I was in the fourth grade, when the comparison trap tripped me up. Two of my classmates would go upstairs to the fifth grade classroom for math because their skills exceeded the level the class was on. Math was never my strong suit, so seeing them elevated left me with a twinge of jealousy.
In the sixth grade, a select group of students from our class were to go on a field trip to sing Christmas carols at a senior citizen home. Our teacher, Sister Mary Louise (a nun at our K-8 Catholic school) walked the aisles between our desks listening to each of us sing. After the song, she chose a handful of students to go on the field trip, which didn't include me. I knew singing wasn't my strength, but I didn't think it was bad enough to exclude me from going. Math challenged and unable to carry a note, I wondered what set me apart.
As a kid, I wanted stellar math skills and a strong singing voice. What I failed to see were my own strengths, like making it to the spelling bee, excelling in art class, being a pro at Chinese jump rope and scoring A's on a regular basis in Language Arts.
I wanted the gifts that I did not have. I never voiced this, but that grass-is-greener-syndrome grew deep roots in my heart that I'm still working to uproot today.
Then in the seventh grade, my teacher Mr. Brazil wrote me a simple note at the end of the school year that partly read: "You were the calm in the middle of the storm this year. You have a special writing gift also."
I recall reading those words thinking: I have a special writing gift? No one had ever told me that before. For years, I looked longingly on other's talents without realizing the special gift I'd held in my own hand. What a gift Mr. Brazil gave me in telling me that I had a gift!
After that I no longer coveted my friend's mathematic or singing skills. Instead I learned to embrace and utilize the gift of writing. In eighth grade, I joined the newspaper staff at my new junior high school and later went on to be editor of the newspaper and yearbook during my senior year of high school.
I soon realized that this writing gift could be used to make a living and went on to college where I graduated with a journalism degree and later landed a job as an editor after a move to Los Angeles from Northern California. All because Mr. Brazil saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. Taking the focus off of what others had helped me to see what God had already given me.
This insistence on having the not-given is inbred in us. We are constantly yearning for what is not ours, while neglecting what has been so abundantly given. Eve focused on the one thing kept from her: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All around her was an abundance of things given. "And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. "
I'll be the first to admit, I still gaze at others' gifts and have to redirect my attention back to what God has given me. But I'm so glad that what God gave so richly to me was noticed by someone else so that I could acknowledge it and put it to good use.
Might there be a gift given to you that you are devaluing because you put a higher price tag on what someone else has? You may have the gift of hospitality but want to teach. You'll be amazed at what God can do when you walk in the gifting He assigned to you. Perhaps you see a gift in someone else, like Mr. Brazil saw in me. Encourage them to use it! You know never what doors you may open up for them by simply naming a gift.
What gift do you need to acknowledge and receive? What is the not-given that you need to turn away from? I'd love to hear from you in the comments or on my Facebook page.