It was years ago — over a decade — and yet it is forever etched vividly in my mind’s eye. I was at a basket weaving class (yes, there is actually such a thing; yes, it is actually a lot of fun; and for those of you thinking of the college credit joke, no, it was not under water), and found a much younger, less confident version of myself sitting next to an older gentleman. Basket weaving takes a long time, believe it or not, and so I found myself making small talk with this complete stranger.

We were having a delightful time … until the topic turned to jobs. Upon learning that I was a brand new attorney, his countenance immediately changed. The moment the words left my lips, I knew I was in trouble.

He clearly did not like lawyers and immediately launched into lawyer joke after lawyer joke (and they weren’t even clever, funny ones — the kind that I do laugh at and appreciate) for the next 90 minutes. The man hardly paused for breath as the jokes came tumbling out. In fact, he would have continued on, except that the class ended and I escaped, finally, out the door.

As I sat with a polite, wooden smile pasted on my lips, my fingers bungling my weave, and a growing frustration with both my fingers and the incessant jokes, all I could think of was whether or not he understood the immense irony of the situation in which an airline mechanic (arguably a profession as disgusting, apparently, as my own) belittled a career that I had spent almost my entire young life up until that point striving for — and shedding untold amounts of blood, sweat, and tears to earn.

I never weaved another basket. And I stopped telling people that I was a lawyer. When I did have to confess my profession, I did it apologetically — as if it was a shameful secret, especially when speaking with Christians. As I confessed, I would carefully search faces and eyes and body language so I could stage an escape before I had to listen to the diatribe of someone else who hated lawyers. I simply split myself into two women and hid the lawyer side of me from anyone I decided might disapprove or disagree.

It wasn’t until a friend recently encouraged me to embrace my whole self and suggested that we need people who bring their entire giftings and talents to the table that I really stopped to consider what I’ve been doing these past twelve years. It is my lawyer side that I’ve used again and again to seek justice for someone else. While my work days are often filled with mundane tasks, some of my sweetest victories have come while wearing my darkest black skirt suit and my sassiest heels (because who doesn’t go to battle without cute shoes on her feet?) while standing forcefully in a courtroom using my legal skills to argue a case. And, if you don’t think God can’t accomplish his work through the legal system, let me buy you a cup of coffee and we’ll chat.

It isn’t just me who has been slow to embrace her whole self. One of my dear friends has a voice…oh, man, the earth stops rotating when she starts singing. And who knew about this gifting, this amazing talent for the first thirty-odd years of her life? Her family. And her shower. Until one day when she worked up the courage and volunteered to join the worship team. She finally embraced her gift — her whole self — and now leads a church in the most beautiful worship on Sunday mornings. And when she sings on that stage, she sings straight to Jesus, and she pulls every last one of us along with her.

I don’t know what gifting, what talent, what hard-earned knowledge you have tucked away, hidden or downplayed because of something someone said to you last night, last week, or in the last decade — but don’t you think it is time to embrace it? To let it shine? To let God use it to encourage others and to change lives? Isn’t it time to embrace your whole self?

Lord, you know each of us and the unique gifts and talents you placed within us. Remind us of those things we have tucked away or given up  and show us the ways we can embrace our whole selves to reflect your love onto those around us.