When I was in sixth grade, we moved to Connecticut. I ended up in the “talented and gifted program” at my school. My “gifts” seemed evident to teachers. I could read and write quickly and ahead of grade level. I learned math quickly too (until Calculus, but that’s another story).
And yet those very things that were supposed to be my gifts were the things that led me to tears of frustration and shoulders knotted with anxiety. I felt like I needed to prove my gifts were good enough, so when I couldn’t find the notes on the piano, I cried. I offered my intellect as a way to dominate a discussion and strove to read every word of every assignment and wondered why I felt lonely. I got straight A’s, and I also ended up in the hospital as a result of a severe eating disorder.
My gifts didn’t really seem like gifts anymore.
Years later, once our daughter Penny was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome, I started to think about gifts differently. I began to see that gifts always go hand in hand with needs (and brokenness, but that’s a post for another day).
I also began to understand that these needs and gifts could be means of connection rather than a way of proving myself. If I could see my needs, then I could better receive other people’s gifts. If I could recognize my gifts, I could better offer myself in the midst of other people’s needs. Mutual respect and even love could emerge.
Gifts that are offered out of a place of brokenness bring more brokenness into the world. And yet those very same gifts can be offered from a place of belovedness. And when that happens—when our gifts emerge out of love and for the purpose of love—then they do not break us or alienate us. Then they do not harm others.
We all have needs. We all have gifts. And we are all beloved.
If we can bring our needs and our gifts into the world out of that place of belovedness, then we will begin to connect, to heal, and to repair our broken world.
More with Amy Julia:
- The Center of Healing is Belovedness
- A 5-Minute Practice: Pay Attention to God’s Love
- Reshaping Our Cultural Imagination
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