Finding the Right Fit for Our Talents
We have all heard the story of the salmon who struggles against the current to return its old spawning ground to give birth to a new generation. The salmon does achieve its goal - it reaches the spawning ground, but it is so battered and bruised that it dies after laying its eggs. Sometimes Christians feel that life is like that. A surge of water tries to grab them and force them to swim the other way. They exhaust themselves jumping up the fish ladders of life.
Are we struggling against the current of life with the wrong aspirations, dreams, or career or ministry choices? We ask this question because we don't want to come to end of our lives without experiencing that joy and fulfillment that comes with using our talents as God intended. God wants us to use the gifts He has given us (Romans 12:4-8) but how do we know where our talents lay?
We sometimes take a path in life that causes pain because it is something we want very badly, but don't have the skills and talents needed to succeed. Reality shows like “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance feature many people like this. Thousands audition - bragging on camera about being the next superstar only to bomb when they get on stage. Not all of us see ourselves as singers and dancers, but in the same way, sometimes we are striving to do things that don't fit our talents and skills. We end up experiencing extreme frustration, criticism from others, and a gnawing ache inside that tells us something is missing.
An example of the pursuit the wrong goals
So how do we know where we fit in life, whether it be a career or volunteer work in a church imnistry? One worship pastor tackled that thorny question during a worship arts conference several years ago.
He told the story of a man named Raymond (not his real name) who approached him and asked if he could be part of the worship team. Raymond was sincere in wanting to serve God in this ministry.
When Raymond auditioned, however, his voice was just not good enough. The pastor gently explained that he could not join the worship team and encouraged him to explore other ministries. Raymond ended up flourishing in the drama ministry.
If the pastor had allowed Raymond to be a part of the worship team instead of using his real talent, the poor man would have become frustrated. He would struggle and work hard, but still not achieve a high enough level of excellance. He would have quit eventually.
Other members of the worship team would probably quit as well - unable to tolerate his flat, often off-key voice next to them.
Motives for chasing certain dreams
By the time we enter our early twenties, many of us have a sense of where our abilities lie. We develop passions for certain jobs and ministry positions but we have to question our motives for pursuing a particular path.
Many people pursue careers in the entertainment field because they long for fame and fortune. They want people to adore them and look up to them. Or are driven by a desperate need for approval. That kind of motivation is based on fleshly desires, not the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our sincere enthusiasm and a willingness to work are not enough reasons to pursue a certain path. We need to have the talent and skill to back it up.
Ingredients needed for success
- passion to succeed
- a willingness to be trained
- an ability to accept and learn from constructive criticism
- a willingness to sacrifice time and finances to improve our craft
- positive feedback from others who are experts on our talents who confirm that we should pursue our goals
- positive fruits from our efforts such as satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, and positive feedback
Raymond may have spent years singing in the choir, but that did not mean he had a voice that was good enough for a worship team. He might have clung to the hope that someone in the music ministry would recognize his singing ability, but was never offered a solo in the choir. Or he may have done all of his singing in the shower or into a karaoke machine. Whatever his experience, he was heading down a path that would lead to a painful rejection by the worship pastor.
The more Raymond would have pursued music, the more frustrated he would have become. His lack of success may have pushed him to quit ministry entirely. Raymond could have used the time that he put into music to pursue drama. He could have experienced the joy and satisfaction of following the path for which God had equipped him instead of the frustration to trying to do something he was not meant to do.
Analyzing our goals
Before we take the step toward a certain dream, we need to analyze our goals. Do we have the necessary talents and skills needed to follow our passion? We need to be realistic if we are to succeed. Before Raymond auditioned for the worship team, he should have analyzed whether singing was a good fit for him. He could have recorded his voice and played it back. He could have listened to music and analyzed how quickly he was able to pick up the music and sing it accurately. He could have sought the opinions of a number of people in the field who were impartial and honest.
Time is precious. Raymond's worship leader hated to say no to Raymond, but knew that putting him on the worship team was not in Raymond's best interests. The worship leader pointed out that if he had accepted Raymond into his music ministry, he would not have been able to discover where his true talents lay - in drama. All of the time he had wasted pursuing singing could have been spent more productively in developing the skills needed for the drama ministry.
Setting ourselves up for failure and frustration
When we are going down a path that does not match our natural talents and backgrounds, we are often feel like we are hitting our heads on a brick wall. We want to do well but don't have the ability, no matter how hard we try. Our psychies are beaten up be feelings of inadequacy and failure. We stubbornly keep working and studying, but just arenʹt learning and improving enough to succeed. We work hard but don't seem to be able to achieve our goals. We eventually become so discouraged that we end up quiting chasing any of our dreams.
Input from other people
When other people become involved in our pursuits, we need to weigh their input carefully. Sometimes, true friends will point out our abilities, cheer us on, and even provide opportunities for us to grow in our calling. Occasionally, people are misguided and try to oppose us going in the way God wants us to go. At other times, they may encourage us to go down the wrong path because it looks like a good thing to do on the surface.
It is best to seek out the opinions of a number of people who have expertise in the field we are pursing and can express an impartial opinion.
The pursuit of happiness
God equips us with talents, passions and natural inclinations to pursue various careers and ministries (1 Corinthians 12). When we are following the right path, we feel satisfied and fulfilled. People in the know confirm that we are on the right path and encourage us.
We may face some adversity, such as physical limitations or some people opposing our certain path for the wrong reasons, but have enough assurance and courage to press on. When we see others in the same field, we feel inspired to train and work harder at our craft. We can stay positive and have a high sense of self-esteem. God wants us to live happy, fulfilled lives pursuing the dreams that match His vision for us (3 John 2).
© 2013 Carola Finch