I Can, But I Can’t (Contentment #1)
Paul declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I’m sure you know it by heart.
While having a can-do attitude is certainly vital in a can’t-do world, if it is not coupled with an awareness of our God-allowed limitations, it is a sure recipe for disappointment. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). And anyone acquainted with it, knows how toxic the stuff is.
There are many things I can’t do … no matter how much faith I have.
For one, I cannot fly – no matter how hard I flap my arms. “Come on, don’t be silly …”
Okay, okay … some real world issues then.
I Can, But I Can’t
I cannot be an evangelist despite my youthful desire to emulate an evangelist who God used to inspire my life. Even though I know I have a gift to teach, I cannot be a Bob Mumford (even if I parrot all his messages).
And if you’re sick in hospitable and need comfort, don’t call me! I score -0.00 on any scale when it comes to having a gift of mercy. And when it comes to that expression of this gift that is able to translate God’s compassion into acts of comfort for the sick or traumatised, my score is in the dark red.
I admire those who can; in fact, I’m inspired by their ability to do so. But I’ve been known to stand in the odd bed-pan, get entangled in a drip or two, and when I say, “So … uhhh … how are you?” the obvious grimace on the one I’m trying to comfort speaks louder than the words: “Duh! What do you think, me being in hospital and all? Get off the bed; you’re sitting on my crocked leg!”
Hey, if my friend is admitted to hospital, I’ll be there – even though I may add to his woes. But this is not something that I’m going to be good at … ever. It’s not something that I’m ever going to ace with an air of grace.
In fact, there are many, many good things I cannot do or be. But here is the point, I’m not supposed to.
In my opinion, too much gift-projection occurs in our world (whether this is in the business, church ministry, political or sports arena) which results in grave stereotyping and the inevitable fallout of chronic disappointment that we’re looking at in this article – and the trio of articles under this theme.
What do I mean by gift-projection?
We type-cast what it means to be a successful “whatever” (business person, church leader … anything) – failing to realise that their success is in large part due to their unique gift-mix – and then we project this image of success onto others who don’t have their gift-set (despite that they may, in fact, work just as hard). We expect them to attain the same success even though they are wired very differently. As a famous little parable put it; it’s like to expecting a duck to climb trees and a squirrel to tread water.
Books are written and seminars are delivered in the name of “Because I did it, so can you!” and while “profits” – financial and otherwise – are made by the “successful” guru (which makes each successive book and seminar even more ‘untouchable’), disappointment for most is off the charts. Ironically, we then pay good money to deepen our sense of despair.
God had given each of us gifts and strengths. The God who gave the duck and squirrel the “equipment” to be what they are has given you the “equipment” you need to be you.
However, along with this God-given “toolbox” come God-allowed limitations. In fact, Paul’s teachings in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 speaks as much into our limitations as about our gifts.
Both these passages are often used today to encourage believers to find their gifts. While this is certainly valid, it seems to me that Paul’s emphasis was different. He focused on the metaphor of the “body” and the importance of its “parts” (“members”) finding meaning within the “whole”. That is, while we ought to certainly accept the gifts God has given us, the point is to learn to appreciate others and the gifts they have – recognising what we don’t have and acknowledging our interdependence on others.
Through a healthy understanding of who I am and who I’m not – strengthened by a spiritual community who are committed to me in love for excellence – there are many, many things I know I cannot do.