Talent—we all have one, they say. Some are blessed with more than one, but we can all feel comfortable that we came to this Earth with at least one talent, given by God Himself.
But what if you don’t know what your talent is? What if you never find it? Does it expire or go bad? Does it get tired of waiting around for you and just leave altogether? What if you do finally find it, but it’s not the one you wanted or expected?
I think back to being five years old. I am standing in a circle with other preschoolers while a young, pretty lady teaches us a song with hand motions. Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Now, I am eight years old, sitting on a carpet with my friends while a grandmotherly woman goes around the room and asks us to tell the class about our talents. Our room is full of singers, dancers, artists, and athletes. We are brimming with talent. We can hardly contain it. But seeds of doubt are sprouting in my head. I want my talent to be bigger and better than everyone else’s. Maybe God doesn’t give you your talent until you’re good and ready for it, I tell myself.
I envision a fairy godmother moment when God will tap my head and my amazing talent will arrive.
I am 15 years old, casually perched on a desk in a tiny classroom with a small group of other teens. Our leader reads to us from the Bible and tells us how each one of us is unique and we’ve been given talents directly from God. It all sounds good, but I’m skeptical. Teen angst tells me there’s nothing special about me. To be honest, I’m not really sure I want a talent that would set me apart. All I desperately want is to fit in.
I am 25 years old, trying to make my way in the world, distanced from God because I can’t find a way to make room for Him along with the things I want. I think I have talents, but they’re not for Him. They’re for me, for furthering my career and building a life the world deems successful.
I am 30-something years old, playing on the floor with my small children, overwhelmed by mundane tasks. My days are spent doing things I feel require no special skills, only pure stamina.
I wonder . . . is barely surviving a talent?
I consider the idea that maybe talents aren’t realized right away. Maybe my talent is buried deep inside me, and I am like an archaeologist, digging slowly and carefully to find it, hopefully, intact and ready to show off.
I am 40 years old, sitting on the carpet once again, talking about God-given talent with my Bible study group. The term has changed from “talent” to “spiritual gift.” Our leader asks that we go around the room and tell the group about our spiritual gift. Each lady speaks in turn, so confident, while my insides twist with anxiety. There are women who are natural leaders, skilled in organization, caretakers, comforters, the list goes on. It’s my turn now, and all eyes are on me. I want to sink under the floor. My head is screaming, I don’t know! Please stop asking me! My mouth blurts out a household chore I think I do well. Laundry! I’m really good at laundry! I’m half-joking, half-serious. I don’t want this to be my spiritual gift, but maybe it just is what it is. Maybe I should stop thinking about it so much.
It is today. I move through life much as I always have. I stay busy and am mostly productive, but there is nothing extraordinary about any of it. I am at a place in my life that now I see ordinary is its own gift.
But still, I wonder—where is my talent? If I ever find it, will it be too late to use it properly? How did I miss it? Have I squandered God’s gift?
I rest my chin in the palm of my hand as I contemplate this question for the 10,000th time in my life. The relative warmth of my cheek is a sharp contrast to my freezing hands. My hands are always cold to the touch. It can be 100 degrees outside, but my handshake will cause a person to either pull their hand away quickly or offer to warm my hands with their own. “Your hands are so cold!” they’ll say. Sometimes, to be funny, I’ll put my hands on my husband’s neck to watch him jump. It works every time.
Every now and then, one of my daughters will sidle up next to me and say, “Mama, I don’t feel good.” Usually, it’s because she’s tired or maybe has a stomachache from junk food. Sometimes she just needs an excuse to be loved on. Whatever it is, she’ll take one of my hands and place it on her forehead. As her body relaxes, she’ll say, “Oh, Mama, you have such cold hands.”
Maybe talent is not something you do, but something you are. Maybe our gifts aren’t meant to be impressive to the world but are tailor-made for a very specific purpose and person.
There are surely other people out there who have very cold hands. Probably hundreds of millions of them. But there is only one pair of very cold hands these two girls look for when they need comfort, and those hands belong to me. One in a hundred million. They’ve been here all along, waiting to fulfill this duty. They are a gift to me and a gift to my daughters, straight from above. What other gifts do we have that we are ignoring? If we stop looking for some big, extraordinary talent, what will we find hiding under a bushel? Possibly something that has been there all along, waiting for its moment to shine.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).