Owning Your Strengths
I was hanging out with a friend of mine who has known me since I was a young, awkward teenager. Even back then, he was a good friend who always built encouragement and positivity into people. On this particular night as we were hanging out talking, he stopped, paused, and told me how beautiful I was. I looked at him, puzzled, because I didn’t see myself that way. He smiled, a little sadly, and added, “And you don’t realize that about yourself which is a shame, because beauty is a gift.” That remark struck me because something I doknow is that every gift I have, every strength, every talent has been given to me by God to be used for His good purposes.
We all have those moments where someone speaks life into us, whether by their intent or by God’s. And that night I came to realize in a deeper way I don’t always see myself the way others do. Oh, the bad things – sure! Thosequalities I see quite clearly, thank you very much, and could probably add several other negative things to any list you could label me with. I’m very well aware of who I am not. But being aware of who I am, of the beauty and creativity and majesty placed within me to honor my Creator—that can be a real challenge for me.
As I’ve wrestled with this over the last few years, I’ve learned a few things. The first is that not owning your strengths is denying God. Period. It’s not humility to pretend you don’t have any; and it’s not humility to act like God could use anyone to do what He’s doing through you. Why? Because God didn’t choose anyone; He chose you. No one can shine in quite the way He designed you to shine, or be used for quite the specific purpose God has chosen you for. Pretending otherwise is denying His creativity and design in making you.
I’ve also learned that I’m not as effective in allowing God to work through me in the areas I don’t acknowledge, express gratitude for, and ask God to intentionally use. Strengths are sometimes tricky because they come easily for us, so we tend to minimize them. Or, tragically, we’ve had people in our lives who have resented or not understood our strengths and have done ugly, hurtful destructive things to try and beat the glory right out of us. Some people have even mistaken Godly confidence for unhealthy pride, like somehow acknowledging what God has placed within them is about puffing themselves up instead of expressing gratitude for how God has molded them. But God is still God. When you begin to look for and either acknowledge or re-acknowledge your talents, He can take a neglected, unused, broken down strength and resurrect it, using it to bring joy not only to you, but to the world around you. And that, frankly, leads to the most important lesson …
No one can have quite the same impact on the lives of the people God has placed around you – which is why He placed them around you to begin with. The people in your life need you to shine, need you to not only own your strengths, but to use and harness them for God’s good and noble purposes. It is by owning our strengths we are able to positively impact others. Quantity is never as important as quality. The positive impact you can make on your toddler is important and crucial. The impact you can make in the board room, or the classroom, or the grocery store, or your neighborhood, or with your elderly next-door neighbor is yours alone to make.
I won’t lie to you. When I wake up every morning and look in the mirror, I am still quick to look for my flaws, for the latest wrinkle, roll or the blemish I see in the mirror. But now I also look for the beauty God has placed within me, the things I do like about myself. More importantly, I fight to acknowledge the gifts God has placed inside of me, and to believe in those strengths. I ask God to harness and use them for His good purposes. And let me tell you, it has been thrilling and humbling and amazing to watch Him do so!
Remember, each piece of this magnificent tapestry called “Redeemed Lives” that God is weaving together needs every color, every unique stitch and every portion to be used to create the glorious whole. At the end of the day we are all just threads, but each thread matters. You matter. Embrace who God has called you to be, and then get ready. God can do some powerful things through those who choose to acknowledge all that God has placed in their hands.
For further thought: There are so many great scriptures about acknowledging your strengths before God, but here are a few of my favorites:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful (including you!), I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:13-14
“It is God who arms me with strength … He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me.”—Psalm 18:32-35
“I work and struggle, using Christ’s great strength that works so powerfully in me.” –Colossians 1:29