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{Guest Post} Living With (and Loving) the Hand You’re Dealt

July 2, 2013

I’ve been noodling a while on the idea of contentment – accepting that which we have no control over. Not apathy, but being okay with who we are, who God made us to be. It’s something I’ve struggled with and I suspect a fair number of you have, too. Years ago I worked on a retreat called “Content to be what He sees.” Content with me.

Sunday morning, my friend Grace gave the following testimony in church. It was genuine, honest, and offered such a great illustration for life and contentment, I immediately begged her to allow me to post it here for you all to read. Enjoy, and tell us in the comments if you can relate and why.

Have you struggled with discontent over who you are, or the situation you’re in?

How do you find contentment and peace? 

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“Maybe you are just not cut out for college.”

A professor I really look up to spoke these words to me while I was an undergraduate student at Pepperdine in the midst of depression. Far from being mean, he was forcing me to face that very real possibility – a kick in the rear I needed to help me resolve that, no, I was meant to finish college, and I needed to get my act together in order to do that. I eventually finished my Bachelor’s, and once that first hurdle was cleared, a whole world of opportunity opened up to me. I went on to get my Master’s, taught full-time for a university, and this fall I’m starting work on my Ph.D.

There was a time in my life where I was very uncomfortable with the person God made me to be.

I didn’t understand my quirks, my gifts – the way it all fit together. Because of that, I couldn’t believe anything good about myself, and I began tearing myself down, discounting different aspects of my personality. I had a great therapist, Dr. Griffin, who helped me understand what I was doing to myself.

He explained: every person is dealt a certain hand of cards in life. My “hand” makes up all the gifts and abilities that I have, in whatever degree I have them. Now, not every gift is going to be an “Ace.” To me, though, if it wasn’t an Ace, it didn’t count, and any cards that didn’t count were tossed away. I told myself, “Well, I’m never going to be in the Olympics, so I’m not a good athlete. I’m never going to be ‘Hollywood’ pretty, so I’m ugly. I’m not as funny or popular as my younger sister Trisha, so I’m boring and plain. I’m not as smart or responsible as my older sister Bethany, so I’m stupid and a failure.” As I discounted more and more cards, my arsenal with which to handle life dwindled, and it became unmanageable. As Dr. G put it, “No wonder you’re depressed. Life’s just too painful with only two cards.”

What Dr. G really helped me understand is that all of those cards, in their varying degrees or intensities, were purposefully crafted together to make me the best version of myself, and that, by discounting them, I was hamstringing myself – making it impossible for me to do the things I was designed to do. Furthermore, Dr. G convicted me of the fact that I had NO RIGHT to throw all of those cards away. Those gifts were entrusted to me by God, and I do not get to ignore them just because I think they don’t count.

A powerful reminder of this realization is the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. I know that it’s just a coincidence of language that the ancient currency is called a “talent,” but that’s precisely what I’m talking about: the talents that God has entrusted to us. If you remember, three servants were all given charge of differing amounts of “talents;” two servants used those talents and were able to show to their master a good return – they were productive. One servant, however, hid the talent he received – literally buried it in the ground – and then returned it to his master unused and with nothing to show for the gift – and the responsibility – he’d been given.

I confess that I have been the wicked, lazy servant who hid my gifts in the ground.

I was greedy; I wanted more talents.

I was arrogant; I exaggerated my talents.

I was resentful; I coveted the gifts others had.

I was ungrateful; I didn’t appreciate what I had been given.

I was cowardly; I didn’t want to face my limitations.

Most of all, though, I lied.

I lied to myself about what I could or could not do, what abilities I had and what abilities I didn’t, and I let that eat away at my spirit like a cancer until I was too sick to accomplish the tasks God expected me to accomplish.

This is written in my Bible under the story of the talents: “Just because we don’t think our gifts count, we are not excused from using them. Whatever we have, in whatever measure we have, we are EXPECTED to use it.”

I needed to come to grips with myself, and I needed someone who saw me more clearly than I saw myself to wake me up – to shake me from my distorted way of thinking and get back to the business of being the Grace God intends me to be.

Once I told myself the truth about the gifts God has given me, I was able to accomplish all I was meant to do, but was afraid I couldn’t do.

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PicMonkey CollageGrace Hall is a PhD candidate in Composition and Rhetoric at Georgia State University. She has taught in the Language and Literature Department at Abilene Christian University for the last two years. She blogs brilliantly, albeit infrequently, at gnhall.wordpress.com. She is  fanatical about the San Jose Sharks, Doctor Who, salt and vinegar chips and correcting the typos in my Facebook updates. .

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2013 8:15 am

    I am so glad I could “hear” Grace’s testimony. I count myself blessed to know the Grace God created so intentionally with such amazing gifts. Grace, my dear, you use them well. This will be a post I share often. Right now I can think of at least a dozen young women that need to grab and hang on to the hope and insight this offers. Thank you Adelle, for equipping me with this shiny shield of faith to fight the lies the evil one has whispered to so many men and women.

  2. Bethany permalink
    July 2, 2013 12:08 pm

    Beautiful, Grace! Thanks to Adelle for posting this since I didn’t eat to hear it in person. What’s amazing is how once you came to terms with who you are, and not trying to be other people, your confidence and competence has shot through the roof. Love you, sister!

  3. Danny permalink
    July 2, 2013 1:01 pm

    U rock Grace! My favorite part was the self-evaluation of how you were doing at using your talents back in the day. That took a lot of honesty to share.

    Hey, does that Pepperdine professor know that you are in a PhD program now?

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