Thursday, 12 December 2013

True Accomplishment

..."no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.''
``All this she must possess,'' added Darcy, ``and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.''
``I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.''

Thus goes one of my favourite passages in Pride and Prejudice.  I love how, with Miss Bingly openly flourishing her accomplishments before him, Mr Darcy responds with a quiet backhanded compliment to Elizabeth, who misses the point of his comment entirely.

It got me to thinking, what really does make a woman or a man truly accomplished?  All who have read at least two or three Jane Austen books are aware that she was a genius for making vulgar characters, no matter how 'accomplished' they might be.  (If you can't think of any, consider Lydia, Miss Bingly, Mrs Jennings, and so forth.  I think Jane Austen did it on purpose so that the comparison would make her heroes all the more endearing and charming.)  You can be "accomplished" but still be a detestable person. defines 'accomplished' as "having all the social graces, manners, and other attainments of polite society."  Ha!  That may be so in the early nineteenth century, perhaps, but I am not convinced that 'polite society' as such is in such high vogue or is pursued as much as it was a little over a hundred years ago.  Neither do we tend to have a broad sweep of the arts anymore.  Rather, we hone in on our gifts and talents.  I think this is where the secret lies.  

 Romans 12:3-8 says,  "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;  or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;  he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

The key to true accomplishment in life, it seems then, is to take the gifts God has given us (natural and spiritual) and use them in humility and cheerfulness.  Sound easy?  I assure you it isn't.  It can be helpful to hear or read about people who did use their gifts the best way they could to the glory of God - it is such encouragement to us.

One such person was Joseph of the Old Testament.  He had a couple of wonderful gifts - organization and dream interpretation.  All in all, he had it pretty rough for using his gifts.  He was the eleventh of twelve sons; the only person his ten older brothers would let him practice dream interpretation on was himself;he was bullied by same older brothers; he was sold by brothers; bought as a slave in Egypt; bullied by employer's wife; and ended up in jail - and all this before he was thirty years old.  Not exactly an encouraging start on life.  But then when the king of Egypt had a dream, Joseph was called from prison to interpret it and he ended up organizing the entire nation's food supply for the coming famine.  Wow!  That's quite a job!  

There is something else I must note here.  Sometimes, it takes time to grow into the plan God has for you and the gifts he has planted inside of you.  Joseph for example, was thirty before he finally was ready to carry out the purpose of his gifting.   

Moses is another one who had incredible gifts and a very long waiting period.  God knew that Moses would need 1) speaking abilities  2) knowledge in the ways and wisdom of Egypt  3) herding abilities  4) and he would have to be able to read and write, among other things.  So where did God place him?  While all the other baby boys born around the same time as him were being slaughtered in the Nile river, Moses was safely growing up in the house of Pharaoh himself.  (Is anyone else tickled by the irony of that?  :P)  Acts 7:22 says, " And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds."  That covers requirements 1, 2, and 4.  What about number three?  By this stage, Moses must have known that he was the one to lead Israel from slavery.  He tried it once, too, by murdering an Egyptian slave driver.  That's when God added another thing to Moses' list of things to learn: 5) humility.  God sent Moses into the wilderness to be a shepherd for another forty years.  That, my friends, is a very long time.  Moses was eighty before he went back to Egypt and watched as God liberated His people.  Notice the difference here - it was no longer Moses releasing his people;  it was God releasing His people.  Yes, Moses was fully equipped for his job, but it took a lot of learning and patience to get there.

OK, you may be asking.  I see the point about gifts and whatnot, but does accomplishment have nothing to do with the outward graces and so forth?

Well, yes, to an extent.  What we all must realize is that everything that we do or say began on the inside first.  Once it is inside of us, it works it way out until the world can see it.  That's why as Christians, we don't really need to worry about it - if you are a a Christian, you will have the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  These themselves are sufficient to make us internally, eternally beautiful and truely accomplished.

One last word to young ladies.  It can be tempting for us to be rather self-conscious of how we dress, our make-up, our hair, and so on.  I just wanted to share with you one last scripture that I love.  It shows us what really matters to our King and our Savior.  1 Peter 3:3-4 "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

 Austen, Jane. "Pride & Prejudice, Chapter VIII of Volume I (Chap. 8)." Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Chapter VIII of Volume I (Chap. 8). N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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