My friend Dave wrote on his blog Chewing the Fat on Thursday, that he had a request for an interview from a writer in Alberta. The person was writing an article on people from the area that includes Dave's home town, "who went on to international success in their chosen fields."
Dave was feeling nervous. A powerful speaker on his area of expertise; he lacked confidence in having anything to say about himself. And besides, nobody that knew him as a child, expected him to amount to anything at all.
At the start of Jesus' public ministry a similar thing happened to him:
Luke 4:22 (New Living Translation)
22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
I thought about the two questions that Jesus asked the apostles about his identity:
Luke 9:18-20 (New Living Translation)
18 One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
19 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”
20 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!”
Although these questions didn't come from one who needed the affirmation of others, they did make me think of how powerful other people's perceptions of us are; for good or ill, and that it is important that someone recognizes who we are and says it out loud--frequently.
Recognizing a gift can call it forth. We often don't see them in ourselves, and it can have a profound impact when someone else sees it, declares it and even invests in it.
The words and actions of those who do so, breathe life to the soul.
As a child my most frequent playthings other than books, were paper, paint and pencil. These things were always made available to my brother and I. If I close my eyes, the distinct and indescribable smell of a new paintbox fills my nostrils as the little tin lid squeaks open. I can see the thin oblong strip of gossamer thin tissue paper that covers the glorious colours. I grew up thinking that I would not be anything other than a writer or artist. Well, God had other plans; good ones; and my life has taken a circuitous route, but my identity of creativity was well invested in.
Dear friends in the "now" have invested in my gifts of hospitality, writing, and creativity with countless gifts and words that speak of their confidence and belief in me.
Sometimes I am surprised by the certainty of others' pronouncements when my own identity can be as wobbly as anyone else's. I think then, "You" see "that" in me? Then maybe it is true.
And I can easily see the gifts in others and love to speak life to them.
As Dave mentioned in his post, and as another friend, Marilyn, mentioned in her post today: The Long Reach of Verbal Abuse ; the words that people speak to us have such an impact and linger in our minds, hearts, spirits and souls, long after they are spoken.
May our words bless and give life. May we see and call forth gifts and possibilities in others.