‘Mummy, why did God make us with an odd number of fingers?’ – T, holding one hand up into my face.
‘Um … let me think! …’ – Mummy.
Oh help, questions like that!! You can imagine how the need for an answer that satisfies meant the question kept coming, with increasing passion and urgency. ‘But why Mummy?’ …. I was even contemplating looking up the scientific research about the uniqueness of our hand’s structure, and what the implications are …. I may of course still have to. The best I came up with I think was ‘well our hands are amazing they can do all sorts of things, 5 fingers mean they can come together to almost make a whole circle round something to hold it and use it’… of course the next ‘few’ minutes were spent by T trying to ‘do’ things with less than 5 quite successfully!
She is of course, as always, right! We are all different, different strengths, different abilities, different limitations. As B seems to comment far too often ‘Mum I couldn’t live with your terrible memory – how do you do it?’ – maybe that’s why God seems to have placed me in a family with superpower strength memories, they are my memory for facts & numbers especially (ok and directions, and places, and names, …the list fades off into the horizon!)- but you never know, maybe I am a necessary constant reminder to them that not everyone can do it!!
I’ve just been reading a post by Lynn McCann (@includedbygrace ) and she comments on a phrase that Zoe Hemming (@zoehemming ) used while speaking at a conference just this weekend;
“Our culture tells us that independence is the only way to live with dignity. This sets us all up for failure. The church joins in with this delusion. This sets us all up for failure as Christians too.” We are all limited, we all age, we all become more dependent on others. Maybe we should realise that a bit sooner and get on with being interdependent and enjoying the community and humble faith this brings! Dependence on each other and our God is where our strength is found.
I’m sure God loves watching all that we can do, our inventiveness and creativity collectively and our unique abilities individually that affect those around us and beyond.
As I write I’m actually thinking God loves watching all of you & all you can do. It’s a struggle on a bad day (month/year etc) to take it to heart for myself, and I guess I’m not the only one.
It’s a vulnerable thing to use our abilities and talents, they do affect those around us, and sometimes we fear what we offer being rejected, or not good enough. In churches we can fall into ways of seeing things that does not resonate well with what we see of God’s love for each unique individual in the narrative of the Bible.
We can find ourselves, just as some did in the early church, ranking gifts and talents – seeing some as far more valuable and important than others. We can find ourselves only looking to certain groups to bring what is valuable and needed to the whole family, perhaps a particular age group, perhaps only male or only female, perhaps we only value the contributions of those we see as mature in the faith, perhaps we look past those whose gifts and talents aren’t obvious, perhaps we make assumptions about whether someone differently able would have anything at all to offer? None of these assumptions and judgements if they are allowed to permeate our church family culture encourage us to use the unique gifts and talents God equips each of us with and delights in.
We need to keep asking for that renewing of our minds (Romans 12:12) to re-learn what makes each of us uniquely valuable, to see others’ worth from God’s perspective. To re-learn how interdependence brings that humble faith Lynn McCann talked about, and can set us free from those ways of thinking that separates the family into useful and dependent groups. To re-learn how our gifts and talents are less about usefulness anyway, and perhaps more about purposefulness (somehow I’m looking for a word that holds onto usefulness and service that brings a godly fulfillment and contentment).
I want my home to be a safe place to practice and explore gifts and talents, for my very different children to feel encouraged and valued for who they are, and the different ways they make this family what it is by their strengths and abilities as they are nurtured. I want to see many more pictures for Monika ! More photography, more baking enjoyed by us and others too, more shared discussion and planning for events, more of that irresistibly catching dancing worship, more singing, writing, concern for justice, reading, storytelling, thoughtful discussion of difficult questions, more welcoming, gardening, playing, inviting, drawing, sewing, including, caring, honesty, more passionate focus, attention to detail, imagination, wonder… more, and more growing and nurturing of strengths, gifts and talents.
I want to be encouraging them to begin using them, letting them serve others. It needs the lavish encouragement of us here in our home. I want to get good at seeing the purposefulness God breathes into and through my children, through their different strengths and through their limitations. I want to get good at celebrating it! And I want what we do to encourage ours here in our home spreads out and encourages others to see the purposefulness that God breathes through each of us.