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You are the only you God made
All the passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “Cure for the Common Life,” published in 2005.
The LORD looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men. ...
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.
Psalm 33:13, 15 (NIV)
Consider this idea for a reality television show. The goal is simple. Each contestant must journey to a certain city, find a prescribed neighborhood, and assume a particular role. Call it Find Your Place.1
The fly in the ointment? No one tells you where to go or what to do when you get there. The host identifies no city. He designates no countries. He distributes no job descriptions. All contestants must discern their destinations by virtue of one tool. Their supplies. Upon leaving the starting spot, each one is banded a bag of supplies that provide the clues to that person's destination.
The host, for example, hands one person a cowhide bag crammed with sweaters, a parka, and a soccer ball. In the side pocket, the contestant finds coins. Argentine currency. A teacher's attendance sheet from a language school. Looks like the destination and position are shaping up.
Another is given diving equipment. Oxygen tanks. Fins and goggles. Someone is going near an ocean. And what's this? A wrench? Deep-sea divers don't carry tools. Wait, here is yet another clue. A book. Diagrams of offshore drilling rigs. This person seems to be headed to a drilling platform.
Networks won't syndicate the show, you say? Too boring? Take your concern to the originator of the plot. God. He developed the story line and enlisted you as a participant.
You didn't exit the womb with your intended career tattooed on your chest. No printout of innate skills accompanied your birth. But as life progressed, you began noticing your gifts. Skills, revealed. Knacks, uncovered.
God gave those. "It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others" (Ephesians 2:10 TLS).
The cure for commonness begins with strength extraction. No one else has your skill makeup. Disregard it at your peril. An oil-rig repairman won't feel at home in an Argentine schoolroom. And if God made you to teach Argentine kids, you won't enjoy offshore derrick repair. And the kids in the class and the workers on the platform? Don't they want the right person in the right place? Indeed, they do. You do too. And, most of all, God does. You are the only you he made.
You are the only you God made
In their book Behavioral Genetics, a team of scientists declare:
Each of us has the capacity to generate 103000 eggs or sperm with unique sets of genes. If we consider 103000 possible eggs being generated by an individual woman and the same number of sperm being generated by an individual man, the likelihood of anyone else with your set of genes in the past or in the future becomes infinitesimal.2
If numbers numb you, let me simplify. God made you and broke the mold. "The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works" (Psalm 33:13-15 NIV). Every single baby is a brand-new idea from the mind of God.
Scan history for your replica; you won't find it. God tailor-made you. He "personally formed and made each one" (Isaiah 43:7 MSG). No box of "backup yous" sits in God's workshop. You aren't one of many bricks in the mason's pile or one of a dozen bolts in the mechanic's drawer. You are it! And if you aren't you, we don't get you. The world misses out.
You are heaven's Halley's comet; we have one shot at seeing you shine. You offer a gift to society that no one else brings. If you don't bring it, it won't be brought.
Consider a wacky example of this truth. I jogged through my neighborhood the other day under a cloud. Not a cloud of rain, but a cloud of self-doubt. The challenges of life seemed to outnumber the resources, and I questioned my ability. And, quite frankly, I questioned God's wisdom. Are you sure I'm the right man for this job? was the theme of my prayer.
Apparently God really wanted to give me an answer, because I heard one. From on high. From a deep, booming voice. "You're doing a good job!" I stopped dead in my Reeboks and looked up. Seeing nothing in the clouds, I shifted my attention to the roof of a house. There he waved at me---a painter dressed in white and leaning against a dormer. I waved back. And I wondered and almost asked, "How did you know I needed to hear that?"
Did I have a brush with an angel? Did I see an angel with a brush? Was the worker sun-struck? This much I know. A painter spots a middle-aged guy with a bald spot puffing through the streets and thinks, The guy could use a good word. So he gives it. "You're doing a good job!"
Am I stretching theology a bit when I suggest that God put the man there, at least in part, for me? Long before time had time, God saw each moment in time, including that one. He saw a minister in need of a word. He saw a fellow with a skill for painting and a heart for encouragement. He put one on the street and the other on the roof so the second could encourage the first. Multiply that tiny event by billions, and behold the way God sustains his world. "God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies" (Philippians 4:9 MSG).
