Everyone has a gift they’ve been given in life. The ability to sing, cook, make people feel better, patience, kindness, the ability to understand science and to innovate and further the human race.
Me? I’ve always felt that my gift was storytelling. The ability to pull someone in and give them a hard dose of truth wrapped in an enchanting, at least I hope so, tale full of adventure and intrigue. But I don’t think I’ve been using that gift to its fullest. Not just because I barely ever post anything for you, but because even in my writing when I manage to get through the depression and the anxiety to sit down and pound out a few words here and there I don’t really use my ability to its fullest. I don’t share it with people.
The worst part? I teach first graders every Sunday. I have a mostly willing and, quite literally, captive audience once every week that I don’t use my gift on. I follow a curriculum, I try to entertain them, but I don’t tell them stories. I don’t really teach them. I’m honestly more of a Sunday School Supervisor than a Sunday School Teacher and that bothers me. It’s an itch I try to ignore and just do what I’m told by teaching what’s given to me on a preplanned sheet and program, but I feel like I’m doing a disservice to the audiences I have by not telling them stories, by not showing them what it is to be a living breathing human being made by God, by not using the gift that I believe God gave me.
This month, November, is a big month for me. It’s NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. and this year, I started 4 days late, now I’m 4, almost 5, days ahead of the curve. I’ve been surrounding myself in story. I’ve been working really hard to write this story, to get it going and next year I plan on releasing it, starting in January as far as I know and I’ve been really excited about it, but this morning I’ve been focusing on my lesson for today and I had a talk with my Gramma and… I’m just so annoyed with myself right now.
Today’s story is in Luke about the friends whose faith was so great that they took a roof off of a house so they could lower their paralyzed friend down to see Jesus. But the lesson plan I was given? It doesn’t talk about faith, it talks about cooperation. Everything this month is about cooperation. Which – NOT a bad thing – is just so frustrating. As an English major I was trained to get at the heart of a story, to find the meat of it, the meaning behind it, and cooperation is not the heart of this story, it’s not the theme, it’s barely even a subplot. I’m starting to feel like these kids are being cheated of the real lesson. I feel like they’re being taught to just be little cogs in the machine we call a church.
We’re teaching good behavior principles, we’re teaching them how to do good works, but we aren’t teaching them faith. We aren’t teaching them why they do good works.
Faith without good works is like the body without a soul, but good works without faith are just as empty. You shouldn’t do things just because you’re taught that it’s what you do. You should do things because there is a driving force in your life telling you to do it, a motivating reason beyond it’s what you’re programed to do. We’re humans, not robots. If God wanted good little robots he never would have given us free will. He never would have let Adam and Eve eat the fruit and get kicked out of the garden. But we’re teaching these kids how to act, how to look like Christians on the outside without teaching them what they really need to know on the inside.
The outside can look as pretty and perfect as you please, but if the inside doesn’t match, if they don’t have the faith and understanding to think for themselves they’ll never really know why they’re doing it. Doing things without real faith is probably worse, at least in my opinion, than having faith but not doing anything with it. because when you do things that you’re “supposed to” you can end up tricking yourself into believing that you have faith, that you have salvation, when you don’t really believe it in your heart anymore than you believe it with your mind.
We’re working backwards. We’re trusting that good behavior will bring faith, not that faith will bring good behavior.
Every time I sit down to work on my novel this month, I’ve been doing it while fighting depression, anxiety, and self-doubt. But I sit down anyway I tell myself that I have to believe in this story. It helps I have a pretty awesome cheerleader in my NaNo region who’s been checking up on me every night to make sure I’ve been writing, and if I can’t really write he’s been letting me know that it’s okay, he thinks I can do it, and that I’ve been doing great so far. If anything I’ve sat down to write with at least the faith that he will be asking me later in the day if I’ve done anything and I don’t want to disappoint him.
Kind of like how I know, I have faith, that one day I’m going to meet God and He’s going to ask me if I used the gifts He gave me. He’s going to ask me if I told stories and I don’t want to disappoint Him anymore than I don’t want to disappoint my NaNo cheerleader. In fact I’d say the willingness to disappoint Him is less than the willingness to disappoint my NaNo cheerleader. Of the two, only one of them will know when I’m lying. (Not that I’d lie to my NaNo cheerleader…. I respect him too much.)
So… I guess what I’m trying to say here is…
I’ve misused my gift. I haven’t been teaching these kids to think for themselves, to have faith before works. No one should believe something just because they’re told to. They should believe it because they are so compelled by faith that they have no choice but to believe it and to act on it. What’s worse is that I’ve become no better, just a cog in the machine doing what I’m told and not what I want to do, not what I’m compelled to do, what I need to do. (Can you tell it’s NaNo and I’ve been working towards word count goals instead of being short and to the point… or is this normally me?) I haven’t exercised my gift of free will any more than I’ve exercised my story telling gifts…
And for that I am sorry.
But, now that I know what I’m doing wrong. I have an opportunity to fix it. I have a chance to make things better, to change the world for the better and to teach these kids, at least for the short while I have them, that they can think for themselves, that God made them with free will and that faith doesn’t come from good works, good works come from faith.