A couple of weeks ago or so, an online friend of mine who shares an interest for reading and personality theory suggested I read a book called, Now, Discover Your Strengths, about which a review will be forthcoming. Nonetheless, in reading the section on the core “talents” people have, I thought about which of those are present in large amounts within my own life and how the turbulent events of the last year have brought those out in very satisfying ways. Rather than a book review, therefore, this particular note is about the influence of a prolonged crisis on the recognition, honing, and development of one’s own personal skills. It is that which I wish to talk about today.
Everyone has their own unique suite of talents, their own normal channels of thinking and behaving that God has given them and that they are to develop throughout the course of a godly life. We are not given all of these talents, but our particular collection of particular skills and abilities and proclivities gives us an idea of what function and to what purpose God has placed us as He has seen fit for His purposes. While we all have weaknesses, it is vastly more important for us to hone our strengths so that we can be the most profitable servants of God that we can be during the time that God has placed us here.
In April of 2010, a crisis within my particular church, the United Church of God, became a matter of public scandal as men previously thought honorable and respectable spent months making false accusations, reviling their employers, insulting godly members, attacking and ridiculing just and proper standards of behavior, and in general behaving as corrupt and ungovernable brats. During these months of crisis, I felt it my personal responsibility to challenge and confront these false accusations and the people (sometimes with masked false identities) behind them. I felt compelled to place these events within a historical context that showed how long the roots of the crisis had been present, if unrecognized among us, and to put widely disparate events and situations within a pattern in which all of the puzzle pieces made sense. I felt compelled to stand up and be recognized as a defender of the faith behind whom others could rally, realizing that evildoers would not be allowed to operate without refutation so long as I stood up to confront them openly and often. I felt compelled to provide a vision of where we needed to go as a church culture, to provide some sort of tangible goal to achieve. I felt compelled to find out as much information as possible about different people and their involvement to have useful information to make sense of all the madness that was around. I felt compelled to present and defend an eternally applicable and external standard of fair and just behavior for all, myself included, to be held accountable under.
The events of the past year have been painful to me personally, as I have seen longtime friends, people I have known well, succumb to bitterness, envy, personal ambition, and the corrosive attitude of rebellion. But while it has grieved me greatly to see such unrighteousness in public without any reflection, repentance, or apology for malicious attacks made against me personally and against others whom I deeply care about, it has not been without purpose or relevance. It is this sense of purpose and the passionate desire to restore things to their proper state, that has given hope and comfort even when facing all kinds of bitter public libels and slanders from the mouths and keyboards of the wicked over this past year. Thanks be to God for that.
In looking at my own experiences over the past year I see a few of the “strengths” appear over and over again in my conversation and conduct:
- Achiever: a constant push to do more
- Analytical: the demand for proof and evidence, the exposing of wishful and clumsy and inconsistent thinking.
- Belief: the search for meaning and the strength and consistency of core values.
- Command: the willingness to confront evil and face up to life’s unpleasantries and take a firm and public stance.
- Communication: the love of speaking, writing, and describing.
- Connectedness: the understanding of the interrelation and connection of seemingly disparate happenings and situations into the workings of divine providence.
- Context: the examination of the history of the past to explain the structure and origin of what is going on in the present.
- Fairness: the hostility to unfair treatment and the enforcement of a just and equitable standard of behavior for all.
- Futuristic: the expression and description of a compelling vision for cultural change and a better way to live and be.
- Input: the collection of information and facts from a variety of different sources to be put together when it proves valuable.
- Responsibility: the personal ownership of my emotional and personal commitments and the focus on dependability and reliability in the face of sometimes extreme pressures.
- Restorative: the goal to solve problems and rebuild broken people and institutions and help them recover their vitality and wholeness.
- Significance: the drive to be publicly recognized and to be an independent spirit.
There are others too, though perhaps not to the same extent, that resonate with me, and this is a lot more than the usual five, but then again I have always been someone pulled in a lot of different directions who had to fight to hold everything together, and this particular suite of strengths is fitting to describe a fiercely combative person who nonetheless wants to know all the facts and be able to connect all the dots and see where everything began, to understand what went wrong so that those wounded by the evil deeds of false shepherds and wolves could be healed and restored and so that a better future may be reached than would be possible with the presence of the wicked and unjust men among us who fall short of the standard of God but consider themselves to be their own standard.
While I would have preferred to have had a less painful way of finding out my strengths and personal inclinations, it is good to know what one is driven to do so that one’s purpose could be fulfilled even in ferocious intellectual combat for a prolonged period. Hopefully those skills learned in spiritual warfare can be developed even further, and less painfully, in making a fair and just peace that restores what was lost and that leads to a brighter future. It is my hope that others as well may have learned profitably from these times about themselves about the reasons why God has placed them where He did, so that they may achieve what God has set for them to do in this life. Let no opportunity be wasted, and let no suffering be without purpose or without ultimate benefit.