In conversation with a friend, once, I made a comment about learning to embrace how I operate. I’m slower (but more thorough) to process and sometimes struggle to do what seems to come easily to many (which makes me a good teacher, after the fact). I don’t move at lightning speed (keeps me humble), and I’m not a model multi-tasker (but I persevere through the tedious). “I’m a tortoise. But that’s ok. I’ll just be the best tortoise I can be.”
My friend burst out laughing. Her laughter surprised me; I made the comment in earnest. But far from being offended, her laughter was comforting. True to her light-hearted nature, her sparkle uplifted me.
For about five years I helped teach Sunday school for the 2s and 3s. God loves variety was the biggest takeaway from those years. Over and over again I saw it through the children and the lessons. “Thank You, God, for Smells” was probably my favorite lesson. The kids passed around repurposed baby food jars with various scents: lavender, cinnamon, vinegar, vanilla, sage, etc. It awoke my appreciation for the variety infused into all aspects of creation.
So why the struggle to embrace my own piece of variety, my tortoise-like nature? Ah, well, perhaps because tortoises are slow…
Or perhaps because, like every other type of person, snares lie in wait as we journey towards who we are meant to be. Snares like comparing and contrasting our lives. Wanting what someone else has been given, or worked hard for. Snares like worry or fear. Tortoises are slow enough; I sure don’t need any paralyzing fears!
If we do somehow lay claim to contentment, we’re tested by someone else’s discontent. We’re criticized. We’re put down for not thinking or acting the way someone else does or how we’re “supposed” to. We’re made to feel our contributions are less than.
Which, of course, is all hogwash.
In my kitchen, where I see it often, a plaque reads: “Just be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” We have the potential to deeply enrich one another just by being the best version of ourselves we can be.
My friend enriched my life with her bubbly laughter and sweet companionship.( In other words, by being herself!) The surprising fact came a few weeks later when she mentioned she used my tortoise comment in another conversation, implying it helped someone. Imagine that! Just by being myself?
I easily see the value in others’ uniqueness. Why is it so hard to acknowledge my own?
I don’t have to look around, I can look up. I can look to God and seek to develop the gifts he’s given me at a pace that he sets. If I really believe that he’s my Creator and that he’s a good God, can I trust him to lead me in a way that is in keeping with how he created me? It might even be pleasant!
I don’t have to choke on someone else’s “successful” dust as they pass me, because I was never in a race with them to begin with. Well, we are in the race of life together, but the only competition we truly compete against is the previous version of ourselves. We don’t compete against each other; we are all ultimately accountable to the same Master. (Romans 14:4) Rather, we are here to help each other to grow and mature. We’re all in this together! (Ephesians 4:13,15; Colossians 1:28)
I can embrace my uniqueness because God continually embraces me. Even if no one else does. Even if I don’t embrace myself. Sin notwithstanding, I am who I am because God designed me this way. Who am I to argue with my Maker? Or call his designs junk?
When we embrace how God uniquely designed us, not who we want to be or think we should be or others tell us we are or what we feel like on any given moment, we honor our Maker and act in our own best interests.
What snare will you ask God to help you side-step this week so you can embrace your uniqueness?