How to discover and use your talent
I’m sitting at my wonderful, wonderful college library this beautiful Friday afternoon. It’s sunny outside but anyone who lives in New England knows that the sun here is deceptive. It could be bright and sunny but still too cold for your brain to function well. I’ve just come from a workshop with a very well respected writer Roxane Gay. The workshop was special. Roxane graciously led a conversation about the process, the craft, the business, and the everything of writing. It’s not often that you see a famous writer give of themselves so graciously, answering every little question in a thoughtful and respectful manner.
There’s one lesson from the workshop that I never want to forget: Roxane’s emphasis on respecting the craft. She said that as a judge on several selection committees for competitions and grants, she often receives a lot of bad work. People often submit a lot of hasty and uninspiring work. Basically, they vomit on a paper and send it in.
This made me think about the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, where a servant gave different amounts of talents to his servants. While the first two servants, who had five and two talents respectively, worked hard to gain more talents, the third servant buried his talent and returned it unused to his boss. The servant said that he didn’t use his talents because the boss was a mean man.
I think there’s much more to that. The servant didn’t think highly of the talent so he didn’t bother nurturing it or investing it. He was too selfish to share the one unique gift that he had and blamed this bad behavior on his boss.
I think about myself and the many things that I like to do and those that I do well. I still may not be an industry authority but enjoying those things and nurturing them is the best first step in the right direction.
So today I’m sharing three things that we all need to do to praise God with our talents. This list will help you recognize what you’re good at, or simply what you enjoy, and provide the next basic steps to take in the right direction.
1. Recognize your talent- Don’t go around throwing pity parties for yourself and asking why everyone else is so good at something else and why you don’t have one thing that you do well. That’s false thinking. Very often, our talents are so primary to our behavior that we do not even think they are special. Perhaps you cook well, or you speak well, or you write well, or you dress well. These things are careers in their own rights. These are the things that make people live happy and fulfilled lives. These are the small gifts that will make room for you in life. Recognize them. Make a list of the things that you do enjoy and those that you do well. Have you heard feedback about them? Have you received some accolade about them? That’s often a good pointer in the right direction.
2. Respect your talent- Do not let anyone or any circumstance make you feel like your talent is inferior. There’s no rubric to the most precious talent. A talent is a talent. What makes the difference is the respect that you have to appreciate and nurture it. Respect your gift enough to make time for it. Time is money, time is value, time is life. You love to write? Take time to write. Set time aside to write and do exercises that improve your writing. Read what others have written, receive feedback about your writing. Treat your writing like a career, even if it still is just a hobby. Hobbies make the best careers. Chimmamanda didn’t become the writing goddess that she is just by twiddling her thumb, neither are you. Invest in that craft. Go for workshops, learn from others around you. Respect the craft enough to do something about it.
3. Never relent- For the love of God, just keep at it. Keep at it because you do not want to become the servant who buried their talent and was playing blame games with his boss. God will always hold us accountable for the things that He gave to us and how we used them on earth. Your talent may be the reason why someone will come to Christ. It may be the one avenue for someone to hear the gospel and be saved. Actually, even if not for anyone else, use your talent for you. Feel the fear and do it anyway. You’re not too big to fail, and a failure isn’t really a failure unless we don’t learn from it. Resolve to try and try and try again.
I’m writing this list partly for myself, I hope that I can look back here and be inspired when the going gets tough.
Have a wonderful weekend and may the love of Jesus keep us all!