As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards
of God’s varied grace.
— 1 Peter 4:10-11
My teen niece called me last week to tell me her dad — my brother — was getting on her nerves. What teenager hasn’t said that, right? So I told her since it was such a beautiful day, why not get out of the house and go find some beautiful pictures to take (she is a budding photographer). She did. And what came of it was one of the most beautifully inspiring pictures of a sunset that I have ever seen.
Wow! I tell you I saw God in that picture, not just in the beauty that God created in the sky and the trees and the clouds. But in our gifts — the ones that God gave us — and the ones that we are meant to give away to inspire others.
And the great thing is that we always have those gifts available to us. And there is no time that is better to give them away then when times are tough or challenging for us. Because the loveliness that can come when we use our creativity to turn that struggle, or those frustrations or challenges into beauty will fill the world with so much love that it will boomerang back to lift up our souls with the realization of God’s love and purpose for us. It’s a lesson my niece and the rest of us can carry well beyond our teens.
And it’s one we can especially take to heart at this time of the year when we are not only thinking about finding the perfect gift. But also at a time of the year when many might experience sadness or frustration because maybe everything in our lives isn’t as we wish it would be. Or maybe we don’t have all the things we might want. Or more importantly, maybe some of us feel less love or happiness in our lives than we wish we had.
But what we don’t realize is that the perfect gift that we can give to ourselves and to others is right there in front of us, or more precisely, inside of us in our talents shared with others in order to bring about happiness in others and ourselves.
Beyond my teenaged niece, Christ is the perfect example of this as well. After all wasn’t Christ’s life filled with challenge, heartache and frustration? He was essentially sent here to sacrifice His own happiness for us. But instead of complaining about it, save for a few hours of pensive prayer to his Father on the Mount of Olives, He transformed those challenging times to showcase and share the gifts that He was sent here with — the power to lead, to heal, to enlighten. And even while dying on the cross He forgave and inspired all those around Him, even granting eternal happiness to the criminal suffering on the cross beside Him.
When we transform our pain and our struggle into a chance to share our talents and purpose, it helps us to make the world a brighter place. I think of my own mother after her stroke, and how she began drawing with her left hand. The pictures were beautiful and even that much more inspiring because they were pain and suffering transformed into beauty and inspiration. And they filled me and so many others with hope and happiness. (Hey mom, draw some more pictures by the way!)
Now I realize that when you are going through tough times, creating beauty might be the last thing on your mind. And that’s why it is such a forgotten gift. We all have gifts that God has endowed us with. And we all have more than our share of struggle and suffering. We don’t need to tap into the pain; it’s there for the taking. But if we can tap into the creativity and the ability to make the world a better place, then I am pretty sure we will be God’s greatest ally and evil’s greatest foe.
So this Christmas in addition to being thankful for food, family and friends, let’s also remember to give thanks for our God-given talents and the ability to use them to make the world a better place for ourselves and others.
I am looking forward to a brighter Christmas filled with all the gifts I can share and the gifts of those all around me. Hopefully you will do the same.