Gifts of God For the People of God
“What are you really good at?”, I asked the Holy Cross students earlier this week. “And what color are your eyes?” The kids, as always, were eager to share. The talents they named ran the gamut: basketball, soccer, painting, video games, various subjects, etc. The eye colors were widespread too: brown, light brown, dark brown, hazel, blue, and green.
“How did you get good at whatever you’re good at?”, I wanted to know. “I practice,” one student said. “But how did you know you were good at it?”, I then asked. “I don’t know. I just tried it, figured out I was good, and kept doing it.”
Of course the students wanted to know my talent and eye color too. I told them that my primary talent is that I can work hard. I have a lot of energy and I feel good nearly all the time so I can get a lot of stuff done. And my eyes are blue.
Part of what we were exploring together is that we all are made a certain way. We all have talents that were given to us, just like the color of our eyes. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that we caused our own talents but that is as silly as thinking that we caused the color of our eyes to be blue or brown or hazel. We were born with an eye color. We were born with talents. Certainly the way we use our talents is important. If we go long enough not using them, they will diminish, but we didn’t cause those talents to be there in the first place.
In his sermon Sunday, Jamie used an image of a lifeboat and the group on the boat being asked to decide which member of the group should be thrown overboard so that the others could survive. Jamie’s point was that we spend much of our life feeling like others want to throw us overboard because we question our own value and lovability. “If you want to give up something for Lent,” Jamie encouraged, “give up that lifeboat mentality.”
Somehow with the skills we and others have, we fall into the trap of thinking some gifts are better than others and that we all are somehow responsible for whatever talents we have. Then we begin to look at each other competitively, sizing up which talents are better than others, which people are better than others. At some point in life, we’ve got to get beyond that sort of thinking.
My talent of hard work is not of my own making. It is fully dependent on how much energy I have and I don’t concoct energy. When I am tired I simply cannot make myself have more energy. When I am really sick, I just have to curl up in a ball and wait for the energy to return. I might have more energy than most, I might be more driven than most, but I don’t conjure that up out of nothing. My good health and high energy are part of my wiring. I can tease myself into thinking that I make all that happen but it’s just not so. Plus, as I age, my energy and good health, become more and more relative. I can’t get done all I used to be able to get done. Our talents have a life of their own. They are gifts, not possessions.
As long as we are connected to the God who gives us all we have and realize our very lives are gifts themselves from this loving God, we can move along in life with our talents and do good work with a humble and joyful spirit. When we are disconnected and come to think that our talents are of our own making, then we inevitably see ourselves as disconnected from others. We think our talents are better than, or worse than, others’ talents. We live with shame about how we measure up. We project shame onto others. All because we look at our skills as possessions rather than gifts.
One of the joys of working on a team of people devoted to a common purpose is that the talents others bring to a task are repeatedly more than we can bring alone. We come to see that we are better working as part of a community instead of working as individual parts. Recognizing the gifts of others helps us see our own gifts, as talents that are given to us apart from our own devising.
In the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy, God reminds the people of Israel not to think that they have been brought out of bondage by their own strength. “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” The Deuteronomist writer reminds the people that all they have has been provided by the gracious God who has blessed them richly.
Let go of seeing your talents as things of your own making. Quit comparing yours to those of others. Seek a deeper connection with God who made us and sustains us and is still guiding us. Blue eyes, brown eyes, hazel, or green, all your talent, none are of our own making, and all reflect the glory of God.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Goodbye to Fay Worrilow
Fay, our Parish Secretary the past 26 years, is retiring the end of May. If you would like to contribute to a monetary gift to be presented to her when she retires, please contact Libby Poole, our Financial Administrator (firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-1937). Mark your gifts for Fay Worrilow. Thanks, Fay for your great work among us.