Feb 10, 2013
This is the Age of Specialization. If you don’t agree, look at the Yellow Pages (oh, OK, or a Google search) for local physicians. You will find categories for ailments and body parts – left and right; upper and lower – you never heard of. The same with, say, magazines. They say print journalism is dying, but “niche publishing” flourishes: serving every interest, hobby, and need.
I think of all us accept that God has some specific gift, a certain talent, apportioned to each of us. Surely we sense an aptitude we might have, as we proceed in life; we must. And, I hope, we all pray for guidance and grace as we exercise God’s career counseling, so to speak.
But do you ever wonder whether we short-change ourselves, and neglect more of God’s blessings, when we pursue one “gifting”? After all, the Bible lists nine spiritual gifts, given at different times to His children, when needed for their benefit and His purpose. I believe he has created us all as multi-talented, potentially multi-tasking, budding “polymaths” – people of many interests, capacities, and knowledge. For our fulfillment, and His glory.
The German Enlightenment philosopher (and dramatist, and critic, and, well, polymath) Gotthold Lessing made this point about the arts – about human creativity – when he dissented from Horace’s classic prescription “as painting, so poetry.” In other words, Lessing said, every art form has its own language, structure, and standards; and should be liberated from other forms. In his day, the 18th century, this was a strange concept, and is why his book “Laocoon” was revolutionary.
Stick with me! There is a theological point, and a life application. In Lessing’s play “Emilia Galotti” he takes to another level his question about whether our creative urges and emotional investments must be focused, or may be generalized, in our lives. A painter in the play asks whether Raphael would have been as great an artist if he had lost his hands.
It is a question that is not meant to address discouragement over a handicap, or whether Rafael would have merely retired to a life as a fishmonger. The implication is that we all have the creative spark; we are all capable of sensibility and creativity; and what we have to SAY is what matters. Whether it gets expressed in art or music or poetry or literature or dance; or charity or service or individual devotion, is a mere detail. We might not be blessed with a Rafael’s singular talent for dramatic composition and depiction, or a Bach’s intuitive mastery of melody and harmony… but creative urges, the talents we possess, have similar potential. And can be just as powerful in their expression.
They are from God, after all. He gives us gifts, and expects us to use them. He gives us direction, and instructs us to follow Him. He gives us commands, and He wants us to obey them. To quote Mother Teresa, God does not need us to be successful; He wants us to be obedient.
What is our job – not only our profession – in this world? What would God have us to do? And should we restrict ourselves to just one of the many tools He offers us? The singer/songwriter Stephen Hill thought about these things. He wrote a simple song with impactful lyrics, “Will He Look At Me and Say ‘Well Done’?”
When we imagine that day, that meeting, it can make things clearer for us now. Heavenly perspective. The light burden of great opportunities. The amazing array of gifts God has spread before us.
A week before Hill died last year, he wrote on his Facebook page: “Jesus said a lot of great things. He did a lot of great things. He changed the course of history with His words and deeds. The best thing He said was to love God and everybody else. We can’t judge, and that’s hard. Loving people doesn’t mean changing them. That’s even harder. I hope He gives me a break when I see Him face to face. I also hope that He forgives the mistakes I make in my zeal. Love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness. I’ll let God change what He wants to in other people. Change me first, oh Lord.”
Be open to the MANY ways God can change you. If you don’t sing, write. If you don’t write, paint. If you don’t paint, preach. If you don’t do anything else, love. And forgive. Be creative. You are made in the image of the Creator.
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Stephen Hill was a Baptist preacher, singer, songwriter, session musician and singer; a humble servant of God whose musical talents were immense, not easily categorized. In this song he turns blues chords and all manner of minor notes into a joyful message of encouragement. He performed this in the Netherlands in 2008.