As cubs they frolic, chasing dragonflies and mice -- their play teaching them skills that will later transform them into the greatest mammal predator. Kittens engage in similar activities, chasing, for example, bugs and their tails -- each activity teaching them to stalk mice and other prey that live in their environment.
If this is the case with animals, it must certainly be true of humans, the most highly evolved mammal on Planet Earth (despite our destructive behavior). I believe that our childhood pastimes provide clues that can direct us toward our spiritual Purpose. The activities we naturally gravitated to -- and still may! -- provide signs about ourGod-given gifts. These, I believe, are the unique tools God has given each person to help them take care of and provide for themselves. Stated more primitively: our gifts are the human equivalent of an animal’s survival weapons.
A recent trip through my baby book drove this reality home to me. Under “Best Loved Toys,” my mother had written:
"White teddy bear. Books (Note: underscoring hers). Nursery rhyme records. Singing and 'writing.' Happiest with books, or pencil and paper."
All throughout my youth, I was constantly drawing or writing.That changed when college-application time arrived and my well-meaning father informed me that he couldn't afford to pay for me to study something that wouldn't land me a job. Not knowing any creative professionals (and believing my father knew best -- and he did have my best interests at heart as well as expertise on his era --) I thought his advice was just "how it was" so studied other subjects instead. However, to this day I can draw accurately and with ease and writing has always come easy to me.
(Caption: I never did become a Buckeye...)
Only after intense soul-searching during my late-20s and early 30's did I return to the person I always was -- the person, I believe, that God always intended me to be -- but stronger and more knowledgeable as a result of my circuitous journey.
Sometimes society discourages us from nurturing our natural abilities. Instead, most of us attend schools whose structure was originally intended to produce manufacturing workers for the repetitive labor that capitalism once required. No wonder then that as adults we look for jobs that pay well and provide us with security -- although I don't know many people who feel particularly secure about their good jobs these days -- not realizing that the true security lies within ourselves: in who God made us to be.
Moreover, society teaches us to "be like Mike" and "keep up with the Joneses" -- to shop at Walmart, Old Navy and the shortlist of chain stores that pepper our malls and landscape. This makes life more convenient in some ways but simultaneously lessens creativity and self expression.
I believe that imitating someone else or trying to be less like your Self produces an effect similar to that of dropping a lion in the middle of the ocean. The lion is known as the king of the jungle, but it will flounder and eventually drown in the sea -- just as over time human beings tend to feel dissatisfied, stressed out and sometimes become ill when their life becomes too stressful because they are not being themselves. When we give up our uniqueness, we slowly but surely lose power.
Yet, return that lion to its natural habitat and it strengthens its muscles, regains its footing and returns to power. The same with humans.
We can find the security that may elude us at work by developing our gifts and talents, in the process strengthening the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual muscles that accompany them and can help us thrive in our environment.