Recently, as part of our teaching, we’ve been given the opportunity for some personal reflection to help us get the most out of our final stretch of the course. People seem to either love or hate these type of exercises. I fall firmly in the love category and so unsurprisingly my thoughts over the last week revolve around that!
One of our first tasks was to list 60 strengths we felt we had. That’s a lot. A crazy amount. But it is useful…
My approach was pretty much… Write down about 3 strengths that easily came to mind. Text Mum for a bit of input from her and Dad to fill in a few more places. Receive a text from Mum with a list of things she clearly thinks her daughter is brilliant at. I read down the list and think ‘yeah, that’s something you thought I was good at but you’ve not been with me in Watford, so-and-so is better at that than me and another person is way better at that than me. Oh my goodness after 6 months here I’ve actually ended up with less strengths than I arrived with.’
And bizarrely I suddenly realised how wrong that was (and this isn’t usually sudden!) I had a realisation of ‘Bryony, you can’t think like that’. I’m not going to be the best in the world at everything and yes, someone else may be better at something than me but that doesn’t mean it’s not a strength of mine. Actually this was a time to be a little bit self-centred and block out other people just for a moment and realise ‘you know what- actually there are some things I’m pretty good at’.
Anyone who spends any time with me soon finds out that recently I’ve started running. The other day I was chatting with a friend I run with and we were saying that actually what we’ve done is a big achievement for us and we’re really excited about how far we’re running, how long we run for, what our average speed is etc. But if we were to talk to someone who’d just run the marathon, we could easily get disappointed because we are a reasonably long way off being able to hobble through a marathon, let alone run it. But that’s not the point. 11 weeks ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of running what we do now and for us, that is an achievement. Full stop. No dispute.
Ephesians 2.10 says this;
‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (NIV)
We are God’s masterpiece. He created each of us exactly as we are so that we can do the work he has planned for us. There is no point making me the clone of someone else if the work God has planned for me is completely different. There’s no point me signing up to run a marathon because I’m not a marathon runner- my body is prepped for a 10k. In the same way, my skills and abilities are God’s gifts, shaping me for how he wants to use my life, and the plan he has for me. Here’s my self-centred moment… God created me as me. With a plan for me. So that I could be me.
Of course, we can’t live our whole lives in that selfish moment because, amongst a million other things, that would make me an awful person to be around.
And at that point it’s great to look at how our relationships with others are going to help put our personal reflection into perspective. Working in community is great and what God had planned for his church so for us to be as effective as possible as a team, we need to be confident and sure of who we are, how we have been gifted and the ways God is using us.
The ultimate example of this is Jesus. Before he fully launched into his main ministry, before he performed any miracles, or raised anyone from the dead, he heard from his father. After his baptism, the spirit rested on Jesus and the father spoke to him, affirming him and encouraging him in who he was. Luke 3:22 says:
‘The Holy Spirit descended on him… And a voice came from heaven; “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”’ (NIV)
Jesus knew who he was, he had the spirit living inside him and he knew his father’s love. We can know those same truths. How would our lives look if we really knew the spirit living inside of us and if we knew the love of the father, not based on what we do or how we compare to others, but because of who we are and who he has made us to be? He made me like I am and he loves me.