One of the most notable gifts my dad gave to me as a child was the curiosity for books. He would travel a lot and after every visit abroad, would bring back books upon books. I fondly remember watching him unpack his bags, waiting excitedly for him to unveil the adventures hidden in pages that he had carried back with him.
One of my favorite reads was a children’s classic series that included short poems and stories. A particular tale, my absolute favorite, that gives me nostalgic memories of my childhood was, The lion, the witch and the wardrobe from C.S Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia.
As a child, this story stirred my imagination so much so that it was not uncommon for me to walk into my wardrobe believing that just like the Pevensie children, I would find myself whisked away into a magical fantasy tale where good triumphs over evil, and love conquers all.
Like all hero tales, Chronicles of Narnia paints a wonderful picture of ordinary men and women who are pushed beyond their comfort zones, to do a work that is beyond their abilities.
If you think about it, every heroic journey starts with separation- where the individual is prepared and envisioned with a grand task, and then a call to action- where this individual must accomplish the grand task. Many times, unfortunately, we may give up at the helm of accomplishing what God has called us to do because of discouragement. One lesson that I learned from reading epics and that has continued to pervade my life giving me the strength to soldier on in times of difficulty is that we never go it alone!
Hebrews 11 similarly shows us the lives of men and women who were entrusted with a great cause but did not give up against all daunting odds. With blood, sweat and tears, they fought the good fight of faith and are now cheering us on as their baton bearers. Having a great cloud of witnesses (Romans 12:1), and finding ourselves in arenas we did not ask for, here are a few thoughts to remember when living out your God given assignment.
1) Recognize the One who called you
Throughout history, God has called and used the weak, the sinful, the lowly, those who do not have much going for them (1st Corinthians 1:27). God is sovereign and why He does this can be summed up in one word- Grace. God has called you to be you, unique in your gifts and talents. He has not called you to be anyone else or to do what you do like anyone else. The moment you embrace your uniqueness as an individual is the moment you break free from negativity and comparisons.
People may have labeled you not good enough and unqualified. In fact, you may be the last to receive a promotion. Dear reader, the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
Time is in the hands of the One who called you. As you continue to be faithful with what is seemingly small or inadequate, He will promote you at His own time. God called you, choose to receive the only stamp of approval that you need and run with it.
2) Accept feedback
By nature, human beings are defensive.
Sometimes it is hard to hear that the work that you have invested in is less than perfect. However, view feedback as an opportunity to grow your craft. The bible has much to say about heeding instruction (Proverbs 10:17, Proverbs 28:23, Psalm 141:15). Even when someone is being overtly and unnecessarily negative about your work, you can choose to graciously change those areas that you know are true and to discard the unhelpful.
3) Put your blinder’s on
In a ministry that requires you to present publicly, worship leading is by and large, not an audience of one, but of many. The essence of the statement audience of one is that we should ideally focus our eyes on the One we worship. However, it’s hard to focus when in some instances, we mess up on stage. In that moment, our attention is squarely on achieving as opposed to worshipping. Unfortunately, the congregation may not understand the dynamics behind singing, voice control, how the weather affects both you and them and the list goes on, and on, and on.
So how can we best serve our congregants and take the pressure off ourselves so as to worship God fully? One of my mentors consistently encourages me by saying: Put your blinder’s on.
Because of their peripheral vision, horses are made to wear small pieces of leather (blinders) strapped on to their bridle so as to only focus on what is ahead of them during a race. Blinders restrain the horse from bounding off wildly by blocking out irrelevant stimuli.
So what is the irrelevant stimuli in your life that has caused you to quit on God’s assignment for you? Is it negative criticism, sin, a terrible past? Whatever it is, God is re-envisioning you today. If you can choose to put your blinders on, He can use you.
I would like to close with a famous excerpt from the speech Citizenship in a Republic delivered by Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat (Theodore Roosevelt, Paris, France, 23 April, 1910).