June 6, 2014

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Even when there’s no fanfare, God is at work in us

Patti LambThe end of the school year came last week, and along with it came the annual talent show, a tradition at my children’s school. My daughter, Margaret, a kindergartener, particularly lamented the fact that she had no talent of note to share with her peers.

She gave a lengthy discourse about all the things she cannot do. She cannot play the piano. She cannot do magic tricks. Oh! And she cannot juggle. That last one particularly irked her.

She suggested several audition acts, one of which involved wearing a superhero cape and demonstrating how she could wield a fly swatter. A few weeks ago, I literally applauded in the kitchen when she exhibited her ninja-like skills and finally got a pesky housefly we’d been after all day long.

I tried to explain to Margaret how we all tend to look to the world for validation. But if we continually turn to the world for acceptance and praise, we’ll be repeatedly disappointed.

Her older brother, Henry, overheard our conversation and piped up with some 9-year-old wisdom of his own. Henry asked Margaret if she remembered what their Aunt Dolores said to him when the kids paid her a visit at the retirement home.

Margaret couldn’t remember.

“She said that I give her the best hugs,” Henry said.

“Now I can’t stand up on the stage at the talent show and hug Aunt Dolores because probably no one would clap,” he continued, “but being a good hugger is a talent that God gave me, and just because no one claps doesn’t mean it’s not a good talent.”

Margaret just frowned and left the room, but I silently cheered inside. I was delighted that my son recognized that not all talents can be showcased on the stage.

Not all of us are called to be accomplished musicians or exceptional athletes. And not all of us will be brilliant mathematicians or have voices like angels. Some people will be blessed with such gifts, and their talents should certainly be celebrated. God is at work in them. But God is at work in the rest of us, too, even when there’s no fanfare.

There’s a Bible verse in First Kings where the Lord tells Elijah to stand on a mountain so that the Lord can make himself known to Elijah. A fierce wind came through which shattered rocks, but the wind wasn’t God. “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kgs 19:12).

God doesn’t always come with blaring trumpets of a big band or elaborate pageantry of a parade. He often works in ways no one would even notice. Sometimes God comes in such subtle ways that we don’t recognize him. Why would he expect something different from us?

I don’t think we have to have to paint a masterpiece or compose a symphony to impress God.

Take heart, Margaret. Like Henry said, God is happy when we utilize gifts and talents that don’t necessarily take center stage. God smiles whenever we do anything to make his love made known, even if that’s just playing with the new kid at recess. That’s a talent show.

When dispensing talents, God blessed some with terrific athletic or academic strengths. To others, he gave musical and artistic strengths. And to some, he gave strengths of the heart.

And though the world doesn’t cheer when people act on those strengths to show love and charity to others, God does.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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