I spent far too much of my late childhood feeling sorry for myself because I thought everyone else in life was good at something and I was not.
I mean, I wallowed in self-pity. And I really didn’t do much else but whine about it. I never actually tried to be good at anything. I just knew my older brothers were way smarter than me and for them it meant a free ride to college.
Piano lessons seemed enough confirmation: It was obvious something was wrong with me if I was six years in and still had to count the sharps to know what key signature. I was in disbelief when my teacher introduced me to accidental notes. Are you kidding me? Now we’re going to just let the notes who aren’t allowed break all the rules?
To this day I have to say, aloud, Every Good Boy Does Fine and Good Boys Do Fine Always when I read music.
And sometimes I have to google “mnemonic” before I can get there. Because in that same cramped quarters in my brain lives Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie (guitar strings) and other various strings of letters and numbers…like my phone number in college and the kids’ birthdays and social security numbers. There are whole cabinets of junk drawers in my mind.
I admire the tidy, organized folk who can open their mail and immediately reply, pay bills and scrap the junk. I covet what they have in the way of being practical and efficient.
It’s taken a long time for me to believe it isn’t a problem with me, something I could potentially conquer by following more rules and setting a deadline.
There is a difference between skill–that which is granted unceremoniously to each of us in varied measures according to God’s (curious) sovereignty–and talent, which might be better called perseverance.
Yet I say that–after all, no one is born with a guitar in their hand–but why are some born with the vocal chords of Adele? Can someone as beautiful and gifted as Carrie Underwood also sort her mail before it turns into a pile on her kitchen table? If so, doubly not fair.
I struggled with this as a teen and thought God should probably shed some light on the unfairness of it all.
Regarding skill, to some He gives abundantly, and their houses and finances are tidier for it. To the others he hands paints and pens and ingredients for beef bourginon and kids who run amok.
This should bring me peace, but it doesn’t, because I cannot find my library card and I go there at least once a week. It seems divinely cruel that I can’t log in to research academia solely because my mind is a junk drawer and not a file cabinet.
Can I be expected to memorize my library number and shove it into the same corner with Eddie Ate Dynamite?
Where is the justice?
In Sunday school the teachers regularly swapped the word “talent” (money) for “talent” (natural gifting). They wanted us lost souls to not bury our talent (type two) as the man in the parable buried his talent (type one). We are to be generous with our talents.
And even then I knew it was a farce, because I had neither. Zero kinds of talent. None to bury, none to share. Just lost library cards and a messy mind.
So I am back to believing, aside from the outliers like Carrie Underwood, that talent is mostly perseverance. And the good news is, there are plenty of other places to stretch your perseverance besides piano lessons.
Raising kids, for example. I think I’m slowly getting better at it. Making food. Drawing. Playing music. Writing. Making conversation. Listening.
I’m getting better at all of it because I haven’t stopped trying. And I enjoy all of it. I just didn’t know that as a young person this was going to be possible for a future me.
And even if I never find that library card or talk my brain into a more organized version of itself, I still love plugging along and watching the progress.
Sort of related, but not really: I posted a video of GK memorizing Psalm 1 as a 2 year old. It’s the cutest thing ever and something even us less-than-superstar folk can do with our kids.