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Run Your Race by Jen Hatmaker I refuse to be shamed by this: I love American Idol. Thirteen seasons in and I still dedicate DVR space to it every week. I don’t even care, you guys. My musician friends are all, “It harms the integrity of creative license and fabricates a fan base that makes true artisanship something something,” and other words come out of their mouths and I’m like, “YOU ARE NOT MY BOSS!” Week after week, okay fine, year after year I sit on my couch and grin at the TV. Then I pull up my favorite performances of the night and grin at my laptop. Then they win or lose and I cry and they hug their parents and I sob and they are amazing and I get choked up. Every week. I am proud of them. I am inspired by people doing what they do best. Gosh, we were just born to do stuff, weren’t we? God truly built gifts into our lives. Everyone is good at something. Some make a living with their gifts and others just bless the world. I am thinking of several women who are really, really good at friendship. They are such spectacular friends to me that it isn’t even fair. And others whom I constantly admire for being such good moms. Two friends threw creative, fun, adorable parties for their daughters last weekend, and I was in awe because I am not a Fun Party Mom. (I just do not have this particular gear, but when I witness it, I’m all, “Well done!” and “Thank you for inviting Remy so she can have some childhood memories of fun parties and maybe time will dull her recollection and she’ll think I threw some.”) I don’t like when people minimize their gifts. There is a difference between humility and insecurity, and self-effacement does no one any favors. We teach our watching children to doubt and excuse and diminish themselves. Do we want our kids to reflect on their mothers and have absolutely no idea what we loved? What we were good at? What got our pulses racing and minds spinning? Don’t we want them to see us doing what we do best? My mom went back to college when she had four kids in high school, middle school, and elementary school, and it has always been a source of pride for me. She was a teacher in her heart and needed the degree to match, so she chased the dream long before it was convenient or well-timed or easy. Yes, she fell off the oat bran wagon (kindly recall 1990) and we got store-bought prom dresses, but we watched her fly. It never occurred to us to settle for less. What are you good at? Not sure? What do people constantly say you are good at? Others usually identify our gifts long before we do. Maybe you have career material. In most cases, someone will pay you to do what you love. You might have a job you hate, doing work you don’t care about, and you are stuck in inertia. Is there a job description with your name on it? Do you know that I always, my entire life, loved to write but never dared imagine it could be a job? I taught elementary school, one of the noblest professions, but I wasn’t great and felt trapped. I later stayed home with the babies I had every other summer, and when the youngest turned two, I told Brandon, “According to our schedule, I’m due for another newborn this summer, so I’m going to birth a different kind.” And I wrote my first book. Obviously writing a book no one asked for with three kids under five is an Insane Person Choice, but sometimes you throw out logic and run your race. Do you know what else? I thought humor was one of my throwaway qualities forever. Surely that had no place in Jesus Work. Frankly, I considered it a liability — as if I should overcome it and get serious, for the love. (What kind of a Bible teacher loves Will Ferrell?) I figured I should manage the important stuff and ratchet down the humor, because I am a grown woman who works for Jesus. But guess what? God created an entire package. It all counts. There are no throwaway qualities. In fact, those qualities might point you in just the right direction. Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, preference, experience, tragedy, quirk, nothing. It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good. Maybe your best thing won’t draw a paycheck, but it is how you shine and glow and come to life and bless the world. May I legitimize your gifts? Just because you don’t get a pay stub doesn’t mean you shrink back or play small or give it all up. Do your thing. Play your note. We are all watching and learning, moved. You are making the world kinder, more beautiful, wiser, funnier, richer, better. Give your gifts the same attention you would if it paid. (Or paid well! Some do our best, most meaningful work for peanuts. Don’t be shamed out of your race for a bigger paycheck. I didn’t make a living as a writer for years. My neighbor, upon hearing I was a Christian author, once said: “Oh! Is there a market for that?” Me: “I have no idea.”) Run your race. Maybe you need to invest in your gifts. Take a class. Go to a conference. Sign up for a seminar. Start that small business. Put that website up. Build in some space. Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it with no apologies. Do you know who will do this for you? No one. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because the only thing fear yields is one dormant gift in a shallow grave. How many trot out that tired cliché — “I’m waiting for God to open a door” — and He is all, “I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move.” (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose. It isn’t fake or a fluke or small. These are the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given, so use them. Let the rest of us grin at you while you run your race. Let us be proud. Let us be inspired and grateful that God made you to do this thing like a boss. The timing is never right. Forget that. It rarely just falls into your lap. You are probably not guaranteed success. This might be a risk. It will require sacrifices from you and maybe your people, and you might step out on shaky, shaky legs. But off you go because we were not created to stand still, even though that is safe and familiar and you are guaranteed never to fall or stumble or grow weary. We were made to run. RUN. I’m grinning at you. We all are.