Good at everything–or the best in a few?

Before my seminary days, I worked as a nonpartisan journalist at the Minnesota House of Representatives. I was interviewing one particular representative for the purposes of writing a profile on her, since her retirement was imminent. I asked her about the best advice she had ever received as a politician.

“Find something that you enjoy, and are naturally talented in doing,” she responded. “If you’re good at everything, you’ll never be the best in anything.”

I don’t remember everything she said during that interview, but this particular word of advice stuck with me. It made sense—so much that it’s become a big part of my hopes for my own professional development. I didn’t always feel this way. It’s normal to want to be strong in many areas. For women in particular, we are promised that we can “have it all,” when life doesn’t always work out that way.

I still believe that it’s important to aim for success at everything I take on. But I also think of people I admire who are celebrated in their fields.  They found their strengths and discovered where those strengths met the world’s needs. For seminarians who are discerning vocation, it’s important to realize where you can fill an empty space, whether that be as a professor, pastor, chaplain, or something entirely new.

Personally, I’ve identified pastoral care and social justice as two realms where I feel I am strong. I enjoy areas like systematic theology and preaching but just don’t excel there in the same way—and that’s okay. I am learning that it’s realistic and practical to cultivate my gifts and look for a future position where those skills are needed. Even though I can work on my “growing edges,” the outcome will be best if I also work alongside people who are experts in those respects.

Right now, I’m interviewing for yearlong internship positions throughout the Chicago area. In my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, all seminarians seeking ordination are required to undertake one year as a vicar, or student pastor, as part of their studies. Throughout this process, I’ve learned that both pastors and churches can’t be all things to all people.

During my internship next year, I hope I can grow in places where I don’t have experience. I also hope that I can learn more about myself and discern what talents I have to offer a congregation. Doing a self-assessment can be a tough process—have you ever taken on this challenge before?