The Unseen Conductor prompts this orchestra we call living. When gifted teachers aid struggling students and skilled managers disentangle bureaucratic knots, when dog lovers love dogs and number-crunchers zero balance the account, when you and I do the most what we do the best for the glory of God, we are "marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body" (Romans 12:5 MSG).
You play no small part, because there is no small part to be played. "All of you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT). "Separate" and "necessary." Unique and essential. No one else has been given your lines. God "shaped each person in turn" (Psalm 33:15 MSG). The Author of the human drama entrusted your part to you alone. Live your life, or it won't be lived. We need you to be you.
You need you to be you.
You can't be your hero, your parent, or your big brother. You might imitate their golf swing or hair style, but you can't be them. You can only be you. All you have to give is what you've been given to give. Concentrate on who you are and what you have. "Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life" (Galatians 6:4-5 MSG).
Before Thomas Merton followed Christ, he followed money, fame, and society. He shocked many when he exchanged it all for the life of a Trappist monk in a Kentucky monastery. Business-world colleagues speculated what he must have become. They envisioned a silenced, suffering version of their friend dutifully sludging through a life of penance. After thirteen years, a colleague, Mark van Doren, visited him and then reported back to the others: "He looked a little older; but as we sat and talked I could see no important difference in him, and once I interrupted a reminiscence of his by laughing. `Tom,' I said, `you haven't changed at all.' `Why should I?
Here,' he said, `our duty is to be more ourselves, not less.’"3
God never called you to be anyone other than you. But he does call on you to be the best you you can be. The big question is, at your best, who are you?
If you aren't you, we don't get you.
The world misses out.
A group of kids were sitting together at the movie theater when one decided to go to the concession stand. Upon reentering the theater, he couldn't find his group. He walked up and down the aisles, growing more confused with each step. Finally he stood in front of the theater and shouted, "Does anybody recognize me?"
Have you asked kindred questions? Does anyone know who I am? Where I, belong? Where I'm supposed to go?
If so, it's time to study your S.T.O.R.Y. and find out! These five questions will help you on your way.
1. What are your strengths? God gave you, not a knapsack, but a knack sack. These knacks accomplish results. Maybe you have a knack for managing multitudes of restaurant orders or envisioning solutions to personnel issues. Synonymous verbs mark your biography: "repairing," "creating," "overseeing." Perhaps you decipher things---Sanskrit or football defenses. Maybe you organize things---data or butterflies. I found my youngest daughter reorganizing her closet, again. Is this my child? I wondered. She straightens her closet more often in one month than her father has straightened his in his life! Will she someday do the same in a classroom, medical clinic, or library?
Strengths---you employ them often with seemingly little effort. An interior decorator told me this about her work: "It's not that hard. I walk into a room and begin to see what it needs."
"Not all of us see it," I told her. I can't even decorate my bed. But she can redecorate a garbage dump. Bingo! Knowing her strength led her to her sweet spot. And people pay her to live there! "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well" (Romans 12:6 NLT).
What certain things come to you so easily that you genuinely wonder why others can't do them? Doesn't everyone know the periodic table of elements? Nooooo, they don't. But the fact that you do says much about your strength (not to mention your IQ). It also says something about your topic.
2. What is your topic? Once you know your verbs, look for your nouns. What objects do you enjoy working with? Animals? Statistics? People? Your topic can be as abstract as an idea or as concrete as fruit. Arthur Miller Jr. has a friend fascinated by fruit. "Henry," he writes, "not only knows his products, he's downright passionate about them." Miller continues:
He starts his day in the middle of the night at the wholesale market, buying only high-priced, very good quality produce. He will not buy the ordinary. It is why people come from long distances, and sometimes in chauffeured cars, to tap Henry's passion. His wife says he is a "maniac” about his work. I'll visit Henry to buy a couple of melons, and lightly squeezing a couple of dandies ask, "Are these ripe?" "Not yet!" Henry declares. "Gotta wait until tomorrow." Then he adds, mischievously, "About three o'clock!"
I think he's only half kidding. I think ... he really does know almost the exact instant when a piece of fruit becomes perfectly ripe! ...
Imagine if everyone could find the same intensity as ... Henry Balsamo.4
God implants such passion. Listen to the way he described the builder Bezalel "I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, intelligence, and skill in all kinds of crafts. He is able to create beautiful objects from gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in cutting and setting gemstones and in carving wood. Yes, he is a master at every craft!" (Exodus 31:3-5 NLT).
