Part of Your World

As mentioned before, I took a test last month that revealed some personal interests and strengths. It affirmed things I'd known for some time but also highlighted other things in a new way, namely where I tend to go (or how I likely would react) during times of stress. (You should definitely take this test, but be sure to go over the results with someone trained to explain them. Doing that was really helpful for me.)

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
— 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

I've found this passage to be both encouraging and convicting on a number of occasions. Whether unsure of my own gifts and responsibilities or doubting another's, I feel these verses make it clear: God uses all and desires all. We should be working together for the sake of His glory and our collective good.

That was then

Much of my upbringing was spent in fear (and sometimes disgust) of my interests and gifts, particularly my artistic side. I was either frustrated by the need to practice (not seeing much fruit in a quick time frame) or upset by the ridicule I faced from peers.  

In short, I was the new kid a lot, having moved multiple times before age 12. Hindsight is definitely 20/20, and I admire the obedience my parents displayed with each move. Nevertheless, each one presented some type of challenge (usually social) for me. 

My goal was to "fit in" as quickly as possible. Sometimes it would work, but often times it came with the expense of something else: not pursuing my real interests, hiding them from others, trying to "be cool." Over time, I became more independent and isolated, less open to help and encouragement.

Through all this, I let my understanding of "Biblical masculinity" be skewed by various aspects of (and others' responses to) "cultural masculinity." 

I'm sure this is a narrative many of you understand, and I'm guessing that some of you worked it out in similar ways. But, I believe others had the courage needed to stay the course and be obedient to the Lord's call, using gifts for Him. It's a praiseworthy thing, but something I would have resented at the time.

This is now

I've lived in New York for three years, and I believe this place has given me a second chance when it comes to developing skills and finding new confidence in my "part of the whole body." 

I was reminded of this in May when I flew home one weekend to celebrate my grandmother's 85th birthday and my cousin's college graduation. That Sunday, we went to church where I attended throughout junior high and high school, and it just so happened to be "Senior Sunday." This is the annual service where the high school graduates are recognized and provided with a "charge" for going out into the world.

My "Senior Sunday" was a special one, for it was the first time in years that I'd sung in front of a church congregation as part of the Worship Team. That spring, our high school Worship and Drama Team had put together various skits, songs, and spoken word pieces. For one of the dramas, I sang the song as others performed. 

So again, this particular Sunday is special to me. It became that much more real after this year's service because I ran into the director that had suggested I sing the song years ago. As we caught up, I was able to share with her that I'd been able to help lead worship for the church plant that I attend here in New York. (This opportunity came because of the boldness of a close friend who encouraged me to serve in this way.)

‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
— Luke 19:40

Now, I don't relive these events for the sake of pity. I hope that by sharing this part of my story you'll find encouragement as it relates to your own. That being said, please don't do what I did and stop using your gifts. It can be a very long process (as I'm now learning) to try to get them back.

There's a reason you have specific gifts. Find strength in the fact that God is calling you to use them for His glory and for the good of your "body" (community).