I saw Maya Angelou one time on TV. (If the question is, “were you watching the Martha Stewart show?” The answer is sadly enough, “yes.”) Angelou is perhaps America’s most treasured living poet and is known the world over for her ability to write and speak.
What was interesting about the short interview was that at one point in her life Angelou did not speak. In fact, from the ages of 7-13, she was a voluntary mute. Not a word escaped her lips, even when an elementary teacher tried to slap her face hard enough to make her speak. You see, Angelou was molested as a child. When the man passed away, she thought she had killed him with her voice. So from that point on she did not speak.
There are probably a million good ideas within the sadness of this tale but the one that struck me most was the lesson about gifts. Angelou’s strongest passion, the thing she would call her reason to be, is her words. She is a public speaker, an orator that has moved presidents and even nations at times. And yet for six years she did not share a single word.
Her gift was stolen. Perhaps only temporarily, but it was stolen nonetheless. Maybe you’ve got a gift too that has been stolen. I think that happens more than we like to admit. Maybe there’s some hurt associated with that gift. You’re a musician that could never please your father so you gave up the piano. An artist whose work caused pain somehow so you gave up the paint brushes. I don’t know how it happened to you, but because I write this blog, I’ll tell you how it happened to me.
I used to use my words to interact with girls online. I used to post funny things, or insightful things in hopes that my approval addiction would get fed in some way. I even started sending out long, bibly emails to friends from church in hopes that they would tell me how holy I was. I misappropriated my greatest gift in a selfish desire to feed my massive ego and numb my wounds.
After a while, I realized what I was doing and decided to never do that again. The easiest way was to simply stop writing. The way I could control it in my own power was to quit writing. I might have scribbled in a journal, but the swirling and twisting storm of words that seethed inside remained silent. My gift was stolen. There were too many thorn bushes planted by my one talent. I didn’t want to be anywhere near it.
I eventually couldn’t contain it any longer. The words inside me felt like soldiers dying inside a submarine that was running out of air. I asked God if I could write again. I asked him if he was cool with me writing, given my less than proud past. The answer was not what I expected. It was actually pretty simple. I felt like he said, “Do you know what I do when you write? I sing.”
That’s the truth. I think we know that when we use our gift to hurt ourselves or others we understand that satan is winning. (I just gave him the middle finger of grammar by lower casing the s!) But I think satan wins too when we refuse to use our gift at all. He loves to attack our gifts that matter most, the most. And when we lock them tightly in a chest under our bed, he wins.
So here’s my blog. And there’s your gift, waiting to be used. Don’t let it be stolen. You might have damaged it and bruised it in the past. Someone close to you may have tried to snuff it out.
But it’s there. Tired of being silent, desperate to sing.