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Friday, January 4, 2013

It's Okay To Be Me

I've had a few encounters in the past couple of weeks that made me stop and think, left me feeling slightly insecure, and bothered me. So, as I tend to do when something hits me across the face enough times, I write. Three separate incidents, seemingly unrelated, and yet they were. Each time something happened, I felt like a huge elephant had come along and sat right on top of me, squashing me down to the size of those flat pancake-like people you see on cartoons.

Somehow I don't think I'm the only person in the world who has felt like other people don't see them for who they are. It can be all too easy to feel invisible, inadequate, inferior, and like you're not measuring up to standards, whether they be others or your own. As Christians we are taught to seek our identity in Christ, and there is little room left to recognize the beauty of personality that He has gifted us with. We're supposed to be humble and self-deprecating, not confident in the skills we have been blessed with and worked hard to develop. Have we not learned from the story of the man with the one talent?

Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I head to my Bible to search for something that will help make sense out of things. Moses felt rather inadequate when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Five times he came up with reasons why he wouldn't be successful to accomplish this great task. Each time God countered his arguments, basically telling Moses that He would be with him and then he would be succesful. I imagine Esther felt inadequate to change the king's decree to destroy all the Jews, as she tried to reason with Mordecai, but he insisted that God had given her a special purpose to fulfill for this particular time. Gideon felt inadequate and unable to lead his 300 men to victory, but God gave him a sign and promised victory and the army fled. There are many more examples of ordinary everyday people, both in the Bible and in history, who have felt inadequate and inferior to the task they have been called to do. Yet each time God has gently led them forward, promising to give them success.

When I think about these people, I wonder if they recognized that they had skills to accomplish the task they had been given? Moses had a wealth of military knowledge from his palace upbringing, and a lot of patience from herding sheep in the desert. Esther was a beautiful woman who had gained the king's respect and devotion, along with all those who knew her in the royal court. Gideon was able to commandeer an army of 32,000 men to go to battle against the Midianites. Each of them was able to combine the gifts they had with God's direct guidance to achieve success in their tasks.

This is not a piece about God qualifying the called, an all-too-familiar theme and one which could easily be used to wrap up and summarize all I've been processing so far. Instead, I'm wrestling with the thought that we are gifted with abilities that God delights to see us using. I hope He smiles when He sees His children discovering those abilities and being amazed at how much we enjoy blessing others through them. I like to think that God focuses on the good in us, growing it, shining it, sometimes digging for it, but always believing in it, because that good is a little reflection of Him.

I smiled as I read an email from someone who I had yet to meet in person. "I'm so excited to get to thank you personally when we meet next week, thank you so much for all your help!" they said. I laughed with friends as we spent an hour remiscing and catching up on old times and realized that they loved me for who I was. I pulled a batch of perfectly baked mini muffins out of oven, frosted them, then shared them with neighbors who exclaimed over how delicious they tasted. And each time I smiled. . .I like to think that God smiled too.

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