by Ann Voskamp
Nick Vujicic tells his story. The morning of December 4, 1982, moments after his birth, they laid him in his mother’s arms. She held a blunt torso. Her firstborn had no arms. No legs. No limbs. Just this one twisted flap of flesh, a foot flipper. She swaddled him close and prayed and he lived, thrived. Doctors never knew why Nick was born without limbs. Today Nick combs his hair, brushes his teeth, jets around the world on speaking tours, and, astonishingly, even swims.
But it’s his words that jolt: “. . . People are touched just by my smile. It’s important to be open to the way God wants to use us.”
Often we aren’t. We think we need to be someone else, somewhere else, for God to use us. We think we need a certain talent, a certain skill, a certain work for God to use us. We think it’s about the gifts in us and not the God in us. We forget that his indwelling is the only reason he can use us.
I watch Nick, a man with no biceps, no thighs, just teeth and a “‘flipper,” get himself a glass of water, type on his keyboard, share his hope story with thousands of hurting people. God uses people willing to minister not out of their strengths but out of real weakness. Isn’t that how God himself ministered to the world?
So it is with us. God gives each individual singular gifts, but those talents can only be poured out onto the world through the cracks in our lives. Why do we think we need to be in a better place, spiritually, geographically, financially, professionally, before God can use us? He can’t leak out of those who think they have it all together. It’s right now, out of our own brokenness in this place, that God seeps out of us and into the world.
It’s part of the divine paradox. God gives us gifts, and we offer our talents, the work we do with our hands, our minds, back to God. This act is the very way God himself meets the needs of our community. Martin Luther writes, “God . . . hides himself in the ordinary social functions and stations of life, even the most humble. God himself is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.” In our everyday common work, doing that which we may not even recognize as a particular gift, we bring God to those we serve through our own humility and brokenness.
It may be an encouraging word to a colleague, a hearty handshake when meeting a neighbor. It may be a project well done at work, a warm tone of voice when answering the phone, a line of gratitude in an email.
It may be startlingly simple. Because human gifts ebb and flow and fail, and we really only have one true Gift to offer. To offer in our work, our words, our daily ways, “Here, all I have to give is Christ.” He hides himself in all we do so that even the simple, the daily, is enough.
And the truth is, God may never choose to bestow that talent we yearn for, that valued position we jockey for. He may never choose to give even arms or legs. But isn’t that the point? God has a plan and it’s his, not ours. We may be very receptive to God using us in the ways we imagine, but are we open to the way God wants to use us? He has a unique and distinctive vision for each of us. And it involves using us today, exactly as we are, where we are, doing what we do. For if we can’t serve God in this day, in this work, in this brokenness, when will we?
I watch Nick maneuver his wheelchair down a sidewalk. The last I see of him, he’s smiling. Turning towards my husband, I murmur lingering angst. “Do you think he ever gets depressed?”
My husband’s quiet words echo long, “I’d think it’d be most depressing for him to see all of us who’ve been given much and don’t use it.”
I have arms. I have legs. I’m broken. I’m in this place with these people. I have Christ. It’s important to be open to the way God wants to use you. It could be as simple, as wonderful, as smiling. It could begin now.