On Playing Your Weak Suit

I recently agreed to help a new Lutheran on-line seminary that was in need of a biblical studies professor to teach their course on the Prophets. I said yes with some hesitation. New Testament is my specialty, and when I’ve taught the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in intro survey courses, I’ve never quite known what to do with the Prophets.[1] It is not, by any means, my strongest suit. There are plenty of other things I could teach and feel confident, sure of what I wanted to communicate and how to execute the maneuvers needed to do so. While it will certainly be a good opportunity to get a clearer idea of what I think needs to be said about those texts, it will not be my most polished performance

“How’s it going there, Picasso? Actually, maybe I should say Michelangelo, since you’re up by the roof.” I note to my husband that painting the garage trim isn’t nearly as artistic or as arduous as painting the Sistine Chapel.

He replies, “And you know what’s so amazing? Michelangelo wasn’t even mainly a painter. He considered himself really a sculptor. Amazing.”

What’s your specialty? Sometimes we focus so much on playing to our strengths that we miss opportunities to play through our perceived weaknesses. We specialize to the point of discounting ourselves from doing anything other than what we know we can master with ease. We avoid projects that might turn out to be our less-than-best work. Thankfully Michelangelo was willing to play his weak suit, and not just his strong.


[1] Since this will be a seminary course and thus students will be interested in preaching faithfully on the prophetic texts, the many possible directions I could go and the myriad texts we could focus on are significantly pared down, but still, it’s well outside the comfort zone.

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2 thoughts on “On Playing Your Weak Suit

  1. This makes me think of a lot of what I’ve been involved in these past few years: a PhD in Church History who teaches ministry classes, and even an occasional course in Bible or Biblical Interpretation. As a scholar, it can be a bit troubling at times, but as a teacher and professor it can be a really engaging and enlivening experience. I find that I learn lots of a things along the way, and even in those areas where I am “weaker,” there is more strength than I realize and, perhaps, some ways in which my unique perspective might enrich the material.

    Of course, you’d have to ask my students if any of this pans out…:)

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