One of America’s most destructive myths is probably the myth of the prodigy.

When I was a kid, I played several different sports over the years. Baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, volleyball. Truthfully, I was never that into sports, it was just kind of the thing to do. At each of these sports, I was somewhere on the spectrum between bad and mediocre.

I started one game on the varsity volleyball team, but it was only because we were playing an inner-city school that didn’t have a JV team.

I was just playing for fun. But rather than really commit myself to one sport and to practice and excel at it, it was almost like I was trying to find one that I would naturally be really good at. I was trying to find my talent.

Did you ever do that? Try a lot of different things until you find that one that you were made to do?

That’s the prodigy myth. It’s the idea that some people are just born knowing how to perfectly do something.

And it’s absolute hogwash.

Certainly, some people are more talented than others. That only means that they take more naturally to training.

No child can play a symphony, solve complex math problems, or perfectly throw a football without training.

While a child may have a high intelligence or a lot of talent, if the child was never resourced to do that thing, it would still be impossible.

I talked to a young man recently who felt that if he didn’t publish a book before he graduated high school, he would be a failure.

I hope you don’t feel that way about yourself. You have time. You’re not supposed to be a prodigy. All you’re supposed to be is faithful.

Years ago, I saw Dave Chapelle, a famous standup comedian, interviewed. He started to book shows in big clubs when he was only fourteen years old. He explained that people would say, “this kid is a prodigy!”

What they didn’t know was that for years he had been sneaking into comedy clubs and taking notes—what worked and what didn’t work for the comics he watched. They also didn’t know that he bombed his first shows, just like everyone does.

Dave Chapelle is undeniably talented and he certainly rose quickly. But that still didn’t mean that he could just stand up and do it perfectly. He had to do the same work and endure the same pain as everybody else—he just did it a little faster.

We see an interesting adaptation of the prodigy myth in the American church. It’s the idea that if God has called you, He will instantaneously qualify you for the thing to which you’ve been called. If God called you to preach, you should just be able to stand up preach. If God called you to write, a step of faith is to self-publish that book right now.

God is God and He can do as He pleases. Praise be to God if He has miraculously given you skills. I once met an interpreter in Brazil who woke up one morning fully fluent in English, with no prior training in the language! But that does not seem to be the case for most people. That kind of supernatural skills-infusion does not seem to be the normal order of things.

Just like talent will help you apply your training more quickly, so can the Holy Spirit. But it will still take effort to reach the exceptionalism required of you to step into the calling God is inviting you into.

(This may also be true because God wants more than writing skill for you—He wants maturity, wisdom, and discernment for you, too.)

I hope this comes as a great encouragement to you.

Chances are that you’re not yet achieving your goals with your writing. Don’t be discouraged. No one was born knowing how to do these things.

It’s normal and reasonable that you’re not a prodigy and that you haven’t been miraculously gifted with skills.

Your job is the same as everyone else’s job. Remain faithful to the call.

Stay the course. Commit yourself to being purposeful in your improvement. Be thankful for any talent you do have which may help you to improve more quickly than others.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

I have faith that God prepared good things for me to do, and that he will provide for me to walk in that. Do you agree?

It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to try. It doesn’t mean that we’ll get everything right. Our job is to do our best to discern what God is calling us to, and to be faithful to the course.

Don’t be discouraged when you see other people who seem to be more successful than you. It’s not magic, and it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. Trust in God, and play your part.

Thankfully, there are no prodigies. You have everything you need.


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