The other day my friends and I were dreaming up ways to creatively engage an audience in the subject matter of a talk being given in a week. Someone suggested we give people an opportunity to tangibly respond to the discussion, and my wheels started turning.
I felt myself start to get excited as I dreamed and spoke into existence the creative ideas I had swirling in my mind. My mind made connections between the the topic of discussion and ways to put them into tangible response pieces for people to engage in, and I felt an immense amount life and joy surge through me as I contributed good ideas to the conversation. “I am good at this,” I thought. And I froze.
I found myself immobilized by the thought that I was good at something. Why? I was loving the moment that I was in, energized by the creative process and proud of myself for what I was creating, and yet I couldn’t move forward. As a 23 year old, I’ve begun asking the question, “What am I good at?” with greater frequency than before. But much to my surprise, this question always seems to be followed by, “Am I allowed to be good at something?”
You see, Jesus always speaks about his kingdom requiring a certain level of humility, a servant lifestyle that seeks the good of others before selfish gain. I have grown to love this self-sacrificing characteristic of the faith, but I feel as though it has influenced the way I view myself and my talents in ways that I’m not so sure Jesus meant them, limiting the freedom with which I engage my creative mind and passionately pursue the things I’m good at.
I don’t completely blame the Christian ideal of humility I created, and know that it has mixed with my personality and upbringing to turn into a toxic “humility.” In reality, it is more of a self-deprecation, one that I have unfairly assigned the label of humility. So I have within me these warring desires: The desire to create incredible things that influence people in beautiful ways, and the desire to be humble, whatever that truly means.
In response, it is easy for the Christian to say, “God made you with specific gifts, and you’re made to do some things great! Do them for the glory of God and good of others!” But can that be done so purely that selfish ambition does not come into play? Isn’t there a small element of self-satisfaction in having created something amazing? And are we allowed to feel that?
The God of the Bible is one without limits, yet this seems to be one of the only ways that questions are asked of him. “Am I allowed to do this? Can God really do that?” There seems to be doubt built into this style of questioning, but Jesus encouraged us to faith. So how do we live life in faith when it comes to our passions and giftings?
My answer? Go for it. I don’t know if that’s really the answer, but that’s what I’m going to try for a while. I’d rather go hard after the things I’m great at and learn how to do them for God’s glory as I create with good intentions, than never try anything and hope that one day God will coax me out of my fear to do something with my talents. God is too good and our gifts are too needed (and fun) to spend our lives sitting on our hands.
It’s like learning how to high dive. If all you did was sit on the pool deck and read books and watch film and study the physics of diving in hopes of perfecting the sport, you’d never accomplish your goal if for no other reason than you never got wet. You have to climb the ladder, put your toes on the edge, and plunge 30 meters into the pool in order to know what it feels like to succeed in the most simple yet most necessary component of the sport of diving: falling. And as you fall over and over again, gaining confidence, watching film, looking into the physics, practicing moves, reading books, and falling, falling, falling, you will inevitably get better. And your coach will direct your focus to winning meets and getting better, but they will always force you into the pool rather than keep you out of it.
God is a lot bigger than a coach, but when it comes to the talents he’s given us, I’m pretty sure he’d encourage us to use them, get better at them, and always risk the belly flop in order to see them become amazing (Matthew 25:14-30). So here’s to belly-flopping.