I was never brilliant

It’s true. I was always that girl who grew up on a farm and knew how to work hard, but I was never brilliant.

In high school, I campaigned enough to be President of all the right groups and practiced enough to make first chair trumpet. I played enough to letter in sports and performed enough to be cast as lead roles in musicals. I studied enough to make the Honor Roll and tested high enough to opt out of finals.

I was smart enough, but I was never brilliant.

In college, I earned enough good grades to be invited into the Pew Society and find my name on the Dean’s List. I was active enough in the community to annoy my friends with my schedule and passionate enough about missions to let it consume much of my time.

I was smart enough, but I was never brilliant.

I don’t mention these things to puff myself up, actually I’m about to do the opposite. As I consider the reasons why I haven’t pursued further study, I discovered a very twisted kind of pride. See, because I was not a child prodigy, I tried not to measure myself against brilliance. I read and thought and wrote and digested as much knowledge as I could get my hands on, but I didn’t want anyone to test me on it. I wanted to be an expert in areas I could handpick (and self-declare my expert status).

Ugh. This is ugly.

It didn’t matter that the topics I raised for discussion weren’t as interesting or as important to the people at the table (or that I rarely raised questions about their area of expertise), what mattered was finding that sweet spot where my “smart enough” looked pretty good.

I remember thinking, “Now, that’s brilliance,” as I listened to visting speakers and read various authors. I’ve always said that a dream of mine is to sit with C.S. Lewis, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and G.K. Chesterton in a musty, old library. That’s a room full of brilliance, right there. But, I wonder if I would have chosen to hang out with those folks, had they been on my campus. I wonder how I would respond to their rebuke or their questions.

I was never brilliant, but I was comfortable thinking I could be the best of mediocre.

I wonder what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say to that.

5 thoughts on “I was never brilliant

  1. We need to talk about this, Caroline! Both Tom and I would say we aren’t brilliant either but hard work and drive and the Lord’s gifts and presence take you a long way. . .

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