hate to admit this, but I am almost 42 years old and I am JUST NOW beginning to really understand and celebrate how God uniquely created me. Over the years I’ve caught glimpses, however I have been grasping at clues for what my gifts and strengths are. I was keenly aware of my weaknesses, probably too aware, which sent me on a journey of wanting to learn and grow to be better. I have always been a student of people, watching their behavior to see what makes them tick. In my people watching, I tried to mimic those around me that had desirable traits and habits with quite a bit of success. When Jesus saved me from a life of addiction I had very few life skills, looking around me to bring healthy habits into my daily living was very beneficial. However, it took me a while to realize that I took this one step too far. I wasn’t taking the time to discover and celebrate how God uniquely made me; I was actually trying to become someone who had no weaknesses and never made mistakes.
The journey to embrace your unique self will look different for each person. For me, in this this past year it involved a myriad of factors: two different personality profiles (Kendall Life Language and Leading From Your Strengths), some relational trials that brought out the worst in me, a new job that challenged my abilities to my core, emotional healing to deal with said trials and challenges, and a passage in John that rocked my world.
John 1 ESV
The Testimony of John the Baptist
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Did you catch that? John the Baptist knew who he was, and knew who he was not. And he was completely okay with it. I don’t know why that struck me as profoundly as it did; but it sure did shift a paradigm. What I began to realize is that part of embracing your strengths is embracing your weaknesses. We don’t need to be ashamed of what we are not, what we don’t know, or are not naturally good at. And we certainly don’t need to feel shame for being different.
When I gave myself permission to NOT have to be good a everything, it gave me an opportunity to look around me and see that God has given me a WONDERFUL family who have strengths in the very place I have weaknesses. And really, doesn’t that make sense that God would do that on purpose?
I have one special friend who has the unique gift to love in a way that feels very foreign to me. She loves without walls and conditions, and she strives for vulnerability and doesn’t settle for mediocre relationships. I NEED this in my life because my weakness is to wall people off because it’s easier. I am better because I have her in my life!
I have another friend who is an amazing encourager who coaches me through self-discovery so I can be all that God has called me to be. Without her I would be stuck in fear not moving forward. I am better because I have her in my life!
I have another friend who is the perfect administrative compliment to the gift of innovation God put in me. Without her I would just be producing a bunch of ideas that didn’t get accomplished. She helps me think differently when I need it, and I am better because I have her in my life!
I have another friend who is like my own personal pastor. She encourages me at least twice a week with either texts, cards in the mail, or some sort of homemade food. She nurtures me in a way that helps me to learn what it means to be pastoral. I would never think to love that way if I didn’t have her! I am better because she is in my life!
I have another friend who tells it like it is. She’s the one who will tell me if I have spinach in my teeth, and most importantly she will confront me when my behavior doesn’t line up with my character. I am better because she is in my life!
I have another friend who is so passionate about reading the word and spending time in God’s presence. Being around her lights a fire in me to go deeper in the word and press in for the supernatural. I am better because I have her in my life.
I have spiritual fathers that are my sounding board and encouragement when I am down. They believe in me and cheer me on. They help me to be a better communicator and they have wisdom that I don’t have. I am better because I have them in my life!
I have spiritual daughters that I mentor that absolutely bless my socks off. The depth of character that I’m discovering in the Millennials and Generation Z is creating a hunger in me that wants to learn more. I am better because I have them in my life!
I have a husband who wholeheartedly believes in me. And when I’m down and ready to quit, he’s reminding me of who I am and what I’m called to do. I am better because I have him in my life!
I have a sister who loves my children in such a way that the love spills over onto me. I watch her and how relational she is, and I learn from her. I want to love like she does. I am better because I have her in my life!
And I have so many other relationships where these beautiful people have amazing strengths that I just don’t have…a quiet strength, long-suffering patience and faithfulness, joy through trials. And I need their gifts and strengths expressed to enhance my life. My prayer is that I will bless their lives in the same measure that they have completed mine.
Part of embracing your gifting is acknowledging your weakness. You are weak in those areas on purpose, and it is so that you will look around you and lean on someone else’s strength. This safeguards us from becoming independent and prideful. We don’t have all the answers and we can’t do it alone.
I want to encourage you to go on a journey of discovering your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses. Once you discover it, surround yourself with people who compliment who you are. (For further study on this read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.)
We need each other.
We are better together.
Next Generation Pastor