Under a Bushel

If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve probably heard the parable of the Talents, if you haven’t or are a little rusty, I’ll sum it up:

Jesus told this parable to illustrate how God views the gifts and resources He gives us. A man goes on a journey and leaves three servants in charge of his possessions. He gives one 5 talents, one 2 talents, and one 1 talent. (A talent was a sizable sum of money at the time. I think it would be like a hundred, maybe a thousand, dollars or so for us, give or take. And depending on whether it was gold or silver.) When the man comes back, the first two servants doubled their amount to 10 and 4 talents, but the last buried his in the ground. The man rewards the first two with cities to look after, and is furious with the last for wasting his talent and not even putting it in the bank to gather interest, he is thrown into the outer darkness.

The meaning of this parable is that we should use the gifts God gave us, whether they are many or few. Jesus sums it up by saying “To him who has more will be given, but to him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

There’s an idea now, not new, but with a new name, that there are people in society called “the have-nots.” I don’t want to disparage anyone who is suffering for lack of necessities…though if you are reading this, you can’t be that badly off, because electronics are expensive…Anyway, I just don’t like this term.

Even the poorest among us have gifts. It all depends on your attitude. In the classic book A Little Princess, the author observes that if you are a giver by nature, then even if your hands are empty, your heart is always full and you can give things out of that. Kindness, compassion, a smile, all of us can do that.

The most selfish people in the world have moments of kindness, usually.

I think we all feel like we’re less gifted than other people, at least, I think a lot of people feel that way, but all of us have felt that in some situations at least once.

I have a lot of gifts, but I get stuck on what I’m not good at.

For example, I am very good at mental stuff, language, and crafts. But I’ve never been a sporty person. I’m not in terrible shape, but I’m not in great shape either. I don’t have a lot of practical survival skills. I still don’t know how to cook and clean that many things, change a tire, or pay taxes (can’t wait for that one obviously. Ugh.)

I can always learn more, I plan to, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me. For whatever reason, I dwell on this. People who are good at those things often lament their lack of intellectual exercise. We all wish we could be good at everything, don’t we? Or at more things at least.

But this focus on what I can’t do has made me forget about what I can.

People don’t guess this about me though.

I have the unique experience of being told constantly that m gifts are inspiring, and beautiful, and people say they just enjoy watching me use them.

My sign language for example. I never thought it would interest that many people. I initially started doing it in public to practice, I’d sign along with worship. And it was not big deal, other than I felt like people thought it was weird.

But when I started going to my church, people kept telling me it was cool, or beautiful, and they loved watching it. I thought “But…worship’s not about me. And I’m just doing it out of habit and because moving helps me concentrate on what I’m singing.” Still, why stop?

Turns out some folks also wanted to learn it. And recently someone filmed me doing it for a class project, kind of a show-and-tell type thing, but in college they call it something more adult. I have used it in teaching my Sunday school class too, kids like hand motions to stuff.

Teaching is another gift I have. And just talking in general. (Who can relate? Be honest.) I’m aware of all this, because I got into the whole personality assessment thing some years back. And I’m glad I did because I’m more aware of my strengths now. And weaknesses. But it still surprises me when people actually appreciate it.

I’ve shared before how as a teen and a kid I got shut down for talking too much. Teachers have always loved me for paying attention, but had to rein me in so other kids would have to engage. Luckily, in college this is less of a problem. But every class I’m in I manage to establish myself as a scholar without really trying. I have to open my mouth, that’s all.

I think it’s funny, at this point. But I do feel weird too. Maybe you can relate.

I’ve realized though, that if I don’t use these gifts, it’s ungrateful. God doesn’t just give us these things and the not care if we do something with it or not. And I can use my gifts in the smallest ways and it catches people’s attention, because God shows through us. He is the source of our inspiration after all.

I’ve always caught people’s attention by being myself, and I’ve been embarrassed by that, but I realize I’m lucky it happens so easily. I know a lot of you feel invisible.

