Gift or Talent?

Gift or Talent?

Over the years I have been told I am a good non-profit board member. I have also been affirmed in my ability to counsel and serve as a CEO. All of those abilities are talents. None are gifts. The difference between the two is simple. Gifts bring joy. Talents are, well, talents. Discerning the difference is important.

I met a new friend not long ago who, after a divorce, found herself heading back to work outside the home. Career counselors told her she would be good at sales, so my friend became a real estate agent. It’s afforded her a decent career, but she knows it is not a gift. It is a talent. She is still searching for a career that matches her giftedness.

Scott Peck said the last big job of parents is to discern their children’s vocations, where they might excel. I understand Peck’s suggestion. It will likely assure your adult child will not be living in the basement at 40. But is it enough?

We are all on earth to serve. What kind of service brings joy to your soul? You might get tired or even a little bored on occasion, but when you are working within your giftedness, you know you are in your sweet spot.

I have never had work more satisfying than my 13 years as a television host. Even on the worst days, and there were more than a few, I was happy to get up in the morning and head to the set. Unfortunately television is a fickle business and our show was eventually cancelled, but I still tend to measure other jobs by the joy I found in that one.

My preaching has been more affirmed than my television work. Same with my teaching. I receive both as gifts, and I am grateful every time I am asked to preach or teach. In a seminary preaching course in which I was the professor, a student asked, “How do you get to preach to a crowd of 10,000?” I answered, “For starters, you won’t preach for thousands unless you can find joy preaching to a crowd of 20.” It is not the size of the audience that brings the deep satisfaction. It is the “Aha” moment on a single face in the second row. It is the discipline to take your gift and demand more of it. It is realizing that in an audience of 1,000, a cumulative 366 hours are being taken up by your 22-minute sermon. Do you really want to waste 15 1/4 days?

I once heard a speaker say the frequency of your soul is in your giftedness. It formed a certain picture in my mind’s eye. Back when I was in radio, when you played a Steppenwolf tune you wanted the gain to move into the red, but you did not want it peg the meter. Slamming the needle kicked the transmitter off the air for a split second or two. Finding the sweet spot was an art. After a while you didn’t need to look at the gain. You knew by the sound whether the volume was right or not.

Another friend does improvisational comedy in New York City. We were doing an exercise together in a workshop in which the instructor asked us to imagine our happy place, you know, Brer Rabbit’s Briar Patch. He said his happy place was on stage. That is where he feels the frequency of his soul.

I know the frequency of the radio station where I worked. The AM frequency was 1370, and the FM was 102.3. As for the frequency of my soul, I’m not sure exactly what it is. But I do know the needle finds the sweet spot when I am preaching.

And so it goes.