[This is part of an article I wrote for TheHighCalling.org that was posted a few months ago.]
My high school friends were a microcosm of school society. Eric was a photographer and yearbook editor. Ann was a leader in the marching band. Bill was the lead actor in theatre productions. Laura was in the dance line. Jeff was co-captain of the track team. Carol was co-captain of volleyball and synchronized swimming. Dan was in speech and debate.
Me? I lettered in debate and theatre, and I ran track for a while. I also participated in things like academic decathlon and science olympiad. But my senior year, my primary involvement and identity was as an editor for the school newspaper. I had published a poem back in first grade in our school district's poetry compendium, and I had always loved reading and writing. So the school paper became my niche.
Why did my friends and I gravitate to certain interests and not others?
Some of it was parental influence. Teachers and coaches may have encouraged us to try out for certain activities. And, of course, peers had something to do with it. I never would have run track if my friends had not also been on the team. But to a large extent, we all had certain gifts and talents that geared us in some directions rather than others.
Some people distinguish between gifts and talents. They say that gifts are those natural, innate, God-given abilities to excel in certain areas, whether intellectual, artistic, or athletic. And talents might be thought of as skills that can be acquired and learned, regardless of inherent ability. I'm not sure it's quite that clear cut, but I do recognize that people have different gifts and talents.
This seems to have been the case from the very beginning. Genesis 4:2 says that Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain a tiller of the ground. We don't know why they differentiated as they did; perhaps Adam and Eve assigned them these tasks arbitrarily, and they learned to do them. Or maybe as children Abel always loved animals, while Cain was a budding agriculturalist. We have no idea. But either way, they were shaped and formed to particular vocations.
[Continue reading the article here.]