Opening the God-Designed Gift in Each of Us
Aug 02, 2015 03:43AM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith
My kids and I have been participating in a local Vacation Bible School this week. As a group leader traveling around with a group of 14 third graders to all of their various centers (music, missions, craft, Bible, and recreation), I’ve had a very close-up view of not only each child but also the way in which they interact. While it’s a fun and loving environment, when you spend 17 hours of your week together, I can tell you that not every moment is smiles and lollipops. Character development is hard work!
As with family, we see our best and worst qualities. I can see how hard it is for some to fight temptations of pride, self control, or negative thinking, while others face the internal battle of putting others down, not taking turns, having to be the best, or bulldozing over others to get attention. Sound like adult qualities too? Um, yup! I see a few of those in myself daily!
But the amazing thing is:
I can also see the potential gifts and strengths hiding behind the areas of struggle.
Whether we’re 8 or 80 years old, we can all use some “tidying” until the very end, can’t we? We’re never really fully “done” until we meet our perfect Maker in eternity. Sanctification is a process. When we believe in our need for Christ, we yield to His authority and accept ourselves as clean because of the cross, but if you stick a thermometer in us, our turkeys really aren’t cooked yet. We need more time in His refining fires.
Isaiah 48:10, ESV, The Lord speaking through Isaiah the Prophet
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
As I observed the children navigating through mostly pure intentions to love from a greater understanding of a Jesus-changed heart, I also saw them wrestle with that same nature within all of us: “I don’t understand that person.” “He’s different.” “I don’t like her bossing me!” “She cut in line!” “That one is too silly.” “She hurt my feelings.”
Don’t we all label each other from such limited perspectives sometimes? It’s a learning process and not entirely a bad thing as we seek to understand the world—and the people in it—around us, but our buttons get pushed. We react and respond before thinking.
And yes, I’m not really talking about 8 year olds anymore.
The truth is that:
- The same kid who runs off impulsively to be first in line may lead with his very compassionate heart someday.
- The one who so often craves to be recognized ahead of others may grow to minister to those with the same obsessive need for the limelight.
- The one who has to constantly tease or provoke another to get attention? In his more refined form, as he matures, he may find more appropriate ways to entertain people or interact, to come alongside someone weaker and help pick him up. He may someday light up a room with his personality and God joy!
My social anxiety often tells me I can’t answer the door. It pretty much always tells me not to answer the phone. “I just can’t go to that crowded event.” “I need to feel better about myself to meet a new neighbor.” “I’m too awkward to greet or pray for anyone in the prayer line at church.”
I can definitely turn inward and think that I’m of absolutely no use to anyone.
And yet, when are people most encouraged by me? When do they tell me I really touched their lives?
When I step out and love, trusting God to fill in the gaps of my obvious weaknesses right as I feel those limitations crushing me under their fictitious force,
a gift inside me pops open, and I’m meant to share it with the world!
2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
It’s not just me. It’s you too. It’s all of us.
What’s hiding behind your weakness? Is there a hidden gift you simply haven’t unwrapped yet?
Maybe someone has told you that you are an amazing encourager, but you fight against a tendency toward being critical, so you haven’t given yourself permission to love fully and trust God with the uglier spaces of your heart.
Perhaps you feel like a hypocrite because of unpleasant thoughts that plague you, so you haven’t reached out to love in big ways because you’ve mistakenly believed you are not a loving person.
Maybe you don’t think you can share your personal story or speak to an audience because you used your mouth to speak unkindly to people for so long, or you are quick to snap at people who annoy you. What if your gift of teaching is hanging out, just a little tucked behind that flaw, and you never use it?
Could it be you know you could really bless so many people with wisdom about relationships because you’ve had a long, successful marriage or a beautiful history of close family life, but you have not been wise with your finances (or misused them), and that keeps you from feeling you can contribute to coaching anyone in any areas where you have success and authority?
You want to know something phenomenal?
Start exercising the gifts God has given you, and watch how quickly the weaknesses become strengths and temptations have less of a foothold.
Invite God to work on those negative areas within, but ask Him to show you where He wants you to step out in the purposes He has given you. It’s a biblical promise and what we were created for.
Ephesians 2:10, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
When you walk in those good works—the ones he crafted and hand-designed just for you—I guarantee you that it all falls into place.
I can't wait to see some of these beautiful children mature into their God-given assignments. I pray they each grab the plan He has for them and step into His grace.
We are each a gift He has planted in this world.
Let’s not live another day without asking where else we can unleash His profound gifts of love onto a hurting world.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.