Skills are inherent, innate, gifts from God. Before our creation God has enabled us with a set of skills that we are to use for his glory and to further the Kingdom. 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 than learning how to harness the gifts that God has blessed me with.
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 water-park, 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. 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 have run into is that I often do not feel that my skill of relationship-building is actually 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 what 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 athletic, 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.” When in reality, the skills God gives us stretch so much farther than what we tangibly see on the surface. Genesis 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 was smarter, artsier, or that I just simply felt more interesting. God wants us to improve in areas where we are weak, but he also wants us to rejoice in where we are strong. If I am good at getting to know people I should seek for a job that allows me to get to know people. Why would I try and become an engineer if I stink at math? I am thankful for my opportunity at Prison Fellowship to enhance my skill of conversation in working the field of Development and Fundraising.
This week, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas for a fundraising event. I was nervous to work the event, because all events are important for the organization to raise money. Overall, I had a wonderful time. I got to meet new people, talk about an organization that I care about, and relate to others about the struggles they see in the world. I had an enlightening conversation with a guest about the issue of drugs in our society. I told her about people close to me who struggled with drug abuse and was able to make a connection to her story. It made me not only excited about the event, but showed me how blessed I am to enjoy conversation. By way of another example, a few weeks ago a man called to RSVP for an event. We started chatting and he mentioned he had two daughters who were 18 and 20 years old. I began to ask questions about them and found out the younger daughter has her own photography business. He told me about her business website and I looked at her photographs while we were on the phone. I think I enjoyed speaking with him more than he enjoyed speaking to me. Regardless, I made a connection. I hope I was able to make him feel appreciated by the organization and show that we care for him on a deeper level than simply wanting his funds. I, for one, genuinely do care for the donors I get to speak to.
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 has shown me that in the field of development it is a vital skill to have. I am looking forward to continuing to harness my skill as I move forward in my internship. I could choose to continue to wish I had something else, but instead I want to sharpen it. I want to take this 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 at Prison Fellowship relates to them because it is not just about incarceration but it is about restoring communities. I want them to see that I am getting to know them because they are made in the image of God and my brother or sister in Christ. I want them to feel appreciated for being people, not just because I appreciate their financial gifts.