Monday, January 21, 2013

Unopened Gift

By now, you know that I love what I do.  I am humbled and amazed at the gift of writing, of language, of message that God has put in me - whatever you want to call it.  And it's really awesome to watch this gift unfold as days go by.

But there are also days I'd rather quit.  Those are the days that you tell me that I'm so good at what I do.

Yes, there are actually people like this.  I run into it with increasing frequency, and at first, I took it as the great compliment that they intended it to be; these days, I'm less encouraged.

Because these individuals will look me straight in the eye, shake my hand, and tell me that I'm very good at what I do.  (Thank you.)  They will then proceed to tell me about an unwritten story in their lives, something they've wanted to sit down and write but have never gotten around to.  And now, they say, it won't do them much good because they "will never be as good of a writer as [I] am."


And I know it's meant as a compliment, but let me say it again: OUCH.  Here's why:

You may not know this about me, but growing up, I was that kid in art class...that sat next to the really good, fantastic, super fantabulous artist.  I sat next to the kid whose ash trays had little birds sitting around the edges, who could pick up a pen and pencil and create a fantastical world, who could look at a bowl of fruit and draw something that actually looked edible, and who could bring a simple stick figure to life with just a little definition.  I was the kid who sat next to the kid to whom art came easy, or so I thought, though I now realize how much discipline goes into it.

I was the kid who sat next to the kid whose sheer raw talent, incredible passion, intent discipline, and obvious gift made me feel like I never could.  Like the best I would ever get out of a pencil was something worthy of the Frigidaire.  And only then because my mother would have mercy on me.

I had this burning passion inside me for art.  To draw.  To sketch.  To create.  To make something.  But all I had to do was cheat off my neighbor's paper, and I knew without a doubt I'd never get there.  It wasn't in me.

My work showed as much.  In the last week or two in all my purging, I came across my old art projects.  "A++" branded across the top, although today, I'd be embarrassed to put them on my own fridge.  They aren't what you might call "good."  I remember vividly the year I was really going to go after it and create the 4-H drawing that all fair-goers would be jealous of.  I sat outside our town's courthouse for hours and counted bricks, to make sure I got just the right number in my drawing of this beautiful historic landmark.  That drawing sucks.  It almost sort of maybe kind of looks  No, it doesn't look like it at all.

And the year my parents decided each of us kids could paint one mural of our choosing on our bedroom walls.  My brother tooned up his wall, tastefully, with a small caricature of his guinea pig standing on top of the world.  My other brother opted out.  I determined to show them both up and painted a much-too-large, probably 8-foot-tall and disproportionately-wide portrait of Jonathan Taylor Thomas (my then-crush) that subsequently scared the bejeezus out of me, but I had to pretend I liked it because I had gone so confidently and obstinately into the whole project.

I wanted it to be good.  The whole time I was working on any of these projects, I knew they would be good.  They would be great!  Because the passion of art was lurking somewhere just under my questions, and somewhere inside of me, there was an artist who believed she could do this.  Who wanted to do this.  And who wouldn't stop until she got there....or until she looked at her neighbor's paper.

I know what it's like to be intimidated by someone who seems to be a whole lot better than you.  You know something?  It kills whatever good you're on the verge of offering into this world.

For me, it took a college roommate, who happened to be an art major (story of my life).  Not only did she encourage me to go after my passion, but she brought me in on some of the things she was doing. Things that, ok, maybe she was too lazy to do by herself, but everything is more fun with a friend.  And through our joint ventures in art, we fed off each other.  I spurred her inventive side, and she spurred my creative side and together, I think we both found confidence.

There were days I looked at her and said I wasn't good enough.  That she was better at it and I shouldn't even try.  She'd look right back at me and call me on my faithlessness or lack of courage.  She told me I could, and after so many years of cheating off someone's paper, she gave me the courage to turn back to my own.

Today, art is a part of what I do.  It's not my major gift; I don't earn a lot of money for it, although I do contract as a graphic designer.  I am honored to be able to gift friends and loved ones well with creations of my own hand.  And it still makes me smile.

Which is why when someone tells me they were going to write this or that, or they were going to tell this story, but I'm "so good" at what I do that they don't even feel like trying, I am discouraged.  It makes me consider quitting what I do (or at least not doing it so publicly).

God has given each of us a gift.  The purpose of our gift is to glorify Him and to encourage one another.  It doesn't matter if you're the best at what you do, the worst to ever try it, or somewhere in between; someone will be encouraged by what you do.  Just as I would hope to encourage someone else to write their story by what I do.

If it's not that, then I can't help but question if what I do is worth it.  If what brings me so much joy, this gift I am honored and humbled to receive.  This word I am trying to turn and give back.  The passion and incredible mercy with which I am able to do this....if all that is worth even one other gift remaining unopened.

(For the record, I am not that good at what I do, but I am very blessed when I am doing it.  That much, I firmly believe.  I will never come close to matching His words, but I surrender my gift to honor them as best as I can with my own.  The very few words He lets me borrow.)

I dare you today to stop looking over your shoulder, to stop cheating off your neighbor's paper, and open your gift.  Even if that means you have to make room on the refrigerator.

No comments:

Post a Comment