Monday, August 2, 2010

Use It or Lose It

Ever wish you had a gift that you don't have? I do. Mine is singing. I mean, I'm an adequate singer. I can carry a tune and (usually) sing in the proper key. I've never been told I'm great (except by my husband, who is too kind to hurt my feelings), but I've never been told I'm the worst, either. Sometimes I just wish I could get up in front of a crowd of people and sing and be good at it. Without said crowd having to be drunk, à la karaoke night.

But that's not my gift.

Sure, I've tried to make it my gift. I've performed in musicals, and I was in show choir in high school. In a crowd, I'm a great singer.  Solo—not so much. I did get to sing on the radio once—just me and another girl singing an Andrew Sisters-type song—because of a show I was in at the time. That was pretty much the highlight of my singing career, though I actually think I sing better now than I did then. I've always wished that someone would stand next to me in church during worship and say, "You have a lovely singing voice! Come and join the cast of Glee!" Not actually going to happen, but a girl can dream.

Why do I want what I don't have? I have other gifts that I like and that other people would probably like to have. For one, I can act. And apart from the actual speaking-lines-in-character part, I can get up in front of a crowd of people and talk. That alone is a gift, considering the number one fear (ahead of death, even!) is public speaking. I really, really enjoy acting, I'm good at it, and I actually get to use that gift pretty frequently. My church's drama ministry is an awesome group of talented people who teach me new things every time I perform with them. I'm fortunate that I have an artistic gift like that and I get to use it.

I can also write. Yes, the art of writing complete sentences and using correct punctuation and all that jazz are skills that can be taught. But, while I have a natural aptitude for language and its rules, I can also think of something and put it into meaningful words. I've written poetry and songs and scripts and fiction and nonfiction. I'm able to communicate through writing in ways many people just can't. Again, it's a gift that I can use and enjoy constantly.

As Steve Martin said, "Some people have a way with words. Other people—not have way." Exactly.

Determining what gifts you have isn't difficult. For me, the lazy type, it's always been found through what comes easily to me. For the most part, I don't enjoy doing things that don't come easily to me. I don't like to fix things. I don't like to do math (past, like, middle school algebra). Trying to find a college level science class I could pass was nearly impossible. Turns out Geology, Oceanography, and The Ice Age in Ohio didn't like me, despite how interesting I thought they were. Astronomy finally felt sorry for me and gave me a B-.

Let's try the "Like Test" with singing. Do I like to sing? Yes. Is it easy for me? Eh. I don't really have a musical ear, and I have a hard time finding harmonies. Some people can just pick them out of thin air! Not me. My best shot at harmony is to have it taught to me, and even then I struggle to keep it against the melody. So, again, while I like singing, singing clearly does not like me. American Idol is not in my future.

Why is it important to figure out what your gifts are? Well, you have to use them. And when I say "have to," I really mean, "have to." We've all been given talents in different amounts, and they have a purpose. No, not so you can say, "Well, I can do that, but I don't." Lame. God didn't give it to you so you could sit on it. And he's actually going to check up on you and make sure you used it wisely while you were here. Ever read the Parable of the Talents? Here's the thing: all of those people were servants. That means the people we're talking about here—even the person who sat on the talents and did nothing and got yelled at for being wicked and lazy (and, in some translations, gets cast out)—are all believers.

Now, personally, I don't want God to yell at me for being wicked and lazy (although I'm aware of the irony in this lightning rod of a blog title). God has invested in us. He's given us these gifts to be used and multiplied to improve the world in his name. If you use them, he'll give you more. If you don't use them, he'll take away what you already have, no matter how small the portion. A use-it-or-lose-it kind of deal.

So—are you using your gifts, or are you sitting on them? If you're sitting on them, let me encourage you here to stop it. Go find some place in your church or in your community that can utilize your talents, whether you are a great planner and organizer, a compassionate, caring person, or someone who's good with numbers. There's a place for you to use those.

And, for Heaven's sake, if you can sing, sing. People would line up for that gift. I know I would. Don't waste it.

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