“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Life happens. We cannot live through a month, or for that matter, even a week without some sort of event that brings some sort of change. This world is always changing. Even our language and the meaning of our words go through a process of change What some words meant a few years ago, they don’t mean today. I’m sure you can think of quite a few.
In the Roman world of the first and second centuries, the Latin word for ‘genius’ was defined very differently from how we use the word today. We define ‘a genius’ as someone who is incredibly smart in some aspect of knowledge or skill. Genius is peculiar to an individual person. In contrast to ancient times, genius was defined as a skill or special knowledge that was bestowed by a deity, and because deities would be localized to a specific geography, your genius was ascribed to you from where you came. They surmise that the place you had walked was the key to the genius that was shaped and formed in you.
Maybe they were not entirely wrong. I think that where we have been does contribute greatly to who we are. The Pharisees in the book of Acts called the disciples of Jesus unschooled ordinary men but they took note that they had been with Jesus. God’s character is forged in us as we spend time with him. His genius happens when we abide in those places he has for us. It’s the refining fire that many prophets spoke about or said another way, the narrow place or the desert experience that shapes us.
None of us love to be in “those places,” especially when it is hard to understand or appreciate the work that is being formed in us, yet it is exactly in those difficult places where we gain the wisdom, understanding, and Godly character that inform us for the rest of our lives.
It was true for King David. While he is known as a warrior king who fought epic battles, none larger than his ‘one-on-one’ battle with Goliath, the most enduring gift from David’s life was not his military victories or his kingly achievements. Rather it was the genius developed as a singer/songwriter. Humanity has for the past 3000 years been blessed by the Psalms that were written and crafted in the wilderness places tending his father’s sheep.
If ‘genius,’ from the Roman world perspective, is that which is formed in us when we have come from a given place, then let’s not despise the download of wisdom and the slow refining process of a Godly character that transforms us into “His genius” while we are there. Maybe the Romans were right. Genius comes when we ‘Embrace the Place’ God has for us.
Do not deride the refining experience, but rather trust that God’s genius is being shaped and formed in you. It just may be that the genius formed in you will be the enduring gift that God uses to bless others and even our world.