase, the humor, the insights, the DEPTH.
Like this gem from Shari Zook: "I think the perfect match is a myth, a hybrid legend born out of Disney and a poor understanding of predestination."
I don't know why that makes me laugh so hard.
Here are my options:
1. Stop reading because I sometimes get envious.
2. Keep reading but go deeply soul-searching about the roots of my jealousy.
3. Enjoy the posts and pictures and laugh at my dumb little follies and stop taking myself so seriously.
Each of those women has something to say and I am glad they're saying it.
Oh wait, I just realized that I veered off-topic here, from our giftings to jealousy of bloggers. Ya, vell.
It's funny, this thing of what we are given and what we give out to others. It would seem like a straight line from A to B. If God has blessed you with THIS gift, then you can glorify God and bless others by going out and using that gift in this specific, intentional way.
As I told the HCC ladies, if you grew up hearing the Parable of the Talents, you probably got the idea that God had given you specific things you were good at and you'd better be out there using them because if you didn't you were burying them and then you were really going to be in trouble.
As a young person, I thought of myself as definitely a one-talent woman. All I had was that I did well in school and learned easily, and I "blessed" others by shooting up my hand in class and answering all the questions.
Lots of eye-rolling went on behind me, I'm guessing.
Now, I think those "talents" that the master handed out were packages containing all the blessings of life. Parents, a home, skills, health, opportunities, friends, support.
All of them become something that you have to offer. And God expects you to offer it to those around you, not so much as a career or specific life-work, but just meeting the needs that show up in front of you.
Organizing the fundraiser, making the meal, giving the money, hugging the child, whatever.
And writing the words and posting the pictures.
I think we need to be intentional. But we also need to just flow with the Holy Spirit, because I am convinced that most of the good that we do is unintentional and invisible.
Years ago when we were on the mission field I got pregnant which meant that I was really sick. A bunch of ladies took turns bringing meals in for a few weeks.
One woman, whom I will call Karen, was the kind we all admired. You'd use words like "dynamic" and "amazing" for her. She was an organizer, a counselor, a leader. Disciplined and smart. She had a great sense of humor. She got a lot done for the Kingdom.
Another woman I'll call Lena. Lena was more slow and plodding. Her work was cooking and cleaning. She had a very German accent and people sometimes made fun of her behind her back. We would have said that yeah, Lena was faithful, but she wasn't really shaking things up for the Kingdom.
Karen the dynamic successful woman brought supper in. Lasagna. And, I think garlic bread. The lasagna would have been good under normal circumstances but it was very spicy and I couldn't eat it. It was so disappointing. I was so hungry and sick and discouraged, and there was hot food, but no way could I keep it down. The same with the garlic bread. At least Paul had something to eat.
A few days later Lena brought supper. Mashed potatoes, meatloaf, corn. I can see her now, laying it all on the counter. "I made it really bland," she said. "I didn't add any spices, not even pepper. And I didn't put any onions in the meatloaf."
25 years later I still remember my gratitude at that meal and her thoughtfulness. I could actually eat it. I didn't throw it up. And I wonder: how did she know? She was single and had never been pregnant. But she met my desperate physical and emotional needs precisely.
Talk about turning my perceptions upside down.
Here are my conclusions:
1. We all need to give, offer, share out of our blessings and talents but also out of our losses and lacks, because even they can be doors and windows for God's grace.
2. God does the final calculating on his divine spreadsheet, and the value he assigns our investments will be very different from ours, I'm sure of it.
3. I still don't "get" that story about the talents, and how the one with five gained five more, and what it meant to bury it.
But that's ok.
If I write the letter, paint the trim, pack the lunch, make the call, advise the teenager, and yes, write the blog post, God will sort it all out by his own mysterious calculations.
Quote of the Day:
After the girls and I had a Pride and Prejudice party--
Jenny: Ooooh, I just want a Mr. Darcy.
Me: You do realize this is fiction.
Jenny: Yeah but I wish it was real life.
Emily: Well if it was real life you wouldn't get him because Elizabeth would.
Emily: And remember, if it was real life and you did marry him, you'd marry someone named Fitzwilliam.
Emily and me: [satisfied smiles]
Jenny: [goes off and cleans her fishbowl]
We might take a side trip into fantasy now and then, but in this house you'll get yanked back to reality pretty fast.