Says Who??

Verstehen, through shared perspectives



What we are
Is God’s gift to us.
What we become
Is our gift to God.

My mom embroidered this little sampler for me when I was a young newlywed. Today, it hangs on the wall of my bedroom as a constant reminder of her love for me and the things that she taught me. On occasion, perhaps when hanging the sampler on a new wall in yet another house, another city, another time in my life, I have wondered what I have accomplished with what I have been given.

My thoughts today are somewhat different. Always before, I have considered “gifts” as the good things in life, as personal talents and abilities, as great opportunities. It followed, then, that my “gift to God” would be what I did with those abilities and opportunities. But what about the aspects of our lives that we consider impediments, inabilities, or even character flaws? Are they not part of “what we are?” What role do they play in what we become?

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a wonderful children’s song entitled “I am a promise.” What a pleasure it is to watch the videos of children singing “I am a promise…a possibility…a potentiality.” These words counteract the hurtful words too often heard from authority figures who tell the young not to be stupid, lazy, liars, fat – the list goes on, and the words said often enough and in ways that become self-fulfilling prophesies internalized by the hearers. Our brains are much more likely to reinforce negative ideas than positive ones, and to act (or fail to act) because of them.

So what happens to all that potentiality? We become adults who are still bound by those negative beliefs, and may repeat them into the next generation. The actual impediments of our lives are added to these negative beliefs, and inhibit our ability to “become” the fulfillment of our potential. Or at least that might be what we believe happens.

Why do we tend to focus on only one aspect of potential? What if our potential lies not only in youth, and not just in talents and abilities, but also in all the other aspects of who we are – physically, as well as emotionally, or psychologically. For example, there is a man in our church who is in his 90’s who is a constant source of encouragement to me. I am told that before I knew him he had spent a long time in a wheelchair, but now he walks again. His body is bent and weakened, but his eyes are still filled with laughter and intelligence. His stories are always interesting and often funny. You know that he suffers, physically, but that is only part of who he is. Last week he mentioned that he was no longer of any use, yet we know that his smile alone lights up the room, and just to spend some time with him causes us to reclaim our sense of the value of life. Who he is impacts an entire congregation, every week. And he has the potential to continue to embrace us, encourage us, and inspire us to cherish not only who he is, but who we might become.

Now that is a gift.

Author: profemjay

I am a retired Professor of Sociology with interests in the Sociology of Medicine, Political Sociology, the Sociology of Development, Social Action and the Sociology of Religion.

5 thoughts on “WHAT WE ARE

  1. Many of those who have been of the greatest influences on my life have been elders who had challenges that they lived around. Thank you for sharing Jesse with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How inspiring, Marylee. The memories I have of how you inspired and uplifted others are vivid. Just thinking about them inspires me afresh. You were (and are) a breath of fresh air.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent essay; may I offer an additional perspective? I was intrigued by your sentence in the second paragraph: “Always before, I have considered ‘gifts’ as the good things in life, as personal talents and abilities, as great opportunities. It followed, then, that my ‘gift to God’ would be what I did with those abilities and opportunities.” I’m dealing with my second bout of chemotherapy, as a result of metastasis of colon cancer. Your sentence raised two interesting questions in my mind: Is there any sense in which I can think about this situation as a “gift” from God? And if, for the sake of argument, there is some sense in which it is a “gift”, what is the nature of the “gift” that I can give to God in return?

    I’m still working on the first question, but the answer to the second question is much simpler: I can learn to treasure every day I’m given as an undeserved gift. I can eschew petulance, impatience, and anger, and learn to humbly accept what each day brings. I can internalize the lessons taught to me by the kind and merciful souls who cared for me for three months of hospital and rehab, and every day since, and make the showing of kindness and mercy to everyone I encounter my number one goal, and the rule by which I measure virtue. And if I can do those things – however falteringly – then I’ve probably answered the first question as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John, I can agree that you have probably answered the first question better than I could do. However, I did not mean to imply that suffering is supposed to be a gift to us, but rather that all of what we are, for better or worse, might be the foundation from which we deliver our gift to God. Sounds like you understand that all too well, already. I am so sorry for what you are living with, and hope and pray that the strength and courage you show in your writing brings you some peace. You deserve all that is good! Thank you for adding your perspective to my thoughts and please feel free to do that any time. God bless.


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