In sixth grade, I joined the flag football team at my school. I went to practice, determined that I would master it. I threw my whole self into practice, breaking my nails all while I broke a sweat. I thought I was pretty good and was so excited to be given the position of center. My job was to snap the ball to our quarterback, so I snapped that thing like it was buttons on a onesie. Then, one day, something glorious happened. Our coach came to us with a new trick play he had drawn up. In this particular move of flag football genius, the center would line up like normal, start to snap the ball, but at the last second, keep it for herself and then run it in for a touchdown.
I was thrilled. I pictured myself hunched over that ball, flags about my waste flapping gloriously in the wind, and a twinkle in my eye as I stared down the defense. I saw myself pretend to snap and then at the last second, hug that ball into my chest and run in and out of defenders until I soared into the end zone in slow motion. This was my time.
Funny thing though. Every time we went to run that play, I would be taken out at center and another girl would be shuffled into my place. The play would work flawlessly and then in the next series, I would be back in. It seemed odd to me at the time but it sure doesn’t any more, not since the bubble I lived in – the one where I was good at sports – has been burst.
I think that was the first moment I knew that maybe sports weren’t my thing. At this point though, that knowledge was only a seed of doubt, not big enough to stop me from trying other sports. All throughout middle school, I pursued athletics. I tried volleyball, basketball, track, everything, and with every passing season, I realized more and more just how awful I was at sports. Each time a serve hit me in the head (seriously), a rebound fell through my hands, or I got lapped on the track, that seed of doubt grew. I tried my best but I never made higher than the “C Team”. I mean, one year, the only game that my team won was the game that I was out of town for.
This is me in eighth grade. I never did master the overhand serve.
This kept on as I started high school. I signed up for volleyball in the fall and once again, made the lowest team. I barely made it through the season, struggling to keep up with the other naturally gifted girls. I struggled in big part because I was taking honors classes, singing on the youth worship team at church, and playing the lead role in the school play. At the end of the season, my volleyball coach pulled each player aside to talk about how we could improve for next season. I’ll never forget what she said to me when it was my turn.
“Kelsey,” she said, “I’m only going to tell you this because I see that you are very talented in some other areas, but if you want to make the team next year you’re going to have to work reeeeally hard…” Then she looked up at me with a look in her eye that said “Please don’t make me spell it out. You should call it quits girlfriend.”
I actually laughed a little when she told me that. I laughed because I knew she was right and it was almost as if her comment cued a long string of my past athletic endeavors before my eyes. And it read like a blooper reel. I’ll never forget what she said though because her words gave me freedom to be who I was and to stop pursuing the person that I most definitely was not.
My face says it all.
For years I had been pursuing a skill set that I would never master. I had been overlooking the natural gifts that God had given me in favor of a mirage. I so desperately wanted to excel in one area when I already was in others.
Have you ever done that? Wanted so badly to be good at something, offer something, master something but every time you fall short? In our world full of Pinterest, perfect selfies, and mom guilt, it’s easy to do. We see others with their unique skill set and try to make it our own. We push and squeeze those desired abilities, trying to make them fit into the unique shape that is us but it never will.
Do you know why? Because you my friend were created. You didn’t just become who you are. No, you, with whatever talents and abilities you naturally have, you were intentionally and lovingly made that way. God knew the world that you were joining, the time and the place and the people that would be in it and He knew just what they would need – you.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139: 13 NIV
Our God who is all knowing and all loving, sat down with all of the pieces that make up you and knitted you together like a mother knitting a blanket for her baby with each stitch intended to envelop with warmth and love and comfort. You are intended to envelop the world with the warmth and love and comfort of the One who made you by utilizing all that He gave you. Your talents, your thoughts, who you are, that’s been given to you for a reason. No one else can offer what you can.
You are a gift. You have something to offer. You were created for and with a purpose.
“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” 2 Peter 1:3 ESV
He has placed in you all that you need. Own it. Wear the gifts that He’s given you proudly. You are who God made you for a great and powerful reason and just like I was never at home on a basketball court, you will never feel at home striving against your purpose. You are a work of art, a beautiful creation full of wonder and you can praise Him because you are wonderfully made.