This week's study is going to be a bit different from the usual. Typically, I'm heavily exegetical - trying to listen to exactly what scripture is saying and drawing out what is implied by the exact words. Today, I'm heading in an atypically experiential direction - starting from my own experience, and moving to scripture from there. I'm not entirely sure how to keep it from sounding self-centered and boastful, but here goes.
Way back at the beginning of college, during a period of transition, looking at the discipline required for college, and the state of my mind at the time, I uttered the prayer, "Oh, Lord, You're going to have to teach me to think". Now, understand, it's not like I was intellectually lacking. Though not per se the studious and academic type, I was somewhat noted for my intelligence. I managed to pull things like snagging 2nd place (and first place the next year) in the school in the National Math Test while pulling C's in Algebra. When called upon for answers for homework that I hadn't done in Algebra, I'll look at the question, do the quadratic equation in my head, and give the (typically correct) answer. I drove my math teachers crazy.
In looking back over the years since I uttered that prayer, it's like God said to himself: "I don't get that request from intellectual types very often. Usually the intellectual types are far too convinced that they need no help or additional learning in thinking. I'm going to answer that prayer."
Now it's not like God dropped a text entitled "The Divine Method of Thinking" on me, which I could learn and then propound to others: "This is the way you're supposed to think!" He took the particular talents He had given me and moulded them even further. He plopped me for several years into a group of people who, while not unintelligent, weren't intellectually inclined, so I could learn that the Intellectual's heart for truth won't ever be entirely satisfied unless he's willing to listen to those he considers unintellectual. He took disparate elements like my reading of C. S. Lewis, my computer programming training, even my interest in SF/Fantasy books, and shaped my thinking with them. The result isn't that I'm better than anyone else, but that I'm more fitted to the work to which God has called me.
In looking back over this, I can't help but wonder if I've accidently (well, not really. Nothing in God's Kingdom is just accidental) stumbled across something easily passed by - the value of humbling your self before God in letting Him teach you the use of the talents He's given you. We grow up as Christians hearing the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30, Lu 19:12-27), and though it covers more than what in English we call talents, we rightly learn from the parable the need to use our talents for the Kingdom of God. What we may erroneously assume, though, is that just because we have been given talents, we automatically know how to use them best. Some amount of expertise comes with being given talents, but it doesn't mean it can't be improved.
I once heard a college professor comment: "I don't need God to tell me how to teach." It wasn't until a bit later that I realized that the answer to that is "You mean God Himself couldn't make any improvements in your teaching technique?" I don't think it's a matter of not using your talents until God has taught you, it's a matter of countering the innate pride that easily comes to us about our abilities and acknowledging that He always knows more than we do. "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (Jas 4:10) applies here. It is, essentially, the surrender of lordship over our own talents, and letting Him be Lord over them.