And people like me, we feel invisible in different ways. Like all anyone sees is our talents, and not our needs and our deeper feelings. Sometimes not standing out can make relationships easier to maintain.

We all have our own struggles. But I want to encourage you to just start doing what you love, and doing it more openly. When you enjoy something, people like seeing it even if they aren’t personally interested in it. It’s why geeky YouTube Channels are so popular. Passion is refreshing to see.

If you display your gifts, people will be touched, if even for a moment. And as Christians we’re admonished not to hide our light under a bushel. It hurts us, not just other people. We’re made to give something back to the world.

Until next time–Natasha.

Why do we need each other?

I stated in my last post that I don’t think people are better off alone, but I got to wondering, what is it about each other that we need?

You ever wonder that? People say “I need you” but how often do they elaborate on why?

Depends on the person. I think for most it goes along the lines of “I need love. You can love. So I need you.”

In all honesty, though, we suck at love. This is probably why relationships are so complicated. Make it out to be just that peopel are different and complicated, but with a little real love, none of that would matter. We’re just bad at love.

Yet the little bit of it we manage to provide each other is just so good, we don’t want to live without it.

Hence, we need each other.

There’s no shame in that, we are designed to need love. C. S. Lewis broke down human love in his genuis little book “The Four Loves” and pointed out that all human love is need love, because even the love we give, we need other people to want. We need to be needed.

He also goes on to wonder why God would create us, and create, in a way, a need in Himself to love us. But the nature of love is to want to multiply.

What exactly does love give us that we need?

Well, it gives us security. Relying on other people for that is risky business though. What if they stop liking us. Do you like your family 100% of the time? Do people always like you? Do you always act likable?

NO. To all three questions.

Love gives us room to grow. A second chance when we slip up.

Love gives us happiness that is all its own, not one that wec an describe. Some poeple minimize love to security and sex, but it’s more than that, we’re just not sure what to call it. It’s led many to concld elvoe is its own brand of happiness.

When we don’t feel love, or loved, we feel miserable.

I sumbnit to you though that it is worse to feel unloving then unloved. It’s somehow unnerving to feel nothing. To feel selfish all the time.

And so I conclude that we need each other, not becuase we need love, so much as we need to love.

God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. We read that and assume man was lonelhy because he needed love. BIt man had God, God who provided all the love in the world, lavished it on us, what more coudl yhou need?

But God doesn’t need us. as much as He enjoys our worship, we never feel it’s something HE must have.

And Man, mad ein God’s image, had the capacity to love someone who needed them. NOt just ot worship-love. Because God adores, but He also blesses, and man needed to bless.

Of course he had the world, but animals and plants don’t quite feel the same do they? They don’t have a higher understanding of love, so it’s not as satisfying, though still valuable to love them.

The desire to love something at our level is one God must have, being three equal persons in one, and so we have it too. Even beasts have that.

So God made woman for man. But man is designed for woman also. Because we need to love, not just be loved. And we minister something to each other that no other creature does.

It seems weird to pose the question of why we need each other, and answer it with we need to be able to love. But how often does the world get things backwards? It kind of makes sense doesn’t it?

Maybe you’ve heard the song “Hey Brother” I think in it’s own way it sums this up. The song is about being there for your family. But I like the tone it has of just enjoying helping them out.

 

 

Better Off Alone?

You know that moment when you’re reading a comment thread and you think to yourself “50% of this is talking more about the cute couples then the message.”

I’ve written about shipping recently, and defended certain kinds of ships as enhancing the story, but I didn’t really talk about the question of whether or not shipping should even exist.

I figured, it’s not like it’s going anywhere, but I’ve been seeing a few people saying they are so done with it. They are sick of all the arguing. It’s funny how seriously people take it too, I won’t argue that. Especially the most unrealistic ones.

This burn out on shipping has more, I believe, to do with a very real question, wrapped up in a lot of fictional characters: The question of whether anyone needs a significant other to be a full, functional human being.

