My son is a reader. Nathan could happily spend all day lost in a book — anything from The Chronicles of Narnia to Star Wars — and only look up long enough to put food in his face. In fact, a few days ago at the library, Nathan informed me that he is running out of books to read.
“I’ve read all these,” he complained.
“All of them?” I asked, motioning toward the rows of shelves with a wink.
“Well, not the whole library. But I’m gettin’ pretty close.”
And yet, the same boy who loves books, hates math. He’d rather clean toilets or even play with his sisters than do long-division. He absolutely can’t stand it. After all, he is my boy.
My daughter, though, is like her daddy. Math comes easily for her, and she even finds it fun. Anne’s mind understands math concepts, but she can’t spell to save her life. We practice her spelling words, but see little improvement. Her brain adds, subtracts, and multiplies. It doesn’t spell.
“You’re something special … You’re the only one of your kind,” the old children’s song says. How true! Nathan and Anne each have their own gifts, and so does our youngest daughter, Molly. My husband and I have our areas of ability and interest, too. God designed everyone that way. Every single person on the planet has been wired by God Himself, with his or her own set of likes and dislikes, talents and shortcomings.
This design — this wiring — is what author Max Lucado calls “you-niqueness.” In his book Cure for the Common Life: Living Life in Your Sweet Spot, Lucado explores the idea that God has gifted everyone uniquely. And those gifts, says Lucado, should be used for the Giver. “Use your uniqueness (what you do) to make a big deal out of God (why you do it) every day of your life (where you do it).”
But how do I determine my uniqueness? How do I find my “sweet spot” — that place where I know, “I was made to do this”? Max Lucado writes that uniqueness is found “at the intersection of your affections and successes.” What do I really love to do? (My affections.) And what do I really do well? (My successes.) Wherever those answers overlap, I find my God-given uniqueness.
I love the piano. I listen to piano music on Pandora, and plunk out songs on my keyboard every now and then, but, to paraphrase my fourth grade piano teacher Mrs. Brian, piano probably isn’t my thing. I love it, but I’m not talented at it.
On the other hand, I can cook well enough to feed my family. Nothing fancy, but I’m adequate. My children don’t starve. But, I can’t stand to be in the kitchen. Baking, cooking … it’s all a waste of time to me. Spending so long in preparation and clean-up, three times a day? No, thank you. I can do it well enough, but I don’t love it. I don’t even like it.
Piano-playing and cooking aren’t my uniqueness. My “affections and successes intersect” when I teach, and when I write. I love both of those things, and I have success at both, too. I love seeing the “Aha!” expression in my children’s eyes when they catch on to something I’ve taught. I love to craft words, and proofread them, and even delete them in frustration and start all over again. Teaching and writing: my sweet spots.
Knowing this about myself frees me to be me; to glorify God by simply being the Amy Storms He designed. After years of struggle — years of feeling guilty over all the things I’m not — I am becoming OK with saying “no” to the things that aren’t in my sweet spot. I still remember the first time I turned down a telephone request to make dinner for a sick church member. (Really, did they want me to make her sicker?) I said no, hung up the phone, and added out loud to myself, “… but I can write her a letter!” Why be someone I’m not? I bring glory to God through my uniqueness.
Children have sweet spots too. Intentional parents pay attention to the “affections and successes” of their children in order to help them identify their sweet spots and live in them. “Don’t see your child as a blank slate awaiting your pen,” writes Lucado, “but as a written book awaiting your study.” Loves to read but hates math, loves math but can’t spell … this is God-given uniqueness.
Naturally, parents want to open the world to their children; to provide every opportunity and encourage kids that they can be “anything.” But the truth is, children were not designed to be “anything.” How much better to pay attention to a child’s affections and successes, and point him to his sweet spot? Not “be anything,” but rather, be the “something” God designed.
To help readers determine their uniqueness, Cure for the Common Life includes a few tools and tests. Lucado advocates looking back over life stages — childhood, youth, and adulthood — and simply remembering sweet spot experiences. Lucado writes, “Recall times when you did something well (success) and enjoyed doing it (satisfaction).” Pay attention to any “nouns and verbs” that repeat frequently. Soon, patterns emerge. Certain successes are repeated over and over again, and a sweet spot uniqueness is pinpointed.
For example, when I took Max Lucado’s assessment a few years ago, I identified my love for teaching. Even as a child, I’d line up dolls and teach school. I played with old Sunday School curriculum, and taught Bible stories to my stuffed animals. A simple memory, but a significant one. In fact, realizing that God has wired me for teaching was a big factor in our decision to homeschool.
On the other hand, my husband’s test three years ago revealed that his current job wasn’t in his sweet spot. Andy’s love for people was stifled by his behind-the-desk administrative tasks. After looking over Andy’s assessment in Cure for the Common Life, I told him point-blank, “You’re in the wrong job.”
Fast-forward two years. Thankfully, Andy’s boss (our pastor) also noticed his unhappiness — that Andy wasn’t serving in his uniqueness. He moved Andy to another role in our church, one with fewer “tasks” and more “people.” He lives in his sweet spot.
Last spring, a friend visited from out-of-state. We hadn’t seen Jason for a few years, and we enjoyed an entire weekend of catching up. The night before he left, Jason prayed with Andy and me. His prayer for Andy brought tears to my eyes: “Lord, thank You for Andy’s job change. I see a joy in him now that I hadn’t seen for a while.”
“I see a joy in him.” That’s it! Really, not much was different. Andy still had the same employer and same co-workers. He lived in the same house with the same wife and the same kids. But the only change made all the difference. Now he used his uniqueness. Now he lived in his sweet spot.
I wonder if God scratches His head when I try so hard to be “anything,” and ignore the person He created me to be. I wonder if He says, “Child, why are you trying to spell when I created you to do math?” “Quit worrying about math when I made you to read! Read all the books — read the whole library! — and be the beautifully unique person I designed.”
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