My son Alex’s second grade class recently had a civics lesson, in which the class elected a Teacher of the Day. On Monday, the class voted and winnowed the field down to two candidates. Alex was one of the last two standing, and he was so excited. The next day, the class divided into groups to help craft campaigns for the candidates. One of their tasks was creating a campaign poster that featured a drawing of him. He said he knew one child was good at drawing faces, so he asked her to draw the head. Alex asked one child to draw the body, another the hands, while still another created the background, and he drew the shoes. He said, “I tried to use everyone’s strengths,” when making the assignments. I told him that was a very good idea and figured he must have learned that from his amazing teacher Mrs. Davis.
On Wednesday, his excitement turned to tears because he was concerned that he was going to lose the race and because he was frustrated. A couple of his friends had gotten into an argument while they were finishing the poster. One of them was mad that another had more artistic responsibilities. He was getting a crash course in how hard it is to manage a team sometimes. We talked through the situation and tried to focus on how nice it was to be nominated. Alex won the election after he made a little speech on Thursday. I was glad he won, mostly because I didn’t want him to get upset at school if he’d lost.
Alex’s determination to draw on his friends’ strengths reminded me that God has blessed each of us with our own strengths. The fact that Alex and his friends were drawing the body, and that the same analogy is used in the Bible was not lost on me. The Bible says that each of us has a gift that can be used in the service of God, and that together we make up the body of Christ. 1 Cor. 12. Just as the human body is made up of many varied parts with specialized functions, so is the body of Christ. Finding our specific gifts and then using them to further God’s work is vital to a well-functioning church family or community. Initially, we may not see exactly how our gifts fit in with the larger whole, but when we willingly offer our skills and talents, God will find a way to put them to good use.
Knowing our own strengths is as important as helping others express their strengths. When his friends started squabbling over their assignments, Alex got a dose of the competition and jealousy that sometimes emerges when we feel our particular talents or gifts are not being properly appreciated. The Bible talks about that too, “And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” In other words, to make the body work to its fullest potential, we have to use our gifts and let others use theirs. We need to show appreciation for all the talents people bring, not just the most obvious or lauded ones. While one person may be front and center at church every week, another may pray for others in the quiet of their room every night. Both are essential. Everyone is necessary and important to God’s body.
Several years ago, I was serving on my Church’s board and was trying to get other people to serve as a greeter on Sunday mornings. To me, this was an easy ask. All you had to do was smile, say hello, and hand out programs. Why wouldn’t people agree to help? After expressing my frustrations, I got my answer. While I was comfortable welcoming people, not everyone was. Some folks got nervous or weren’t good with names or just didn’t like doing it. Now, I understand the value in people doing what they love and what they do well in furthering God’s work here on earth. I’ll be the greeter all day any day, but don’t ask me to make a home cooked meal for the family with the new baby. I’ll buy a meal and take it to them but cooking from scratch makes my anxiety go through the roof. My gifts are different than your gifts, and that’s how we’re able to get things done.
After the week-long campaign, Alex brought his poster home, and I could see that he and his friends had made the perfect illustration of how the body works best when we work together. Just like the body of Christ works better when we recognize our own strengths and those of others, and then we get to work individually and as one.