A Letter on Giftedness

Meditations, for a Sunday
April 15, 2010
How Do I Belong To You?
April 23, 2010

My very dear friends,

I hope and pray that things are well for you, both as you wish them to be, and as they are so accorded by God. On this I rest my confidence and from this I gather my strength. In peace, be well.

Paul has written you many times and I dare not repeat what he has said, lest I seem a false prophet among disciples. Even so, there is much to be said where Paul’s attention did not go, namely, the way in which you are to live out the gifts given to you by God.

It has been said by him, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” Therefore, it is true each has gifts, these being unique to each, these being employed with the help of the Spirit by each.

But I counsel you now what Paul has forgotten: The craftsman, though wise and experienced, can, too fall victim to too much knowledge and skill. For if a carpenter spends hours stressing over the curvature of a single leg of a single table, he has lost the beauty of the entire table—the purpose being to hold deftly and with grace those things worthy of the table on which they sit. But if technical skill becomes obsession, where is the beauty? Where has the whole gone? So it is if we value one gift more highly than others, if we give it more attention, then we defer always to the hand while the other limbs atrophy. Where is the body then? How functions the whole without the balance of its parts?

I impress upon you further that it is not only in the sea of gifts that we must be aware of this imbalance, but also in the employment of a single gift. For if a composer has composed countless works of music much to the delight of all around him, and in his later years, he seeks out perfection and therefore ruins the beautiful creativity of his work with technical obsessions, what master of composition is he? I tell you, even now, that the one who knows nothing about composition but is able to love music and all its inherent passions would sooner compose a song of beauty than the skilled master. Those who have ears, let them hear.

Do you not see why obsession is the end of beauty? For we seek to control too much, we desire perfection too greatly to contribute to the glory of what we affect. How is that not a competition with God? If the grace and gift were at first God’s, is not the creation? But if we continue our designs, making what is not ours ours by force of will and mind, it will alway destroy the product. Music will cease to be music; an elegant table will serve no end but to hold what is laid upon it. It is nothing at all to be admired.

Take, therefore, what is gifted to you and employ it with gentleness and levity of heart. Give it the touch of God, not the touch of self, and you will find there manifested a wondrous example of divinity at your own hands. Why would we push the right hand of God away, and use only our own? Even when he has chosen our hand to be His?

So I commend to you your continued good work in the name of all that you believe. Do not live out your gifts so that they may serve you, but that they may serve God whose hand is in all that you accomplish for the greater good. Truly, I believe that you were born to this world for good deeds, and I am humbled to have known but some of what you have achieved.

In peace, as always, I remain your steadfast brother and friend. May nothing in this world ever come between us.


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