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ONLY YOU CAN BE YOU
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
A MASTERPIECE ... ME?
During my freshman year of college, I took an art class. I wasn't interested in art at all-but I was very interested in this cute girl who "just happened" to be an art major. Our first class assignment was to go to an art gallery and study different works of art. Even though the cute girl didn't want to go with me (I'll save that story for when I write a book called Congratulations! You're an Idiot) I made the trip to the fancy art gallery so I wouldn't fail the class.
Upon arriving I was greeted by the gallery director, who enthusiastically told me how to get the most from my experience. I was definitely a fish out of water. I remember noticing one cool sculpture made entirely out of scrap metal, but mostly I didn't "get it" when it came to art. I'd look at a painting and think, "That's nice" or, "What was he thinking?" or, "If I swallowed a lot of paint and then threw up on canvas it would look like that one there." You know, really insightful art comments.
The highlight of my visit was meeting a middle-aged artist named Ray. I was immediately blown away by how much passion he had for his work. He showed me some of his paintings with a sense of pride in his ability and confidence in his calling to be an artist. He spoke with conviction that his creations were clearly one-of-a-kind originals. I was amazed by all he could see in his art, since I could see only a bunch of different colors and shapes. But like other artists, Ray viewed each piece of art he made as unique-not meant to be reproduced. Every time he picked up his brush, his goal was to create a masterpiece that was totally original. I learned more in that one afternoon about art and masterpieces than I'd learned in my previous 19 years of life. (But apparently I didn't learn enough to get higher than a C+ in the class.)
A few years earlier, when I was in ninth grade, I had met another artist who changed my life. This other artist was even more passionate about his own creations. His love for me and every one of his creations far outweighed any human artist's love for their work. I'm referring to the God of the universe as the Artist who changed my life.
God and his amazing craftsmanship shaped me into the man I am today and inspired me to want to make a difference with my life. Check out how the Bible describes God's awesome work in the life of a human:
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-and how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:14-16, NLT)
These verses make it clear that you and I are special creations of God, the Artist! God didn't create you to take up space or just hang around or become excess baggage on this planet. God created you to spend your life loving him, loving others, and making a difference while you're alive. God began crafting you into his masterpiece while you were still in your mother's womb. Your mom and dad played a part in your creation (I know, sick thought-that's another chapter of another book called, Congratulations! Your Parents Had Sex-Doesn't That Seem Gross?), but God himself is the One who breathed life into you.
God is the ultimate Artist, and he doesn't create anything without value. He designed you specifically and originally so you could do something unique with your life, something no one else would do just like you. In fact, God is smiling right now thinking of you as you learn for the first time, or the thousandth time, that you are his original masterpiece. Here it is from the Bible: "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).
Though we may not know each other, I'm assuming you don't want to waste your life. I've never met any teenager who has said, "My goal is to be a loser and do nothing with my life!" Most teenagers have dreams of greatness and want to do something significant. How about you? Have you given it much thought? It's realistic that you may not know what you want to do with the rest of your life, but whatever it is, I'm betting you want it to be good ... even great.
If that's true, then I welcome you and invite you to spend some time trying to discover something about your uniqueness. I encourage you to read this book and discover more about the particular way God has shaped you into his masterpiece. Even if you don't like reading, your time with this book may be very helpful to you. Once you discover who you are (God's work of art), then you can start figuring our what God might have planned for you and the specific way he designed you to make a difference in the world.
ONE OF A KIND
Like the artist who takes scrap metal and turns it into an amazing sculpture, God takes the pieces of your life and shapes them with his own loving hands to be a one-of-a-kind original masterpiece. Congratulations! There is no one else on the planet just like you! Six billion people walking around-and billions before them-and no one is just like you. No one! That's mind-blowing! Think about it for a minute. Try to get your mind around the truth that there never has been and never will be someone identical to you. Only you can play the role of you!
As you continue to read, I'd love for you to imagine we are going to meet at a nearby Starbucks (easy to imagine since there seems to be one on every corner). At this Starbucks you and I order some drinks, grab a couple of comfortable chairs, and pull them by a small, window-side table. I'm drinking a large iced tea (iced tea because I hate coffee, and large because I know we'll be together for a while) and you're drinking a _________ (insert your favorite drink). As we hang out together we'll spend time thinking about your life, your uniqueness, and how you can use your life to make a difference and impact others.
I'm honored to sit with you! I'm so excited to have the privilege of guiding and helping you discover for yourself just how unique, original, and one-of-a-kind you really are. Once you discover more about who you are, you'll most likely do what so many other teenagers before you have done. Do you know what that is? It's pretty awesome-they've used their lives to make a difference in the world. They haven't just taken up space on earth, they didn't just put in their time at school so they could graduate and then start putting in time at some ordinary job. Instead, they've used their unique SHAPE to do something only they could have done, something they were created for. They've put God's masterpiece on display by using their lives to do what God has designed them to do. There are few things that bring me greater joy than helping teenagers discover their unique, God-given SHAPE and then watching as they spend their lives doing what God created for them.
My goal is to help you discover the unique way God has shaped you. If you'll read these pages (while you meet with me at Starbucks) and bring a willingness to learn, I believe you will start finding and fulfilling God's specific purpose for your life.
My new friend, I hope your heart beats with anticipation and excitement knowing that God is going to start revealing your uniqueness to you as the pages ahead unfold.
DISCOVERING YOUR SPECIAL SHAPE
As one of God's custom-designed original masterpieces, your potential to make a difference in this world is endless. I want to help you learn that what you choose to be and do may be revealed by the unique way God has created you. It will become an exciting adventure to take. Over the years many others have taken this journey to ...
discover their spiritual gifts, recognize their abilities, use their skills, express their personalities, and learn from their past experiences ...
as they pursued their unique contribution. This search isn't new or unique to the 21st century!