A lot of romantic songs dwell on needing another person. Old movies are mocked for their inclusion of female leads who sing about how they need a man to be happy.

Even Disney’s Hercules, which many people like because the female lead was NOT looking for love, has a whole song devoted to making it clear she still wanted it, and denied her feelings out of fear.

I’m sure I could fine more mainstream adult movies with examples of a similar thing.

IT doesn’t matter how seemingly self-sufficient your female lead is, she’ll end up with a man 99.9% of the time.

And you know if she doesn’t, it’ll be discussed in the movie.

I could call out the serious double standard here, since it’s more common for the male lead to stay alone, especially in older movies, or to get the girl as some kind of prize.

Actually what really bothers me is how often the woman was a total idiot. Like in Crocodile Dundee, ick.

The same is true of old books, in fact, it might be more true of books than movies, which have more pressure to be “progressive.”

But the solution I see younger people falling back on, and feminists push them to do it, is to simply say “Well, a woman doesn’t need a man to be happy.” It’s usually a woman do, the man clearly needs someone to balance him out.

And hey, I won’t argue with that. But I think the portrayal of women has gotten to be a little unfair.

They tend to be shown as these top-notch, independent, brave, and above all tough and emo-like characters. I could just use kids movies, and I’ll find you that character in almost any of them. From The LEGO Movie, to Big Hero 6, to The Avengers, (in fact, every single female lead in the Avengers was basically the same character for quite a while.)

Why would a character like this need a man?

Especially when their male companion is usually goofy, clueless, and hot headed? Or a wimp.

You can feel, even if it’s never said, that the woman is just basically putting upĀ  with his nonsense because he’s cute.

Talk about a role reversal.

Now, as true as that might be to real life, is it any less true that men have to do the same thing with women?

And the girls I know, though I can’t speak for anyone else, are not anywhere near being as put together as these feminist archetypes.

The truth is, both the old way men were portrayed and the way women are portrayed now, involves a suspension of reality. They are shown as unbreakable, because society tends to worship the unbreakable, we don’t always care whether it’s a him or her, so long as the right qualities are there.

And the real situation is that the qualities I listed above are far more likely to be shared between two above average people in a relationship, then found exclusively in one of them.

And it’s because of that unrealistic portrayal that people are able to say “Well she doesn’t need a man,”

Let me speak some truth sister, (or brother), if they were shown how they really are, how you really are, you’d be more likely to wonder if they deserved a man, let alone if they needed one.

If you on your worst day is not a fate you wish to spare people, then you aren’t honest with yourself. We do stuff that drives people crazy.

However, I’m not saying we should think that we are better off alone because we suck. Other people do things that suck too. The idea of being together, is that we are better together, the sum of our good becomes our new identity.

That is actually what marriage is supposed to be, and by extension, a dating relationship should be growing toward that ideal.

Way back in Genesis 2, God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” The Bible goes on in other books to say that two are better than one, and that we need tor ely on each other.

It’s not hard to figure out, if you read the bible, that God is in favor of relationships.

So it is the height of pride to claim we do not need each other.

Not everyone is meant to get married, it’s true. But I think most people are, because we were designed for that.

We should not be voting for people, real or imaginary, to be single. Because it ignores the truth that we are not good alone. It’s deceiving ourselves to tell ourselves that.

Being alone is freaking hard, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am not alone in my house, but I still feel lonely. I’m old enough to be dating or getting married. And I’m not ashamed to admit that’s a need.

The question is of timing, not of necessity.

I would not be good alone for very long.

Anyway, I think this all goes back to humility. Letting go of our obsession with the unbreakable human being stereotype. If you are unbreakable, you’re as cold and hard as rock.

Or, you’re too soft to break. Like clay. Humility is what gets us there. And relationships are what get us humility. Unless you know another way…

Until next time–Natasha.

My sister found this hilarious song/clip about relational expectations, check it out for a good laugh at yourself: