Part 1: Naming Your Gifts
-Deborah Jean Lee
Those of us who are not part of the dominant culture are often told that we must “submit” our identities and assimilate to find acceptance. We are told that we’ve made an “idol” out of our sexuality or race, or any other part of ourselves that we simply want seen and honored. This is harmful language. It damages our ability to see ourselves as worthy of the unconditional love promised in scripture, it harms our relationship with God and it severs the body.
1 Corinthians 12
14 … the body is not made up of one part but of many.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as God wanted them to be.
I love this passage because in it, it’s so clear that the body is a diverse organism and that our differences make the body stronger. It’s also clear that if you want the body to thrive, all parts must be healthy. We cannot reduce the body to a single part.
This was revelatory to me because our culture serves up a completely different message. It props up straight, cis white men as the human ideal, and those different as deviations worth less. The takeaway: one part of the body matters above all. This is a white, Western patriarchal value system that inflicts horrific damage on so many parts of the body of Christ - queer and trans bodies, brown and black bodies, and more.
Over time, this kind of repeated denigration makes it difficult for those on the margins to simply recognize our actual gifts. We are so focused on measuring ourselves against the “ideal” that we can no longer see ourselves.
Let me bring you back to this beautiful verse, “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as God wanted them to be.”
Do you believe this about yourself?
Do you see how your presence and personhood give life to the world around you?
Can you name the unique gifts you possess? If so, write them down as a reminder to yourself when you’re feeling low. Write them in beautiful script or big bold lettering and put them somewhere visible.
And if you struggle to see your life-giving gifts, meditate on these questions. Ask close friends what they see. Take time to look at yourself. This is important. The world awaits your abundance.
About The Author
Deborah Jian Lee is an award-winning journalist, radio producer and author of the critically acclaimed book Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism.
Her book reporting has taken her to secret societies of LGBT Christians within conservative enclaves, social justice Christian communes and many other corners of the subculture, where she explores the intersection of evangelical faith with race, gender, sexuality and progressive politics.
She writes about a variety of subjects, including religion, international human rights, health, travel, personal finance and much more. Her stories have been published by Slate, Religion Dispatches, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, New York, Reuters, GOOD, SELF, WBEZ and WNYC, and many others. She was previously a staff reporter at The Associated Press.
Her series about migrant workers in China, written with reporting partner Sushma Subramanian, was a finalist for the 2012 Livingston Awards. The story, about the 58 million children left behind in China's countryside without their parents due to restrictive national policies, follows one mother's journey from the heart of China's industrial boom back to her village, as she tries to reunite her broken family. The pair also produced a radio documentary which explores the world of China's "bachelor villages," or areas overrun with aging bachelors whose bleak marriage prospects are a direct result of the country's gender imbalance. That documentary won the 2012 Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page award for radio feature.
Deborah has taught news reporting and magazine writing as a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. She previously taught intro to journalism to undergraduate students at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.