Hidden Gifts and Hidden Talents

August 25, 2014

My mother has been a resident in a nursing home for some 10 years now. She has dementia as well as the disease of Alzheimer’s. One of the consequences of living apart from my very demonstrative and expressive father, is that my mother’s humorous side has emerged. No longer living in the shadow of her husband, who was always very jovial and quite boisterous, my mother has felt freer to express herself, crack jokes, and be playful with the staff and those who come to visit her. As her son, it has been wonderful to be a witness to my mom’s wit, to be able to tease her, and to see a very different side of her. Perhaps this funny side was always part of my mother’s character, but it had to lay dormant and in the shadows. It took a safe environment and a supportive community for my mother’s gift of humor to reveal itself. I am just grateful, that although she has significant cognitive problems, I am able to see and participate in this incredible gift my mother has been given.

Discovering and demonstrating one’s hidden gifts and talents are actions which take some courage and conviction. An enlightened teacher will persuade his/her students to think “outside of the box” stretch their imaginations, and explore. A child that is not encouraged to take music lessons, or play sports, will never know if they are a budding professional athlete or able to foster a life-long appreciation of the arts. In these cases the teacher and the parents are key in supporting the child, providing opportunities for discovery and nurturing their hidden talents and gifts.

The discovery and support for revealing and expressing hidden talents and gifts is also one of the benefits of marriage. Spouses need to be supportive of each other, encourage each other’s endeavors and discoveries, and most importantly dispel any fears that the other might have in revealing who God truly made them to be. Unconditional love, full respect and compassion for each other are the hallmarks of a solid and healthy marriage. These God-like qualities are especially vital when discovering hidden talents and expressing them.

For Christians, and many others, discovering and revealing hidden talents and gifts is not for self-glorification or self-aggrandizement, but to be of service to others. Numerous children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say that they want to be firemen, doctors, and teachers, expressing an innate desire to help others. A married man or woman, who forgets that his /her first duty is to their spouse, is not a worthy partner. The theology of the Orthodox Church is replete with the term “helpmate” when referring to the role of the spouse.

However, when anyone, child or adult, is discouraged from expressing their talents and gifts, or worse, ridiculed for wanting to explore the richness that God gave them, the results can be disastrous. Artificially stunted spiritual, emotional, or mental growth is an affront to God for not realizing the full potential He has given to each one of us. It is sad when humans refuse to expand their horizons and develop their gifts and talents, but it even more abhorrent when an individual, a family, a community, or a society keeps an individual from being the person that they could be, the person God intended them to be, especially in the service of others.

Numerous gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals are unable to explore, develop and express their talents, and give and share their gifts because families, communities and societies have unworthily shamed them and demanded that they hide who they truly are.  Perhaps nowhere is this more egregious than in the Orthodox Church. A Church of great truth and beauty has rebuked and shunned its LGBT communicants for no other reason than for the way that God created us. Not only has the Church failed to minister with honesty to its gay communicants, but in many cases it has committed spiritual and pastoral malpractice.  By rejecting the facts of biology and psychology, and clinging to ancient and false interpretations of Scripture and canon law , the Church has deeply wounded and continues to inflict harm on a part of the Body of Christ. “When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (I Corinthians 12:26) The earthly Church of Christ will never be whole until it embraces and accepts all of God’s glorious creation, including His gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered children.

When a person has to pre-occupy themselves with hiding who they truly are, and who they are called to love, one has little extra precious time to devote to the things that matter in life. So rather than hide who they are, and who they share a life with, many LGBT Orthodox have chosen to leave the Church or be very distant members. And here the Church has lost out on the richness of gifts and talents that the church member, who happens to be gay, could bring to the Church, in the service of others. There are countless Orthodox Christians who happen to be gay, who desire a deeper, sacred relationship with the Church and to be part of a vibrant, honest community of people serving Christ and each other. Our family and friends have already discovered that we are no different from anyone else in the areas that matter, and that we can and do enrich the lives of others. It is time for the Church to accept the offering of our gifts and talents that God has so splendidly given to each one of us.

  1. Maria Said,

    A beautiful reflection. Thank you so much. 

  2. andre Said,

    Maria,

    Thank you for your very kind words.

    I bid you peace,

    Andriy

  3. Isaac Said,

    Father Andre,

    Thank you for such an insightful reflection. The Church is a body, like a human body. When one part of the body is in pain or injured, the rest of the body feels it too! For instance, if one is sick or bodily injured, the mind will not function clearly, the body will feel physically tired until it has had adequate rest and recovery time. When harm is done to the members, then the rest of the members feel the pain too, in the guise of darkness, ignorance, seclusion, and especially fear. This is why it is important, as you said, to let us accept who God created us to be and use our gifts to serve God and one another. The only sadness I have is that a lot are blinded by their pride yet they do not see it or realize it. I think that Jesus' life is a excellent example of this struggle. 

    I really like the Lazarus Saturday troparion, which says, "We are the children who carry the palms of victory, crying out to thee: Oh, conquerer of death, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

    We welcome Christ into our hearts just like he was welcomed into Jerusalem before His passion. 

  4. andre Said,

    Isaac,

    Thank you, as always for your thoughts and kind words.  Unfortunately too many in the Church hierarchy, including priests as well as bishops, have been willing to sacrifice gay and lesbian people in order to create an Earthly church created in their image, and not God’s.  I guarantee you that the people, heterosexuals, do feel the pain caused to our community.  This website receives numerous emails from the parents, siblings, relatives and friends of LGBT Orthodox who are tired of the treatment that their loved ones, who happen to be gay, receive from the leadership of the Church. Our mission is to be as honest as we can about who God made us to be and who we are called to love.  With prayer, honesty and our open hearts, we will be able to change the hearts and minds of those who hate us or wish us ill. 

    I bid you peace,

    Andriy

  5. John Said,

    This is my first visit to this website.  The words above accurately describe my experiences growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church, then leaving it as a young adult after I came out and came to understand that I was no longer welcome in the Church as long as I lived my life openly and honestly, the way God created me.  I've tried (and often succeeded) to find my Higher Power elsewhere, but a part of me has always missed the relationship I once had with this beautiful religion.  This gives me a little hope that I can, perhaps, someday reconcile that.  Thank you. 

  6. andre Said,

    John,

    Thank you so very much for your kind words and support of this website. It means a lot to me. Your experience of bring brought up in the Church, having a love for it and then not feeling welcome when you realized fully who God made you to be, in not an uncommon story in the Orthodox Church, unfortunately. I would encourage you to once again look at the beauty of the Church that you so loved.  While indeed we can’t always be open in Church, we can live our truth in other ways, challenging the discrimination and ignorance in smaller ways. That is how we will affect change in people’s hearts. Please stay in touch.

    I bid you inner peace,

    Andriy

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