Skills are inherent, innate, gifts from God. Before our creation God has endowed us with a set of skills that we are to use for his glory and to further the Kingdom. But just because skills are supposed to be utilized and celebrated, doesn’t always mean that they are.
In Exodus 35:30-36:7, we not only see individuals with special skills, we see them going above and beyond to create a sanctuary for God. They work so hard that Moses must tell them to stop because they have made enough. Sadly, that is not me. I have spent more time wanting different skills then learning how to harness the gifts with which God has blessed me.
I am a talker. I love to talk. I love to use the art of conversation to engage with and learn from others. Ever since I was a child I have been this way. I was the kid who went to a waterpark, met another child for the first time in line for a slide, and got them to hang out with me for the day. My mom will tell you I have never known a stranger. I even joke and say that if there is a scale for being extroverted from 1-10 then I am an 11.
I never realized this was unique, or even special, until I went to college. No one had ever told me that the art of conversation was a gift. I just always thought I liked meeting new people. I found out that my ability to relate to others is much more complex and special than I had given it credit for.
Relationship-building is not for everyone, and honestly it is probably not for most people. The fact that I can both enjoy sitting down with someone and make them feel comfortable is not a skill everyone has. I do not mean to be conceited about my ability to relate to others, but I have found that God created me for relationships. The issue I run into is that I often do not feel that my skill of relationship-building is legitimate, or a skill at all. I envy others and their ability to think, create, and influence lives in different ways. Ironically, they envy me. Our lack of contentment in how God has made us is simultaneously astounding and amusing.
Like I said before, I did not realize that conversation was a gift until my friends in college told me it was. I have spent my whole life believing that real gifts were being athletic, artistic, innovative, or musical. My gift is talking. How can talking compare to being an NCAA athlete, creating a computer program, or playing Mozart? I had limited God to having the ability to only give gifts that were visible or things we would consider “talents.”
In reality, the skills God gives us stretch so much further than what we tangibly see on the surface. Exodus 35:34 says “and he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ashimak, the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.” Teaching others is not something that can be put on display like sports, artwork, or web design, but it was important enough for God to point it out in Scripture. Teaching is just one example of the many gifts that are under the surface.
My gift of conversation is something I am learning to harness and be proud of. I often wish I were smarter, artsier, or that I simply felt more interesting. God wants us to improve in areas where we are weak, but he also wants us to rejoice where we are strong. If I am good at getting to know people, I should seek a vocation that allows me to get to know people. Why would I try to become an engineer if I stink at math? I am thankful for my work this year in the field of Development and Fundraising, a place where I get to talk.
Even though it might seem simple, conversation really is not something everyone is good at or even likes to take part in. There are still times that I am disappointed with it, but I have finally realized that this is my skill. The opportunities I have had to work with donors have shown me that in the field of development I have something, in fact, that is a vital skill.
I want to sharpen it. I want to take the opportunity to continue to learn how to better connect with people. I want to find out what makes them feel understood. I want them to know that our mission relates to them. I want them to see that I am getting to know them because they are made in the image of God and are my brothers or sisters in Christ. I want them to feel appreciated for being people, not just because I appreciate their financial gifts.
What gifts do you have? What would it mean to develop them instead of wishing you had different gifts?
Elizabeth Manley interns in development in the not-for-profit sector and is a member of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.
Images: FreeImages.com/Gerd Marstedt, Bobbi Dombrowski