With a sigh and a quivering voice, my 6-year old plopped down and said, “I’m sad because I don’t have any talent.” Parenting an emotional roller coaster is never dull! My first inclination was to squelch the heck out of that ugly lie trying to take root within my daughter. Then I wanted to show empathy with stories of my own talentless youth, but I held back. I listened and I silently prayed. Impulsive Leslie was terrified of this newfound technique.
When it was time to respond, here’s what God, through me, shared: Sure, there are lots of people who have cool talents they get to show off. Dancing, singing, doing gymnastics and magic tricks, playing instruments – they’re all performing arts. And they’re fun to watch. Everyone has talents, but we can’t see every talent. Some people are good listeners, encouragers, builders, writers, you name it. And many of us have no idea what our talent is. Take Moses for example. He was chosen by God to be one of THE great leaders in Biblical history. If he didn’t do what God needed him to do, God’s people might not have survived and God’s great rescue plan might not have worked. He chose Moses because Moses was a talented leader. Only, Moses was terrified to speak in front of people, something his job required. Did God stop there? No. He chose Aaron to speak for Moses. Aaron was a great public speaker, but he was no leader; Moses was a leader, but he stuttered. Together, their talents complimented one another and God’s work continued. In the same way, we can pray that God will reveal to us our strengths and talents so we can do our best work for Him.
“I still really want to be a gymnast. Maybe gymnastics is my talent?” said my 4-foot-something first grader. As she skipped and tripped downstairs to practice cartwheels, I was left thinking about talents, about our childhood quests to discover our specialties, our wishes to be something greater, and the circumstances that tame the fires until we live to survive instead of striving to succeed in our gifts.
This past week, in preparation for my trip to Honduras, I shared with my daughter pictures of the children I’ll be visiting. I asked her to write letters to a couple of them, to tell about herself and ask questions of them. She loved the idea of encouraging these kids and finding areas of commonality. Then she decided perhaps she could ask a few friends at school to also write letters.
Before I knew it, she had a plan. With her teacher’s permission, she would tell the class about my trip, the school, and the orphans, and ask her whole class to write letters. Her inspired teacher took it one step further and invited me to visit the class, talk about Honduras, and help the students write notes as part of a Social Studies lesson. It was a treat to see the children’s eyes light up at the pictures and read the notes they wrote to kids half a world away. More amazing to me, however, was to see my own daughter, a girl who thinks she is without talent, guiding, inspiring, and delighting her classmates with her vision for spreading love and justice.
She might figure it out tomorrow, or maybe not for dozens of years, but like Moses, Aaron, and each of us, God indeed filled this girl with talent. The question is, what will she do with it? Will the flame continue to burn or will the passion be snubbed out by the lies of “I’m not good enough”? What do any of us do with the talents we were given? Do we spend our lives seeking them, improving them, using them for good, or do we turn our backs for fear of comparison, judgment, or failure? Rather than assume, like Moses did, we aren’t equipped, we should step faithfully toward our talents and let God give us the support needed.