You are better than me — more skilled, more knowledgeable, more adept. All of you are. In some ways, many ways in fact, you are superior to me. If our country depended on my expertise in road construction, I would recommend you sell your car. If our city turned to me for my knowledge in surgical procedures, I would recommend you move to another city. If you contacted me to fix your computer, I would recommend you just buy a new one. The list of things I cannot do well far exceeds the length of characters for this email. However, certain people, perhaps some of you, can do those things — and I am really grateful. Today I’m encouraged, and I hope you are too, that others have abilities and skills different than mine!

God strategically, and intentionally, did not make everyone the same. In addition to different talents and varying personalities, multiple spiritual gifts overlap our community. In some ways, I’m guessing it’s easy to thank God for others’ gifts. But sometimes it seems more challenging.

  • It’s harder for me to thank God for the people that seem to be good at everything or I perceive put in less work than me. (Someone’s name just popped into your head, didn’t it?)
  • It’s more stretching to experience gratitude for the people that I think get more credit, money, power or favor for their gifts than I do for mine. (No one wants to admit they wrestle with jealousy, but we all do.)
  • It’s perhaps most crushing when I see someone better than me at something I personally value and pursue. (Cue comparison.)

Let’s dig into that last one for a moment.

I majored in Public Relations in college which required significant training in writing. I never pursued a career as an author, nor is a Pulitzer Prize in my future. But at moments, I think my writing is ok — with an occasional stroke of good. Recently, while reading a book on Psalm 119, His Testimonies My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God, I learned much about the Scriptures. A few particular poems grabbed my heart and imagination — immediately leading me to worship, nudging me to multiple readings and more awe. Then comparison attacked — my writing is not, nor ever will be, that exquisitely imaginative. I transferred that sentiment to other authors I read that week as their creativity and word pictures eclipsed mine. Soon I felt badly for anyone ever exposed to my writing, experienced shame at my ineptitude, and wondered how I could avoid writing anything for the rest of life. Something so genuinely encouraging turned uniquely depressing — because of comparison.

My steps out of the comparison pit involved taking thoughts captive in obedience to Christ, truth, repentance for my selfishness and more. But it “ended” (not that I’ll never struggle again) with gratitude for someone genuinely better at something than me. First, gratitude to God for creating and using her. Second, gratitude to her. I don’t know her but I tracked her down on Facebook and sent her a simple message, which she may or may not ever see: “I just want you to know that I’ve been really encouraged by your imaginative, gifted writing that points to and embodies the truth of the Gospel. Thank you for using your gifts!”

Sometimes others’ giftedness immediately provokes joy that overflows in gratitude. Other times, it takes more effort. What if, today, we joined together in delightful encouragement at the gifts of those around us? Would you take a moment to thank God, and then those individuals — be they a colleague, neighbor or person you’ve never met? Let’s double the encouragement — experience some yourself and then uplift another too.

 

Kathy Harrelson

 

 

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