Incidentally, it is also in Japan that I began to realize my "issue," at least the "issue" I believed I had. I had the sudden belief that I am not particularly "gifted," at least in a specific sense. Sure, I'm pretty good at a fair number of things. But am I spectacularly good at any one thing: I didn't think so. Back in school, I had good grades, sure... but it wasn't effortless. I had to work hard to make it happen. I was pretty good at sports; I was pretty fast and fairly strong. But I was never God's gift to the athletic world. As I took inventory, I couldn't really think of anything that people would say, "Man, they're sure impressive at ____."
About a year or so ago, this thought process unexpectedly surfaced again. I met this extremely gifted person at athletics. They had walked on to their college track team and were immediately the fastest sprinter on the team, even though they had never trained for sprinting in their lives. With the right training, they could have made a name for themselves as an NCAA athlete. They could start a sport they had never played before, and within a day, be proficient at it to the level that you would never know they had not done it before. They could watch someone proficient at a physical activity, and very shortly teach themselves how to do that activity. Even the things I considered myself fairly good at, they could do better without even having attempted to be proficient at it. What was worse, this person wasn't stupid, either! They were extremely intelligent, to the point that they sometimes talked over my head without realizing it. Standing in that light... it was difficult to find any giftedness in myself. Even those things that I would consider my "gifts," didn't seem that great compared to their's.
I bring this up because I think this is an issue that, in some way, most of us humans struggle with. As our own worst critics, it is hard to see the value in ourselves, especially compared to someone who has these amazing abilities we admire... and even covet. When I turn to God about this, though... He definitely has a different view on the issue.
The first passage is one that convicts me, for it reminds me who I am and Who God is:
"But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?" - Romans 9:20-21(NRSV)
I am only a human being, crafted by God, whose entire life depends on God and who only lives for maybe a century. Who am I to question what God has given me, when He can see the full measure of Time and knows how important my gifts, no matter how small they appear, really are? Isn't He worthy of trust, if He is all knowing and all good, as we believe?
But God does not leave us with, "Why do you question me, though I have your highest good and the highest good of all humanity at heart?" He also gives us this passage:
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable." - 1 Corinthians 12:12-22(NSRV)
What does this mean? We, as Christians, are members of the body of Christ. And we each are valuable to that body. We were given different gifts, as a body has different parts, and each part has a necessary function without which the body would be incomplete. Even people who have gifts that seem "undesirable" are "indispensable," just as the bowels may seem unpleasant, but are absolutely necessary for the survival of a human being.
Even more simply:
"YOUR GIFTS ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, NO MATTER WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THEM!"
God has given you your gifts for a reason, and that reason was to be a blessing to the rest of the Christian community, as well as the rest of the world, through your usage of those gifts in the name of Christ. Maybe you're not a good speaker. So what! It's our culture that's telling you to be ashamed of that. God has an important calling for you! Maybe you suck at sports. So what! Use the gifts you have because each one of us uniquely and specifically impacts the lives of the people we meet.
And finally, remember this:
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalm 139:13-16(NIV)