I have a few crisp memories of my grandparents on my mother’s side. One of them is a replaying, over-a-decade-old mental video of Grandpa trying to walk up the down escalator, when he realized that Grandma, my sister, and I had—like girls do—changed our mind at the last minute and decided to stay on the upper floor of the mall.
“John!” Grandma ‘yelled’ in her loudest inside voice, which was no louder than my quiet inside voice (which is actually probably louder). “Come back!”
Grandpa saw us at the top of the escalator, and thought he’d attempt the climb.
He made it up a couple of downward escalating stairs before he realized he was pretty much staying in the same spot on the escalator.
Frowning adorably at his defeat, he turned around and let the escalator take him down to the bottom floor, where he turned around and began the upward ascent toward his wife and little laughing granddaughters.
(If you are familiar with my writing, I seem to mention stairs a lot. I guess stairs are always making me think of spiritual things.)
What Grandpa had going against him was momentum. Naturally, his body wanted him to move with the momentum of the escalator, instead of against it. When he tried to move against it, the sum result was: he didn’t really do much moving at all.
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How often do you find yourself thinking, “I want to be as good at X as so-and-so is!” A friend of mine is a master sewer. She decorates her house with quaint homemade pillows, adorns her nieces and nephews with classy baby clothes, and is so crafty it hurts me to look at all of the curtains I purchased—not made—that hang from my window. I want to be as good at sewing as she is.
But the reality is, when I get a thread in one of my hands and a needle in the other, or a hand on the sewing machine dial and a foot on the pedal, the sum result is a clump of disastrous multi-colored knots. That is, if I get that far. It is more likely that I’d quit after I spent my week’s fortune on the materials, but before I started any actual sewing.
Certain crafts make it clearly evident to me that I am moving against the momentum of my gifts and talents. The secret to being successful at the things you do, to be the best fill-in-the-blank (writer, dancer, listener, counselor, teacher, sewer…) is to move in the direction of the already-evident momentum in your life. I came to the realization some years ago that my momentum has me moving most easily in the direction of writing and speaking. Not only do I have the most success when I move in the direction of my momentum, but I also have the most fun.
God has given you unique gifts and talents, and when you use them and hone the skills that make you the best at whatever those gifts and talents are, you’re happy—no surprise to God, of course. He’s the one who makes the momentum you sense like a big “hint, hint” for you.
How do you know which gifts and talents to pursue? Well, what do you find yourself doing most often? What brings you joy? What do other people tell you that you are especially good at?
Don’t try to be someone else or to be the best sewer when you’re a writer (unless you’re great at both, and then maybe I do wish I were you…). When you get tangled up in all of that, you’ll only frustrate yourself trying to go up a down escalator.
St. Catherine of Siena says that if you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze. Of course, the ultimate of “what you should be” is a saint, but I think her statement applies to the gifts and talents to. Blessed Mother Teresa was the best caregiver of orphans and the poor, and she set the world ablaze. She moved in the direction of her God-given momentum.
Try it. Find excellence in multiplying the talents God gave you. Go up the up escalator.
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