On the morning of my thirty-eighth birthday, I came downstairs to find a drawing from my six year-old on the counter for me. “Happy Berthday” was scrawled in pink at the top of the paper. A giant orange cat with a raccoon tail stared at me from underneath the greeting with its purple cartoon eyes. More than just a typical Kindergarten scribble, this was clearly a work of art made by my very talented son.
“Did you trace this?” I asked him.
“No! I just saw it in my head last night and made it this morning!” he said.
Later, I showed it to my husband and we marveled over it together, shaking our heads in disbelief that a boy so young could create something so beautiful.
It’s natural for parents to take delight in their children. It’s easy to recognize their skills and talents, to take pride in their abilities and accomplishments. Even just looking at our kids brings delight. How many of us tiptoe into our kids’ room long after their bedtime just to admire their sweet sleeping faces?
The overall mood of Psalm 149 is one of praise, party, and celebration. “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” verse 4 tells us. This picture of God partying with us, dancing with us, taking pleasure in us, is an uncommon one for me. But here it is again:
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)
I understand this image in theory but the reality of a God who delights in us, in me, is a little unbelievable. For all of my arrogance, I’m aware I’m not that great. There are others more talented, more intelligent, more gifted than me. But then I remember the delight I take in my own children and I’m reminded that God is our heavenly father after all.
Is it possible that God could delight in his creation (even me!) in the same way? Smiling with pride as we use our talents, pinning our artwork on His heavenly fridge? On the other side of that same coin, does it grieve Him when we downplay our talents, brush off our skills as not important/not good enough/not needed? What would it take for us to see ourselves through God’s eyes? How can we internalize and live out of the delight and pleasure God takes in us?
Here are three ways we can respond to the delight God takes in us:
1. Acknowledge your gifts
You don’t need to take some fancy quiz to determine your strengths, or talents, or gifts. Just think about your life so far. What do you love to do? What do people come to you for? What are you good at? What skills do you have? What do you enjoy? If you’re struggling to find clarity in this area, turn to someone who knows you well and ask them.
Discovering, developing, and sharing our gifts is a spiritual practice; it’s one way for us to grow stronger in our faith.Brene Brown, “THe gifts of imperfection”
2. Use your gifts
It’s one thing to be aware of our gifts and talents, but it’s quite another to use them. I’ve long known that public speaking was one of my gifts, but I didn’t use it for a long time. It was hard to admit that I loved doing what many are terrified to do. I worried what people would think… who did I think I was anyway, and why did I think I had something to say? But once I took a step forward in faith and started speaking to different mom’s groups in my area, there was no denying that speaking made me feel alive. It’s easy to keep our gifts hidden, worried about criticism, or rejection, or not doing it exactly right. It would break my heart if my son stopped drawing for any of those reasons, just like I think it makes God a little sad when we don’t enjoy the good gifts He has given us.
Your gifts and abilities are not accidents; they are gifts from your Creator, who already saw you as valuable and worthy. (…) No more hiding your gifting and calling it humility; no more being trapped by fear and shame. Unwrap the gifts your Creator has given you. Enjoy them and use them to represent Him in and through your life.Jo Saxton, “Ready to Rise”
3. Entrust the results to God
We don’t always get to see the fruit of our efforts. We’re not sure of the seeds we may have sown in others’ lives. Our service may be small and seem inconsequential compared to the large and showy ministry of others, but that shouldn’t deter us from our faithfulness in using the gifts God has given us. If we are living out of the delight God has for us, we know that our value and worth is not dependent on the results of our gifts. I love how Vivian Mabuni puts it:
Having a willing heart means that we obey without seeing the end of the story, entrusting our work and our lives into the hands of the One who sees the end from the beginning.Vivian Mabuni, “Open Hands, willing heart”
Just imagine what it would look like if we all lived like we believed that God delights in us! His image-bearers, here on earth, celebrating the gifts He has given us by using them to further His kingdom in ways big and small. My prayer for us today is that we would have eyes to see what those gifts are, courage to use them, and trust to leave it all in God’s hands!