I recently watched my daughter’s middlish-aged ballet teacher (she isn’t much older than me, so I really don’t want to call her middle-aged… but how else you would describe us? We aren’t exactly young’uns….) as she moved so gracefully across the dance floor to a worship song, performing for all of us parents and students in a solo dance act that left me teary-eyed. She’s not particularly thin, she wasn’t wearing anything special (capri yoga pants and a tank top with a light jacket), and I don’t even remember what song she danced to. What I do remember was that she was doing what she loved. And she was doing it oh-so-confidently, without any of the self-consciousness that distracts from some performances. It was beautiful.
And then there is my facebook friend (an old friend who has since become an acquaintance because of time and distance) who has – for years – posted pictures of the incredible cake and cookie creations she makes for her family, and who recently announced that she is starting a home business to pursue her love of baking. Her creations are so gorgeous that even though they will be eaten quickly, the memory and discussion of them will last for a long, long time. (“Remember those train cookies at your cousin’s birthday party two years ago? Those were incredible!! Too pretty to eat.”) But she doesn’t do it for the money or the admiration – she just does it because she absolutely loves to create! In fact, she has said that she just looks for excuses to celebrate things so that she can try out new designs and ideas.
Sometimes what we love to do is not so much a gift, but a passion… like my five-year-old daughter’s determination to write and send a Valentine’s note or card to all of her aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even former baby-sitters. She methodically steals blank note cards (and sometimes ones that say “In Loving Memory” or “With Sympathy”) from the basket in my office, writes personal notes, puts them in envelopes, and crosses names off her list. She has been doing this for weeks during her free time – along with making handmade gifts for her parents and siblings. She may be one of the most generous people I have ever met, and it’s never out of obligation – it’s just what she loves to do.
Isn’t it beautiful to watch people do what they love to do?? It’s inspiring.
But I have noticed that you and I often talk ourselves out of doing what we love. I’m not thin enough to dance in front of all those people. My cookies don’t compare to the ones in a bakery. All I have are cards that say “In Loving Memory”, and someone will laugh at them. There are already plenty of other people doing that. Someone else can do it better or faster or louder or stronger. This is all I have, and it’s not good enough. Better not to risk looking silly.
Yes, it is a risk. Yes, it does take vulnerability. Yes, there are probably other people with similar gifts to yours, and some of them may be doing an amazing job – “better” than you might be able to do. But there is something so incredibly beautiful about the song and the light and the freedom that emanates from a person who gives from out of their heart, with passion and vulnerability, whether or not what they do is “the best” or “amazing” or even “good.” Just offering the gift is beautiful… it’s not about the comparison of it to someone else’s gift or the size of the audience that admires it. And on top of that, it is so life-giving to us to do the things we love.
Can I tell you something? I have to remind myself of these two things every time I hit the “publish” button on another blog post. It’s hard to put words out for other people to read and critique or ignore. But I love the challenge and mystery of crafting my thoughts into words – and that love compels me to keep writing. So I just have to keep reminding myself… It’s the offering of my unique gift that makes it beautiful – it doesn’t have to be comparable to someone else’s to be valuable. And it brings me joy to write. So why not do it?!
It’s so much easier to be inspired by other people’s gifts but to minimize the value our own gifts. But let me just tell you – and please believe me – I am amazed and inspired when I see you creating, studying, decorating, singing, acting, giving, teaching, writing, leading, designing, loving, cooking, sending, serving, parenting, watching, and praying the way that you love to do. Just by passionately doing what you love, you bring me hope and encouragement – so please don’t minimize your gift or talk yourself out of doing it. Share it! And I guarantee… it will be good for your own soul, too.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23