The Gifts We Don’t Realize We Have
Have you ever had a struggle and it turned out to be a gift? Or have you ever underappreciated the talents God gives you?
Cooking has been a natural thing for me as long as I can remember. As I child I would hang around the kitchen watching my mother cook, or visit our neighbors who owned the Italian deli. Being in the kitchen was a normal fit. I absolutely loved to take in the smells, the aromas, the surprising creations that evolve from mixing or stirring things together. I figured everyone loved cooking and honestly we all have to eat, so I thought everyone grew up in this type of environment. What didn’t come easy for me was math. I was never good at calculating numbers or keeping tally of spread sheets. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, an area I’ve ever excelled.
In some respects, most of us learn tasks as a necessary survival but we don’t truly enjoy them. In high school, this was an insecurity for me but I knew unavoidable requirement. Thoughts consumed my mind such as, “Maybe I’m dumb. My brain doesn’t work this way. Why can’t I be smart just like the rest of the kids in class and not have to approach school differently?” I’m not saying that cooking was the only talent I had. I was good at sports, dancing, and other creative aspects. Cooking was definitely one of my abilities, but I never considered these gifts or talents because I didn’t think society placed a value on them.
I knew for sure that academics, especially math, were areas where I had to push myself and work hard, even if the results didn’t always come out in my favor. I was adequate but never top of my class. Why could others go about it with such ease and minimal effort? Being a math expert, in my opinion, was special. I would ponder why God didn’t offer this gift to me. My best friend Maia could do numbers in her head, and I admired her ease and confidence. If I hadn’t received help from her and others, I might not have gotten through my high-school years.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
It would be years until I realized the value of the many talents God gave me and understood the talents “I had” didn’t necessarily come easy for others. When I became a teacher, I learned that my struggles as a student helped me to be more empathetic toward those who also struggled. These “insecurities” were gifts because they helped me to be a better teacher. I could relate to my students and get on their level. My approach to learning helped students who might have thought their inabilities made them less significant, just as I had thought years earlier. In fact, it wasn’t until I started teaching that I could truly see these struggles were gifts. I thought God only gave gifts of success, not of failure.
Yet I still didn’t feel that gifts of success like cooking were very special until I met my friend Sarah, who didn’t know her way around the kitchen. She loved to try new foods but understanding the concept of “marrying ingredients” to form that perfect recipe was so mind-boggling and, in fact, a very frustrating experience. I never realize her lack of skill was an insecurity.
One day I brought up the idea that I would teach Sarah how to make some basic recipes that she could freeze and reuse later. Little did I know that I was speaking some of the most magical words. One afternoon, I sought out to teach her how to make spaghetti sauce and it hit me: This is her math homework! This is the area that she doesn’t get but I do! This was my gift from God and I didn’t even know I had received it! While I had never appreciated it to its fullness she appreciated my gift. She felt completely lost in the kitchen; she felt “dumb” or perplexed, just as I did in math. My excelling in the kitchen was a gift from God, and my failing at math was also a gift!
Over time, I’ve realized that God intentionally allows us to excel in some areas and not in others. It is in these areas of success and failure where God sets out the task to help us grow. He puts people in our lives to teach us and us to teach them.
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:5-6)
God was giving me the same gift that Maia had at math, just a different modality. Our God is perfect, and every good and perfect gift is from above.
Ponder the gifts God has given you. Do you recognize your natural abilities as God-given gifts? What misfortunes have you endured that have turned out to be great gifts? How can you celebrate and thank God for these gifts and use them for His greater glory?
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 4-8)
Copyright 2019 Andrea Bear
Image Copyright: By Nynne Schroder (2018), Unsplash.com, CC0/PD
This article was originally published at CatholicMom.com and is shared here with permission.