Gifts aren’t always easy. (not the wrapped kind, the talent kind).
My husband and I have an ongoing discussion. He is an avid drummer, he would play four hours a day if he could but he didn’t even start lessons until he was 17. I started piano lessons age 7, I play whenever the children let me (not often) and that’s okay with me. I refuse to try to compose because I hate sounding musically trite. He composes all the time. I can play just about anything if I practice, or I could at one time, and my teachers all used to pester me about music school. I never felt driven to pursue it – I knew I could play better than most people my age, but it wasn’t a passion. Just a talent. I have others that I was more compelled to develop. My husband continues to hone his skills, and because he can’t stand to rely on other people for the other instrumentation, he’s also taught himself piano, bass and guitar. That’s something more than talent – it borders on obession, if he didn’t have family and a day job. But if I earned enough to pay the bills by myself, I think he might consider it as a day job.
This is the difference between talent (something you are naturally good at, without a lot of work, probably better than many others even if they work and you don’t) versus a gift (something you can’t “not” do).
Gifts aren’t always the performing kind, like some people have the gift of hospitality and their house is always a wonderful place to be. Some people are gifted with business acumen, or at sports.
Some gifts – the spiritual kind – come with real responsibility attached, so they aren’t always easy. I have a friend who is discerning. If you’re not Christian, the natural reaction to hearing this would be, and? But what it means isn’t just that she is wise, sometimes amazingly so, but that she can “read” people with an uncanniness that borders on unsettling. She knows when something is wrong at my house before I call her. Knows, doesn’t sense, think or feel. She can “read” what some one is thinking – about her, for example. Fake smiles and cheery voices doesn’t work on her, she can tell if the other person is upset or, even worse, doesn’t like or want to talk to her. That would be a hard gift. She has tremendous grace with it. I can’t think of anyone who impresses me more.
Her husband is the most patient, generous and long-suffering person I know. THAT is a gift I would struggle with mightily. The ability to tolerate pain (stupidity in others without strangling them, for example), in large quantities, over a long period of time. Wow. I hope he has a HUGE mansion in heaven for all of that. I am not long-suffering, unfortunately I am more likely to be long-bitching. That’s not a gift I need to develop. I’m working on the reverse (the ability to show grace and love to those I’d rather strangle).
The other hard part about a gift at least for instant gratification people like I’m prone to be – they can take decades to develop, or decades to emerge. I could NEVER sing in high school when I’d have liked the cute lead part in the musical. Ohhh no. But now? In church? Sure! Just when I was old enough not to care or get especially prideful, NOW I can hit the Phantom high notes or sing with Cosette. Had I been able to sing like that in high school, I’d probably have become unsufferably vain. Which is probably why I didn’t have the ability then. Or I’d have wasted my other gifts by chasing something stupid for me like Broadway. Which in my case, would have led not only to incurable vanity but probably actor liaisons, anorexia and seriously bad choices. The lack of early gifting was definitely a blessing in disguise.
Now I’m just plagued by a worry that I’m not sufficiently discerning to recognize what I’m supposed to be doing all the time. I am driven to distraction to write (do I have time? Not so much, but I think this is going to change in the future). People talk to me, even if I don’t know them (that has to be a God thing because I live in NY and no one here does that. Except to me). And, I see things.
Not in a creepy Sixth Sense kind of a way, although that is probably what a secular person would call it. In the South we call it fey, and apparently I’ve always been that way. Like my friend’s discernment, sometimes it borders on “ESP” (what a load of tripe). But it isn’t. You sometimes hear Christians calling it the third eye – although I associate that more with one’s spiritual vision and the reason things like the Swimsuit Issue that showed up this week bother us VERY MUCH.
It used to be dreams, and it used to be people I knew. That’s a good starter kit because God knows we humans freak out easily. Phone calls from dead grandparents are strange, but they’re strange in a familiar way. I was tiny the first time I showed this peculiar gift, apparently, asking a neighbor about snakes when her husband had killed their first ever about five minutes before I arrived with my mommy.
As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable and more trusting and more…receptive…the sense has grown, and I’m thankful, even grateful, even excited about what I’m allowed to see. Sometimes it’s a glimpse of heaven, like once I saw the minute after the crucifixion. Jesus gave up his spirit (I didn’t see that part) – I saw angels, holding their breath, waiting and then, suddenly the most beautiful cheering I’ve ever heard and such stomping, dancing, excitement. Wow. I came up to the knee of the one standing near me. I don’t get the sense that time means much in Heaven, because that was a long time ago.
Then another time – in a dream – Jesus came to talk to me and I was hysterically upset. “I haven’t built you any cathedrals, I haven’t done anything, I need to do so much more…” I couldn’t stop crying as he sat by me. But he just smiled and said you are raising children who love me, and that is cathedral enough. How to make a struggling, busy stressed mommy feel a million times better about everything, just like that. Our God is kind and he loves us so much. He knew exactly what I needed to hear.
The last dream I had was hard. I don’t remember what I was doing. Then, suddenly I felt a whoosh like I was caught in a hurricane only it was faster than anything I’ve felt. I looked at the angel beside me and said, my children! He nodded and said, don’t worry, they’re here too. (Why I wasn’t concerned about my husband I don’t know but I was concerned about my small people!). So then my human brain caught up and I realized…this is the rapture and I’m seeing a tiny piece of it.
Methodists don’t really talk about rapture or tribulation or anything after about Acts, usually. I grew up Methodist. Our bishop has touched on end times only rarely. I have studied Revelation, but I don’t pretend to understand all of it. Or even much of it. But I know what rapture is all about, and I know that’s what I saw. And felt. I was rushing up through blue and white and the wind and the air and it was wonderful and the sense of joy I felt – oh my goodness, I don’t have to go through all that awful AntiChrist stuff and NEITHER DO MY BABIES, was amazing. The angel looked at me, and smiled, and then I woke up. What was that all about, God?
I have no idea.
I’m not one of those Christians who dwells on end times thinking. I figure there’s not a lot I can do about it besides make sure myself and my own are ready, if it is in our lifetime. I see the signs like everyone, but with so much of my life – I know I can’t worry about this one either. My God has taken over a lot of things that would usually cause me stress, and this has to be one of them. But wow. If it isn’t now – what an incredible privilige to see just the tiniest piece of it. Already, but not yet – like the vision in Daniel when Christ ascended – already but not yet. I don’t think time means a whole lot in heaven.
It seems like all times are “now”.
The drawbacks to a gift like this are obvious: if I ever walked up to a non-Christian and said, oh I had a great chat with Jesus in my room once, they’d put me right into that “crazy Bible beater Southern” bucket right away. But on the other hand, I’ve always been a little crazy for a belle, haven’t I?
The thing is, a gift is just that – a gift – meant to be used, enjoyed, and shared with others. God grant me the grace and discernment to do that.