One weekend this spring Bruce's sister, who lives in Omaha, visited us. Her hobby is photography, and one of her favorite subjects is birds. We decided to take her to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha and invited our eight year old grandson Peter to go with us. When we picked him up for the day's excursion, he was all prepared. In his backpack he had his binoculars, a notebook, pen, and a guidebook about raptors, which I bought him a couple years ago when we went to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. He had decided, by the way, all on his own what he wanted to bring with him.
As we drove to the center, which is located on the Mississippi River a couple hours away, Peter shared some facts about raptors. Facts such as their size and how long they typically live and what they eat and how their numbers have greatly increased in North America in recent years. He also told us that his favorite species of eagle is the golden eagle, and he hoped to see one at the center. He wondered if there are species other than the golden and the bald in North America, and we encouraged him to ask one of the center's volunteers that question. He did just that and we learned no, there are only two in our part of the world, but there are about 60 species throughout the whole world. None of us knew that, nor did any of us even know to ask that question.
At one point Papa asked Peter a question about eagles. I'm sorry I don't remember the question, but that's not really important anyway.
I could hear Peter sigh. A long, deep sigh, and then he said very clearly, very deliberately, "Papa, raptors are NOT my strength."
Of course, we then asked him to name his strength for us and without hesitation he said, "Wolves." That's true, for he knows nearly all there is to know about wolves.
I love this story and have told it many times since, for while it reveals a great deal about Peter, it is also a story that begs for a deep inner response from the listener. This is a spiritual story.
Do you know what is not your strength and may even be a weakness? Are you willing to admit that? And what are you doing about a part of yourself that is not your strength? Are you like Peter studying a guidebook and asking questions, hoping to learn more and add to what you already know?
Do you know your strength and are you willing to name that or are you carrying around false modesty in your backpack? What good is your strength doing hidden away?
What experiences in your life have helped you develop your strength? When have you been called upon to use your strength, to live your strength? In what ways have you deliberately chosen to exercise your strength?
And here's another question to consider: Has there ever been a time when your strength has been a detriment? Remember there is a shadow side to everything. Peter was more than willing to share his knowledge with us, but he did so without making us feel stupid for not knowing what he knew, nor was he showing off. His curiosity and interest led him to learn about raptors and wolves. His strength operates in the light.
Part of becoming the person we were created to be is being able to identify our strengths and our weaknesses and to understand how they function and guide the way we live in the world.
What are your strengths? What are you weaknesses? I would love to know.