When my kids reached eighth grade, they were given the opportunity to take an aptitude test. It was supposed to evaluate their natural gifts educationally and recommend possible career paths. It was designed to help them recognize their natural abilities.
Yet natural abilities are still raw and will lay dormant unless developed. And many people live their entire lives with unrecognized gifts and untapped potential.
One of the most consistent statements I hear when I have been out ministering or speaking at a conference is, "Will you pray with me that I will know what God wants me to do." Sometimes this statement is in regards to their next season in life, but more often is because the individual has not yet been able to recognize their unique God-given talents and call for their lives.
So why is this area so hard?
As I have prayed about that over the years, I have come to the conclusion that one of the primary reasons people don't want know is that their gift hasn't been released. In order to explain what I mean by that statement, let me give you an illustration.
In 2005 a young singer named Carrie Underwood auditioned and made it as a contestant on the television program "American Idol". She passed through numerous vocal competitions escaping elimination with her incredibly beautiful and strong voice. I remember one episode in which only a handful of contestants remained. Carrie had just performed again and the typically cynical judge, Simon Cowell praised her performance. But it was his statement that was really telling, "So no one ever told you that you were good...that you had a good voice?" he questioned.
This isn't an exact quote since several years have now passed, but I remember that was the essence. He was stunned that none of her teachers or mentors (sans her parents) had encouraged her in her gift to the place that she could recognize she had a gift. It was hard to believe, but she really didn't know how much talent she possessed, because it had yet to be released. Underwood went on to win the competition. Simon's comments that night and the affirmation from the viewers of American Idol recognized, celebrated and released the gift within her. Who was Carrie Underwood? She was a singer. She finally knew it and so did everyone else.
Now it was up to her to walk it out...and she did. Since that time she has been nominated for Top Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music Awards and has walked away as the winner at least three times. Contrast that to 2005 when she wasn't even sure if she had a gift.
The power of release is set in motion when a gift is recognized, affirmed and honored. It is like a key that unlocks a box.
So who are you? Do you know? What gift is resident within you?
There are three important points I want to stress to you from this story.
1. Who are you and what is your gift?
Perhaps, like Carrie Underwood, you've never had anyone come alongside you and say, "Did you know you're good at (fill in the blank.)" Perhaps you've been waiting to step out into an area where you felt you could excel. But you've held back waiting for someone else to first recognize the gift, affirm it and release it. Yet what if that never happens? Does it make the gift within any less? Obviously the answer to that is no.
2. Recognize your gift.
Perhaps you never took an aptitude test, or if you did, you are still uncertain of the gift that lies within you. Let me give you a tip. What is within you will come to the surface, if you let it. We tend to naturally gravitate to hobbies, skills and occupations in which we have some type of ability or talent. Even if you don't yet know that the talent is there, it has a way of showing up or calling for attention.
For example, I've met individuals who have become extremely talented artists or musicians later in life once they took the time to pursue the gift.
"What made you think you had that ability?" I asked a friend one time who was in her forties when she first started to paint. Admiring the portrait she had completed, I turned toward her for her answer. "I don't know," she responded. I just felt compelled to try.
The portrait was one of the first she had ever done and it was nothing short of amazing. The gift within her was there all along. She just had to act on it and put herself in a position to develop it...even when no one else recognized it initially. And as she was willing to step out in her gift, others did soon begin to notice.
3. Recognize the gift in others.
The final point is not about your gift, but the gift within another. Are you willing to recognize and acknowledge the gift within someone else? Parents are called to do this with their children. Yet tragically it doesn't always happen if they don't take time to recognize, encourage and call out that gift. Teachers are in the same position and yet today because classes are so full and their time so pressed, they don't always get a chance to really get to know their students or take time one-on-one to encourage them in the talents they may recognize.
When a lack of encouragement exists, sometimes the child or student will close off the gift, rather than develop It for fear it won't be received or that they may fail. And that is a great tragedy.For we have the power within to impart release to others.
So what happens if no one seems to recognize your gift, call it out or affirm your talent?
Remember, even Jesus could not operate in His gift to heal in his own hometown when those around Him didn't recognize or honor the gift within Him.
"And because of their unbelief, he couldn't do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them" (Mark 6:5 New Living Translation).
It's not because the gift wasn't there. It's because it wasn't recognized or honored which hindered its ability to flow. And yet their lack of faith didn't diminish the gift, just its ability to flow out. But Jesus didn't let that stop Him. He went where He was received...and miracles happened.
So let me ask you? What is the gift within you?
Maybe as you read this you find yourself in a position in which you feel you have a gift---perhaps your writing gift---that no one else seems to recognize. Let me encourage you to go to the One who can speak to you about your gift, your future and your call. After all He's the one who created it within you. Let Him guide you to your next step of development to grow the gift. Remember, a gift undeveloped remains raw and dormant. There are steps we must take in the process. And make no mistake. If you will spend time alone with Him, He can show you what that next step is.
Next overcome fear and be willing to step out of your comfort zone to develop the gift. Carrie Underwood took a step to audition for "American Idol." She put herself out there, knowing she might fail. And she might have the first time. But her only failure at that point would have been failure to try. And that will always result in failure.
Know that you may hear discouraging words in the process of development. If climbing a mountain was easy, everyone would do it. It takes determination, guts and hard work. But it's worth the climb when you stand at the top victorious. So the question is are you willing to exert the energy and hard work to make the climb? Are you willing to discover the gift?
And while you're at it, would you willing to encourage others as they climb?
The gift within you is calling to you. Are you willing to listen it, develop it and walk in it? I pray that as you do, that God will send you someone on your journey who will be there to encourage, affirm and release that gift. However, in the meantime, it's up to you to spend time with Him to hear what He has to say, begin to develop the gift to the best of your ability and then determine when you need to step out in that gift.
It's His job to release it.