Sometimes I get down in the dumps. Yesterday was one of those days for me. Nothing bad happened in particular, but I got down because I was thinking about the things that I don’t have that I really wanted to have: in particular, useful gifts/talents/skills.
Growing up I always wanted to be involved in various things, especially the arts. I wanted to take ballet or modern dance, but my mom didn’t want me wearing anything skin tight. I want to do cheerleading for a while (a short while…lol), but my mom felt like my butt was too big. I wanted to be on my church’s praise dance team, but they wouldn’t let me (my husband seems to think that it could have been due to my body shape). I wanted to play the saxophone or piano really well, but my band teacher already had enough saxophonists, and I was only mediocre at the clarinet. I wanted to be a really good singer in my church choir, but I only sounded average (still do) and had terrible performance anxiety.
Now once I got to college I wanted to have more noticeable spiritual gifts like my friends and other people I saw. But, it didn’t appear that I had anything. My friends tried to keep my encouraged by saying, “Girl, you do have spiritual gifts.” Of course I asked for an example, and of course there was a silence for a while, and then I got, “Organization and Efficiency. Girl, you can organize anything and make it completely efficient. That is so a spiritual gift because I know I can’t do that.” And of course, I rolled my eyes and responded that those things weren’t even mentioned in the Bible, continuing my self-pity and jealousy.
So yesterday, that happened again as I saw my husband practicing for a small performance (he plays the saxophone), and he just hates having to play for people sometimes. Now that started to bug me after a while because I was thinking that if I could play like that I would be overjoyed to do it and never complain at all. And I continued to give in to my self-pity and jealousy through the evening. By last night, I was really sad and growing frustrated with God for not giving me any gifts, talents, or skills that people actually find useful and want me to do. So eventually I talked to my husband about all of this (he did ask me what was on my mind), and let’s just say, I shouldn’t be frustrated and tired at the same time because I can’t explain anything in that state of mind…lol.
But I realized that we are two peas in a pod because he feels like he’s good at playing the saxophone, but he’s never wanted to do that in the first place. Now, job-wise he gets to do what he really enjoys (science and teaching), but no one really asks him to do those things are even asks him about it, except for me. He also mentioned that most people in the church value two primary gifts (preaching/teaching and something musical) while generally ignoring the other gifts which are actually far more valuable to the church as a whole. And I could see some truth in this because I remember how “anointed” the preacher/musician/soloist was growing up and very little was said about the church secretary or the mercy/benevolence ministry.
So I prayed last night and continued in quiet reflection this morning because I know how necessary it is for me to find my complete satisfaction in God alone and be content with all that He has purposed in my life. And that struck a chord with me: God intentionally purposes things in our life. God isn’t like me. He’s not forgetful or absentminded. God doesn’t decide things and then change His mind later. God doesn’t make mistakes because He is the All-Wise, Sovereign Ruler of all eternity, and He intimately knows each of us better than we know ourselves.
So thinking about that this morning, I remembered weaknesses and areas that I was prone to sin over the years: man-pleasing, pride, self-righteousness, etc. I also considered how much I have taken those things to God, and how my constant prayer is for God to remove those sins from me, and keep me from sinning against Him. And then it dawned on me: Maybe the reason I don’t have some of the gifts or talents that I always wanted is because God is mercifully answering my prayers. Maybe God is actually keeping me from being a pleaser of men, prideful, and self-righteous. Maybe God is keeping me from sin, no matter what my personal desires are.
And you know, the longer I thought about that, I became mindful of the faithfulness of God towards His own children, how He keeps and protects us even when we can’t see the dangers ahead. We often think of those times when we see God preserving and protecting us with car accidents or other harmful situations, and we readily thank Him when we know it was only His grace and mercy that kept us. But, how often do we recognize His preserving and protecting hand when keeping us from sin, especially the sins that aren’t deemed as bad? I think we overlook this a lot, but there are times where God will intentionally keep us from sin, consider how He kept Abimelech from sleeping with Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20). And He keeps us for our own good, so that we can be conformed more and more into the image of Christ, so that He is glorified through our lives. Now, naturally, I think we would protest and say that we’re more mature now and can handle certain things that we desire. In fact, this may be why a lot of people hold on to the prosperity gospel movement and the word of faith movements. You know the “just name it and claim it” or the “blessings of Abraham” stuff. I mean, so many people are being instructed by the church to be unsatisfied with what they have and to actually start seeking out better things for their life, because truly God had intended that you have better, but since the devil has stolen it, you must get it all back now (all the sarcasm in the world is intended here). But if you really feel like God knows you better than anyone else (including yourself), then you would humble yourself and submit to His Lordship over your life.
So today, I’m more at peace with all of this, with my life, with the gifts I have and those that I don’t have. I realize that I just have to trust God and trust that He truly is working all things for my good in Him, which is to be conformed to the image of Christ. I have to trust that He knows me and that He knows what my end would be if I had ever thing that I desired. I have to trust that the things that God has withheld from me are actually for the best, that by not having them, I am living the best life I ever could have. And I also have to trust that He intentionally orchestrates even the most difficult circumstances in my life for my own good too. Now, this does not excuse me from continuing to grow in the faith, pursuing love or even being useful to the body of Christ. But it just means that I continue to grow and mature in the things that we are all commonly given grace to do for the good of the body, and that I am content with the gifts that God has given me, no matter how quiet or low-key they may seem to be, because in God’s eyes, they are indispensable. And a final thought on jealousy: I realize that a lot of my jealousy is just being upset at God for not giving me what I think I should have. Lacking contentment, I fail to fully trust Him, when I really should.
*****Reading 1 Corinthians 12-13 was great food for thought. Please read chapter 12 before you get to 13 though….got to keep it all in context and perspective.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.