Actually, my hope is that our time together will help you uncover your personal SHAPE. Have you noticed that I've used the word shape several times already? I like the word a lot. My friend and pastor came up with an idea that helps people like you and me recognize and remember God's artistic design. He crafted a memorable acronym to help us remember and discover our unique SHAPE. Your unique and personal SHAPE can be better understood by looking at the following five terms and questions.
S stands for Spiritual Gifts
Question: What spiritual gifts has God given you?
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have been filled with God's Spirit. The Bible reveals that God has given you one or more spiritual gifts you can use to build up the body of Christ (other Christians). Together, we'll attempt to help you figure out your unique spiritual gift(s). (That's what chapter 2 is all about.)
H stands for Heart
Question: What are you really passionate about?
The answer to this question would include your special passions or the "loves" of your life. (When you get to chapter 3, we'll spend time talking about what you love to do and how that can influence the impact you make for God.)
A stands for Abilities
Question: What are you naturally good at?
This is your set of talents God gave you when you were born. You're good at something-in fact, you're good at a bunch of things! God doesn't want you to waste your natural abilities; instead, he wants you to use them to make a difference in his world. (You guessed it, chapter 4 is about helping you identify your abilities and then figuring out how they will enhance the unique role God has in mind for you.)
P stands for Personality
Question: How do you usually relate to people and situations?
This is the special way God wired you to navigate life. There's not a right or wrong personality, there's your personality-and it plays a role in determining the way you impact the world for God. (Chapter 5 ... yep, you're catching on, the chapters go in SHAPE order.)
E stands for Experiences
Question: What have been your positive and negative experiences and what have you learned?
You have a past-we all do. There are parts of your past (both positive and painful) that God will use in great ways in the future. God doesn't waste our hurts-your past will teach you lessons that will contribute to your future. (Guess which chapter? You got it-all this discovery is in chapter 6. After my teenage son read this, he said, "Dad, those chapter comments aren't funny." He's probably right, but I left them in to bug him.)
Now, spend 30 seconds and try to commit the SHAPE words to memory. We'll be spending a lot of time looking at these five key words:
S: Spiritual gifts
Before you move to the next chapter, I want you to think about the following words: "I don't have to wait until I'm an adult to figure out my SHAPE." Please understand this! You are a unique, wonderfully complex teenager who has answers to these SHAPE questions now. Your SHAPE isn't fully formed yet-but that's true for adults, too. (I think God continues to refine our shapes throughout our entire lives.) But I want to challenge you to search for answers to the questions in an attempt to figure out how God has shaped you to impact the world in your own unique way.
If you never understand your SHAPE, you may end up doing things that God never intended or designed you to do. When your gifts don't match the role you play in life, you may feel discouraged. (Have you heard the expression, "square peg being pounded in a round hole?") This can be frustrating to you and to those around you. If you don't take the time to discover and understand your unique SHAPE, you may produce limited results with your life and waste enormous talents, time, and energy. I know you don't want that for your life.
As you get ready to discover and maximize your unique God-given SHAPE, I want to take you back once more to the art gallery I visited during college. Imagine for a moment that a portrait of your life (not your face) hangs as an original masterpiece in the gallery. What would you like that portrait of your life to look like? What would be the unique details? What is the title of that masterpiece?
Don't be discouraged if the picture feels a bit confused, cluttered, or blurry. Great art takes time. Don't be discouraged if you're not yet able to see clearly the masterpiece God is creating in and through you. God promises, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). God will keep working on you until the artwork of your life is more like Jesus himself! (See Ephesians 4:13.) If you're like me, God has a lot of work left to do.
I hope you will launch into this discovery process with excitement and anticipation, filled with confidence because you know the Master Artist is holding the paintbrush. Think of each of the following chapters as a specific color God will use to bring out the clarity of your masterpiece. As your masterpiece takes shape, realize that your personal SHAPE is God's gift to you.
I'm praying you'll enjoy our time together.
FOR REFLECTION, JOURNALING, OR SMALL-GROUP DISCUSSION
At the end of every chapter you will find a special section, designed to help you think a little more about what you learned. If you are going through this material with others in your youth group, school, or small group, this is a good place to share what you're learning with one another.
As we begin this journey, take a few minutes and write God a note in the space below, asking him to help you see how special you are and the specific purpose he has just for you. Be sure to thank him for making you an original masterpiece. (Don't forget to sign your name and date it.)
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"It's a fascinating thing to me that literally everything God makes is unique-every human, animal, flower, tree, even every blade of grass. He didn't clone anything. Even identical twins possess their own individual uniqueness. That ought to tell us that our individuality is a sacred trust-and what we do with it is our gift to God. Our best contribution in life-our 'utmost for his highest'-can only be made as we allow God to finish his work in progress and perfect our uniqueness. To live without discovering our uniqueness is to not really live. I think God is heartbroken when his children miss out on the potential he has placed inside of them."
Tom Paterson, Living the Life You Were Supposed to Live
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"Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa, Beethoven created one Fifth Symphony, and God made one version of you. You're it! ... You can do something no one else can do in a fashion no one else can do it. You are more than a coincidence of chromosomes and heredity, more than just an assemblage of somebody else's lineage. You are uniquely made.... Can you be anything you want to be? I don't think so. But can you be everything God wants you to be? I do think so. And you do become that by discovering your uniqueness."
Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life
Excerpted from Congratulations ... You're Gifted! by Doug Fields Erik Rees
Copyright © 2008 by Doug Fields and Erik Rees. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 7, 2011
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