Giving a gift that is unique to us is special. It is a part of us that only comes out
when we give in ways that matter to us. I know that criticism has always been
around. Unfortunately, some of us experience fear of the criticism we may get
because criticism is all around or because we have experienced it ourselves.
I can think of some instances where criticism kept me from giving vulnerably. One
afternoon, in particular, I was sitting at the piano in the sanctuary of my
church. I had decided to start worshipping God while I was waiting to pick up
kids for the afternoon school program we offered. As I was playing, a fellow
leader came up and sat beside me. As I ended the song, she looked at me and
spoke only one sentence as she looked unimpressed. She said, “Is that all you can do?”
I was caught off guard by her comment. At the time, my husband and I were worship
leaders there, and she played the bass. Now, to clarify, I am not the world’s
greatest piano player. I can’t read music well and basically play by ear. My
fingers don’t glide off the piano keys, harmoniously hitting the right balance
of keys, like you may picture a professional worship leader. And I am not
ignorant of this. I am not an expert, and I am not a beginner. I fit in between.
I kindly responded to her, saying, “Yes, it is. I know it isn’t much, but it gets
the job done.” While my response was adequate, my heart hurt. Suddenly, I
found myself not wanting to mislead people from worshipping God with my poor
piano playing skills. I discovered that my passion for playing the piano,
writing music, and singing to God while leading others in worship, began to fade away.
Distracted By Hurt
Why had this happened? Because I knew this kind of criticism before. It happened one
day before I was to sing in front of a church I was visiting with my family
when someone, whose opinion I valued the most, told me I sang through my nose.
I was thirteen or fourteen at the time.
In each of those instances, I was criticized in was in private. Still, I have to tell you
that, for me, being criticized, no matter where I was and who I was with, made
no difference. It made no difference because once someone came up to me and
told me I wasn’t good at something, my mind would start to wander. I could immediately
imagine everyone around me thinking and saying that I wasn’t any good. I felt
that they believed it was better that I didn’t participate in the things I was
told that I was not good in.
Of course, this led to instances in my life where people would ask me to play the
piano and sing. I would decline because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself
and put myself up to criticism and be a topic of gossip. These were Christian
people in my life who had told me that I sucked, after all. I needed to listen
to them. They had ears. They knew what sounded good and had the discernment to
know what God would use and not use for His glory.
In my mind, I began to convince myself that I was supposed to be a prayer warrior. I
needed to work behind the scenes. Then, I could serve God and others, not
hinder or cause people to sin by gossiping. I just wanted to worship God in
whatever capacity was glorifying and loving. I was doing it wrong, from what I
had heard them say.
Healing Does Come
As the years have gone by, I am learning that I need to have a balance in my life when
listening to people’s criticisms. I need to be open to the possibility that
these could be true and take them straight to prayer. Just because someone
tells us that our abilities are lacking or that whatever good we trying to
offer isn’t enough doesn’t always mean they are right. And sometimes, I believe
they sincerely think these things and are trying to help us. Their approach isn’t
always the best, but their intentions mean well. But then there are those people
who, let’s be real here, are mean and intend to hurt us for some reason or
other. It’s true, and I have to say it. We can’t sugar-coat it. Some people are just plain old
mean and need our prayers. Remember Mary, Lazarus’ sister? After Lazarus was
raised from the dead, Jesus came to their house.
John 12:1-8 says, “Therefore, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to
Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made
Him a dinner there, and Martha was serving, and Lazarus was one of those
reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of
very expensive perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped
His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the
perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, the one who intended to
betray Him, *said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred
denarii and the proceeds given to poor people?”
Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a
thief, and as he kept the money box, he used to steal from what was put into
it. Therefore Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for
the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not
always have Me.”
God Accepts Our Gifts
Now here is this woman who is overcome with love for Jesus. She sees how important He is
to her and how much impact He has made in her life. Seriously, He had a huge
impact. Raising her brother from the dead was only one of the acts of kindness
and mercy he showed toward her and her family. And there is Judas. A thief and
a critic. In front of her and everyone else, he scoffs at her gift. All
because, deep down inside, he wanted money.
How incredibly cruel!!! I love what happens next. Jesus responds with the most
loving and accepting speech. “Leave her alone.” He did not reject her
love nor her gift. He did not reject her form of worship. He accepted it.
Years later, when I read this scripture, I began to pray that God would bring me back
to that place in my heart. I prayed for Him to mend those hurts and give me the
courage to be vulnerable again and give back to Him. I prayed that my
worshipping and loving Him would return with confidence in knowing that He never
has and never will reject my gift of worship to Him.
I’m Still Learning
I still struggle at times, but not as much. I have, since then, learned to surround
myself with people who seek to edify and help me in my growing seasons. I have
chosen to take comments, opinions, and suggestions to God first. To help me see
if there is any merit to what people say to me. After that, I move forward,
accepting that, even when I really do suck, God can help me change what I can
change and keep doing what is good.
I really hope this encourages you. This is
a hard road to walk and, it is hard to talk about. Just know that when you have
something to give, and you give it out of the desire to love God and others, it
does make God happy and, He accepts it with arms open wide. He smiles and says,
“Thank you, I love it.”