For the past several years, shows like "America's Got Talent," "American Idol," and "The Voice" have become part of our national reality. We refer to them as "reality shows"...but the truth is...they are vehicles to showcase talent. Now, bear in mind that the word "talent" is one of those words like "beauty" and "intelligence" that is seriously subject to interpretation. But sometimes it just is what it is...pure, unadulterated, passionate talent.
I am a believer that every person drawing breath has a unique gift that is for the benefit of us all. It is God given and is usually nurtured by Him so that it is present at the exact moment that He wants to employ it. I also believe that we have tendencies toward certain talents and are attracted to hobbies and interests that we develop over our lives. I don't want to split hairs here...because I do believe that everything comes to us from God...but I will say that sometimes He gives us a little room to explore something on our own so that it turns into a "dream" or "goal" or we learn from totally failing at it over time. Our "gift" or "gifts" are something that flows out of us naturally...like being able to spell, sing, notice details, or play the piano by ear. But our talents are something that we tend to develop over time...and we learn something about ourselves in the process.
I watched the Olympics several weeks ago and it was talent on parade. But it wasn't just a natural bent that brought these athletes to this competition. It was the hard work, sacrifice, coaching, determination and love of the sport that got them here. Or the government told them that they were going to compete, perhaps, but let's assume that they had to show some aptitude to at least be considered. I think of the things that people said "no" to so that they could continue to get just a little bit better day after day, month after month...year after year.
That level of discipline is something that I could really use right now. I have been struggling so much with being undisciplined in a couple areas of my life. I suppose that this is pretty universal...but when I see someone overcoming the natural tendency to just quit doing something because it is too difficult...it makes me smile.
For the past several years, I have struggled with my weight. For the longest time, I was able to justify this because I truly was extraordinarily busy and honestly felt that investing in my children and in my career were more important than taking care of me. Now that I have an uphill battle to fight...some days it just seems easier to just not worry about it.
My theory on freedom is this...you have the freedom to do whatever you want...but for that freedom, you'll have to pay for that freedom with either discipline or pain. I mean...I can choose to eat whatever I want...but I can't wear what I want or do some things that I want because I am not in shape. Other people are in shape...but they cannot eat everything that they want. It is a tradeoff.
Life is full of tradeoffs.
In America, we often hear that we can do anything that we want to do. And that is somewhat true. If we have the opportunity to learn, the capacity to do something, and the good fortune to have all of the pieces fall into place...we might realize our dreams. In other words...there is no limit to what we can do from a freedom perspective...if we discipline ourselves, learn, have natural ability, perseverance, help, a little luck, or are fulfilling our God's will for our lives. But the truth is...at my age...I can't go back and be a prima ballerina. I will not have any more children...unless our children marry. My time for doing certain things has passed...while other things have been laid wide open. That is the nature of growing up and growing older, I suppose.
What I mean, though, is that I am free to eat what I want...and in exchange for that freedom...I am giving up so much. I don't like the way I look...so I won't be photographed. I have given up most items of clothing and some activities. So, I'm free to eat what I want...but I am a prisoner of the consequences of those decisions.
I think that part of the reason folks have with the Bible is that they believe that it is a book of "thou shall nots" rather than a guidebook for intelligent living. It teaches that discipline is freedom...not indulgence. It teaches that staying within the boundaries frees the conscience and fuels potential. That saying "no" to sin means that we are more trustworthy to do bigger things for God.
That is what I am struggling with right now...and I know I'm not the first to wrestle with God. I want things to be easy, favored, and meaningful...and what He wants me to do is sacrifice, be disciplined, and be grateful for what I have. I fail at this daily.
But he hasn't given up on me yet. I know that because I'm still drawing breath.
I realize that there are people who don't struggle with an addiction to food or anything else, who have a kind and loving nature, who have found something that they are excellent at and they use it to serve the Lord, and who face every day with expectancy. They have kept their reputations pure and their hearts free from some of what easily ensnares the rest of us. Where I used to be envious of people who had the outward trappings of success like a nice house, car, or job...I am now far more impressed with people who have the inward trappings of a life well lived.
It is my desire to live like that as well. I'm fairly certain it is God's will for my life, too.
Every decision that we make has consequences. Sometimes it is an equal choice...such as going to this college or that one or living in this city or that one. But often, it is those tiny choices...that seem so inconsequential at the time, that turn into the fabric of our lives. And sometimes we look over our shoulder and take a peek at the tapestry we've woven and desperately want to add more color, more interest, or more quality. Sometimes we may even want to rip it off and start all over as a new creature in Christ. We can do that, you know...in His power.
When I look at my life, I am genuinely amazed at how gracious God has been to me. How the love of friends and family has carried me through the times when I was not only unlovable...but unreasonable as well. Even though I don't have the metabolism I would like...and I have not had things work out the way that I would like much of the time...I realize that I am free to choose all over again tomorrow.
To choose to be more disciplined so that I can have more freedom. A radical thought...but then again...so like Him. Like an athlete preparing to run the race set out for him, or a singer to showcase her skills...I have to do the difficult work to be all that God created me to be. And that starts tomorrow.
One day at a time...