1 John 5:14-21
Self knowledge is a great gift. Self acceptance is an even greater blessing. To really know one’s gifts, abilities, talents and natural traits, as well as the limitations in other areas can reduce stress and tension and even inner turmoil. A man who is 5’3" is unlikely to be a starting center in the NBA. A woman who has little patience with the high energy of small children will probably not find herself drawn to a career as a preschool teacher. A friend, Mary, is a wonderful listener and insightful counselor, but she is painfully shy in large groups and considers herself to be very ordinary and plain looking. She confided to me once that it took her years to accept that she would never be like a mutual friend who was cute and perky and vivacious and had the kind of personality the was attractive to other people. Mary had struggled to grow into self acceptance and to value her own gifts and abilities.
John the Baptist seems to have really known who he was, his role in life, and the gifts that were given to him by God. John had been looked upon as a prophet to whom people came from great distances. Crowds would listen to him preach and many would accept his call to conversion and be baptized. But when Jesus appeared on the scene and people flocked to him, John did not express any jealousy or need to compete to "get his numbers back up". He accepted that he had done what he had been called to do, used his gifts to the fullest and now it was time to step aside for another. In today’s world the same scenario could have turned out much differently.
Today, competition, conscious or unconscious, seems to be in the air we breathe. Money, possessions, friends, accomplishments of our own or our children, and lifestyle can easily determine our sense of self and our acceptance or rejection of who we are. It takes great wisdom and inner strength and maturity to accept that we are each given gifts and abilities by God to use as fully as possible. But true joy comes when we realize, like John the Baptist, that our talents are not given for personal status or enhancement but for the growth and spread of the reign of God. And it often takes a lifetime to realize that all has been given to us from above.
Cathy Anthony is on the staff of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.