Everyone wants to be good at something.
I think most people wish they could be the best at something. I know I do.
When I was growing up, there were a few talents that I could boast about. Drawing was one of them, and private art lessons boosted my natural talent. The problem was that I didn’t have a place to show off my creations, you know, in the dark ages before the advent of the internet and social media.
At least we had an annual art show, but who actually came to those? Family, who are obligated to say I’m talented, and the competition… I mean other art students … whose work I side-glanced in comparison.
Then I took up classical guitar. Now, that is a nerdy thing to do. When you play classical guitar you have to walk a very fine line between amazing people with your talent and being horribly mocked for having long fingernails on only one hand. (I did learn, later, that when you play classical guitar on an electric with distortion, you sound super rad!)
The upside of playing classical guitar, however, was that it is a fairly exclusive category. So I could play simple pieces but, because nobody had a context of what real talent was, I sounded pretty awesome.
Until Mike Braun that is. For some reason my friend Mike took up classical guitar in junior high. And, quite frankly, he cared more about it than I did. His combination of having an amazing teacher, personal aptitude, and a drive to practice, soon blew me out of the water with talent. In fact, I’m pretty sure he teaches music now in a university in San Francisco.
I wanted to be the best so badly. And because I couldn’t, I eventually parked my guitars. (Yes, multiple guitars.)
That inner-narrative has been such a powerful force in my life that when I picked up my classical for the first time in years, one of my first thoughts was of Mike Braun.
Actually, it’s kind of a funny story. Our daughter Caitlin, who had lived with us for several years already, had never heard me play guitar. I remember her looking a bit perplexed when she heard my astonishing abilities playing beginner classical pieces on an old, mis-tuned guitar.
But I remember that day for another reason as well. As I sat there playing out of my oldest guitar books, amazing my children and thinking about Mike Braun, a voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Thom, you’re actually right, you know. Mike is much better guitarist than you.”
Thanks for the affirmation, Lord. I thought.
“But you’re a good guitar player. You aren’t the best artist either.”
“But you’re a very good artist. In fact, you aren’t the best speaker, but you are very good. And you aren’t the best writer, but you are good at that too. You also aren’t the best husband or dad, but you are a good man.
And while you might be not be ‘the best’ in any of those single categories, taken all together with your unique mix of talents and qualities, collectively, I have made the best Thom I could have. There is no other person one earth like you.”
This changed my inner narrative. It changed how I looked at myself, but it also changed how I looked at others. There will always be the person who is considered “The Best” in some category of speed, or leadership, or gamesmanship, or spiritual disciplines, or any other category that we use as the gold-standard against ourselves, but there is no other person with the unique recipe of qualities and talents that makes you, uniquely you.
One of the key components to healthy relational development between a child and their caregiver is being seen. Being seen means that you can be exactly who you are in the presence of your parent. It means that when you hurt, you are allowed to hurt – even if that pain seems ridiculous to a dad. It means, that when our kids act all weird and dress up to do “a play” for the adults, we give them the stage, laugh, say bravo and clap for them at the end.
It means we attend recitals and tournaments and assemblies where our kids are performing.
It means we look past the assumptions we have for how a child of ours should be, and let them be the unique blend of proficiencies, deficiencies, that is locked into their genes and nurtured by our care.
There is only one guaranteed quality that all humanity shares, which is that we are made in the image of God. But think about that for a minute! This means that the only way to gain a complete picture of who God is requires us to look at every unique individual collectively, for no one part images the whole of God.
Now go take a look at your child. How do they reflect God to you?