During the months of October and November, I had the opportunity to speak to various groups of young people. The events included a Magnify night, Confirmation class, and youth group sessions.
My talks were around 15-20 minutes long, and covered topics such as the Rosary, the Blessed Mother, and the Paschal Mystery.
To be quite frank, public speaking terrifies me. I experience nervous butterflies in the weeks preceding an engagement, and struggle with feelings of anxiety when I imagine holding a microphone in front of the crowd. However, I have strangely grown to love it.
I've begun to see how when God gives us particular talents and skills, He doesn't exclude the opportunity for pain, as we've all experienced throughout His presence in our lives. Rather than place our gift of a specific talent at the bottom of a grassy hill, illuminated with sunshine and lined with daisies, Our Lord oftentimes lays it atop a great mountain, surrounded by dark, angry clouds, with steep sides and difficult trails. No, he does not omit pain, but includes it as a vital aspect of this gift.
This is because our gifts, talents, skills are not for us. We were not given the talent of a beautiful voice, the ability to create inspiring works of art, the gift of particular sensitivity... to serve ourselves.
We are given these so we may bring souls to Heaven, including our own.
Without the various pains and difficulties our talents may bring us throughout the journey of cultivating them, we would greatly lack the depth we are capable of. When my sister one day performs her instrument in the orchestra, she will play with all the power and beauty derived from the hours of practice, afternoons of anxiety and doubt, and most of all, the times of dull darkness when that voice whispered words of that sleepy, slow death that is spiritual mediocrity. She will play music that leads souls to avidly search for God.
Two weeks ago, this realization came to me as I came down with a fever and raging headache practically minutes prior to speaking to a Confirmation class. It was their last group session before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. As I debated in my mind what to do, the thought occurred to me that I did not realize why I was speaking to these students. It was not for my comfort, for my self-appreciation or accomplishment (as much as those thoughts naturally arose). It was not a fun activity, only to be executed when I felt perfectly healthy and had a clean, cute outfit.
Instead, I had been placed there by God for my own sanctification, and that of the student audience.
One day we will see the heavenly results of a self-denying utilization of our talents; we will see the lives changed, the conversions inspired and the souls saved.
May we all come to know our God-given talents, and embrace the pain necessary to produce its fruits.