On Saturday, I took my daughter and her friend to see the play Amadeus. It’s about two composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri.
Mozart is the younger artist who amazes everyone with his musical prowess. Salieri, on the other hand, labors over his compositions without ever reaching the same caliber of genius.
The difference in their giftedness is also paralleled by the difference in their maturity. Mozart shocks his peers with lewd remarks and vulgar gestures while Salieri commits his lifelong work of composition to the glory of God.
When I saw the film adaptation of this play twenty years ago, the younger me yearned for dear Salieri. His heart’s desire to serve God with his gifts resonated with my young heart. I prayed for God to use me, and I offered any gifts I might have for His service.
Two decades later, I now see this play from a different perspective.
Salieri longs to be known as a gifted composer, so he prays for God’s divine blessing upon his work. In exchange, Salieri promises to live a life worthy of God’s keeping.
Salieri tries to make a bargain with God.
I’ve tried making a few bargains myself over the years. But I’m different now. And I’m constantly reminded of Jesus’ words to James and John.
When James and John sought important positions in Jesus’ new Kingdom, Jesus responded: “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22).
They eagerly said they could, but they didn’t know what they were talking about. And Jesus told them so.
Like James and John, we sometimes long for positions of importance. Or, like Salieri, we long to be renown for our giftedness. Perhaps we do so with genuine desires “to be used” for God’s purposes.
But I have come to learn something.
God is less concerned with our giftedness and more concerned with our brokenness.
Unless we are broken, we cannot be used.
Unless we are crushed, like grapes in a winepress, we cannot be poured out like wine.
Can you drink from this cup?
These words reverberate within me every time I find myself “longing” for a particular gift or “to be used” in a certain way.
The cup is filled with suffering.
We want glory. We say we don’t. But we do. So what should we do?
Look neither to the right nor the left.
Run the race marked out for me, the race marked out for you.
And let God use whomever He chooses.
Let’s face it. Sometimes He uses a donkey.
Sometimes He uses a fisherman filled with fear.
Sometimes He uses a murderer filled with hate.
Sometimes He uses a woman filled with shame.
Sometimes He uses me. Sometimes He uses you.
Despite our failures. Despite our yearnings.
God doesn’t need our gifts, but He wants our brokenness – the place where we come to Him, surrendered and forgiven.
I want to be less focused on “being used” and more focused on “being infused” with the likeness of Him.
I like the way Oswald Chambers puts it:
“If you seek great things for yourself, thinking, ‘God has called me for this and for that,’ you barricade God from using you . . . We must learn that the purpose of our lives belongs to God, not us . . . All He asks is that we trust Him.” (My Utmost for His Highest, November 10)
The purpose of our lives belongs to God. All He asks is that we trust Him.
Whether we wish to write or paint or speak or sing, we must first abide – solely and completely – in Him alone, laying our gifts on the altar.