That's God speaking! Can you hear the pleasure in his voice? He sounds like a grandpa flipping photos out of his wallet. "I have filled him ... He is able ... He is skilled ... Yes, he is a master." When you do the most what you do the best, you pop the pride buttons on the vest of God.
What fascination did he give you? What makes your pulse race and your eyebrow arch?
3. What are your optimal conditions? What factors trigger your motivation? Some people love to respond to a need. Others are motivated by problems. A competent bookkeeper likely thrives under predictable routine. The firefighter relishes a day packed with different surprises.
So does Dennis McDonald. For a time he served as the business director of our church. He did a fine job. As an elder, however, he often visited the sick. I noticed a distinct difference in enthusiasm when Dennis described his hospital work and his office work. In the office, Dennis soldiered on. He did a fine job managing the routine, but send him to the bedside of the sick, and hear his tone elevate. His optimal setting is crisis, so it made sense to move him from administrator to full-time hospital pastor. A 9-1-1 situation starts his engine.
God never called you to be anyone other than you.
What starts yours? Building or maintaining? Clearly defined structure or open-ended possibilities? Assembly-line assignments or boundaryless opportunities?
What are your optimal conditions? And ...
4. What about relationships? Think back over your moments of satisfaction and success. On those days, how were you relating to people?
Some seek out a team, a club, a society. When it comes to yard work, they want the whole family to be outside. Some people are stimulated by groups.
Others function better alone. They pass on the community softball teams or bowling leagues. They prefer to hike or fly-fish or play golf. It's not that they don't like people but more that they don't need people to achieve their assignment.
Still others enjoy a group, but they have to lead the group. In fact, they can't not lead the group. They may come across as pushy or domineering, but they don't mean to. They just see what others will see but don't see yet.
You play no small part,
because there is no small part to be played.
Know your ideal relationship pattern. If you like to energize others but your job plops you in front of a computer screen, your days will pass with ice-floe speed. Diagnose your relationship style, and, one final element, determine your payday. What makes you say ...
5. Yes! In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell defended his devotion to running by telling his sister, "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure." When do you feel God's pleasure? When do you look up into the heavens and say, "I was made to do this"? When do your Strengths, Topic, Optimal conditions, and Relationship pattern converge in such a fashion that you say, "Yes!"? When they do, you are living out your S.T.O.R.Y.
Incarnate yours. Accept God's permission to be whom he made you to be. A frog can flap its little legs and never fly. Some of you have been flapping a long time---too long. Your heroes are birds; your mentors are birds. You think you should fly and feel guilty that you can't. Enough of this bird-brained thinking. Be a frog! It's okay to jump. You have some studdish thighs beneath you, so get hopping.
Do you know who you are? Take a few moments to get acquainted with the S.T.O.R.Y. assessment tool at the back of the book, beginning on page 143. People Management International Inc. developed this process to explore a person's unique giftedness and has successfully used it to guide tens of thousands of people into the right careers. The time you spend quarrying your God-granted skills is well used.
Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey host the wildly popular Rick and Bubba Show, a drive-time radio broadcast that originates in Birmingham, Alabama. Animators once made a cartoon out of the two characters and invited Rick and Bubba to provide the voices. Rick was the voice of Rick, and Bubba, the voice of Bubba. Bubba, however, couldn't seem to please his producer. He suggested that Bubba change inflections, volume, and other details. Bubba grew understandably impatient. After all, he was voicing himself. He turned to the producer and objected, "If I am me, how can I mess me up?”5
Great point. When it comes to being you, you were made for the part. So speak your lines with confidence. [31-39]
1. Here is the theme song:
Come join the RA-AACE
To find your PLA-RACE.
Your bag has CIU-UES,
Packed just for YOU-0US ... guys.
Okay-theme songs aren't my sweet spot.
2. Robert Plomin, J. C. DeFries, and G. E. McClearn, Behavioral Genetics: A Primer (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1990), 314, quoted in James Hillman, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling (New York: Random House, 1996), 137.
3. Monica Furlong, Merton: A Biography (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1980), 225.
4. Arthur F. Miller jr. with William Hendricks, The Power of Uniqueness: How to Become Who You Really Are (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 55.
5. My thanks to Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey of the Rick and Bubba Show from Birmingham, Alabama, for granting permission to use this story.
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