When I stop and consider that God created each of us – unique and beautiful, with an equally unique set of gifts and talents – I am truly amazed and humbled. The thought that He took the time to design me, with my own special set of gifts, talents, and quirks is just mind-blowing. What I fail to remember far too often is that He created everyone that way.
Bill and I led a worship service last week that centered on caring for each other. My focus was bringing your gifts and talents to this effort. Some people are generous from the heart in sharing…it is an obvious act of love on their part, and often appears effortless. The other extreme is found in those individuals that may be highly gifted but choose to hold on tightly and not share their gifts. I’m not talking about financial gifts, although they certainly are a possibility. Each of us “came” with abilities that don’t require money – they usually resemble acts of service. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, we need to combine the pieces to see the beautiful picture revealed.
So, I started thinking about why someone might withhold their “puzzle piece”. The first thing that came to mind was the need to have control. As in, if I withhold my gift, I have control or power over others’ happiness/joy/peace. I have the power to let them be happy or not. Or perhaps a need to control in retaliation for having had that happen to oneself. If we could just remember that we are all unique – but we really were created to be in community – would that improve our respect for each other?
I have belonged to a myriad of groups/communities in my life – I think we all have. It starts in school and continues throughout life. Social groups, volunteer organizations, school, work, church – all communities within the larger community of our lives. One of the downfalls of group dynamics is the tendency for cliques to form. I’ve noticed that when this happens, the effectiveness of the group is adversely affected. More energy is spent on aligning and eliciting support for the “group within the group” and excluding those deemed not appropriate than on the original purpose of the group. When this happens in the workplace, productivity and morale are seriously affected. In school, learning becomes a struggle. Volunteer organizations lose members, lose focus, and flounder or collapse. In church, divisions occur, members leave, faiths and beliefs are challenged. In social groups – much the same…members leave, support and energy wanes.
In all of these settings, people come and go without cause. The group dynamic changes – is fluid with the members of the group because the talent/gift makeup shifts. That is different – rarely is anyone negatively impacted by these changes.
Having observed, participated in, and been a victim of “cliquish” activity (no, I’m not proud of it…) – you would think I would remember the lesson. It does get a little easier to remember each time, though. I’ve watched good, dedicated people forced to leave the workplace, dynamic leaders swayed and persuaded to compromise their integrity, and strong and long friendships destroyed. In every case, when I look back, the person responsible for organizing the “opposition” either felt threatened, jealous, or perhaps too closely identified with the person they were targeting. At the time, they seemed like a dynamic leader with just concern for the group. Different ideas, a different appearance, different skills and talents – whatever it was – it was a perceived threat to that member of the group.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost sight of the positive effects of diversity and community. Instead of being afraid of or threatened by someone’s different skills/thoughts/abilities – we need to remember to embrace them – or at least consider them. Instead of needing to control every situation, we need to realize that no one ever is really “in control”. Build up instead of tearing down. Bring your gifts to the table, pass them around, and don’t be afraid to partake of another’s generosity is sharing their gifts.
My example for the service was baking bread. Some people were given “gifts” of ingredients. Everyone was given the “gift” of helping knead. If any one person had withheld their “gift”, we would not have had a loaf of bread. Bill’s example was showing pictures from some mission trips we participated in. Mission trips are powerful. In our case – the recipients received physical benefit – improvements to their home and fellowship with the volunteers. The volunteers on these trips received so much more…we were given the precious, priceless gift of caring for others, ourselves, and God’s creation.
Think about your gifts and talents. Think about your “communities” that you are a part of. How do you join the two? I’ve been pondering this a lot lately – you have lots of time to do this when you are clearing up storm fallout and playing with the chainsaw and loppers.