Have you ever been given a gift that you never ended up using? I can think of a few. Most of them were fairly thoughtful and nice…They just didn’t end up being what I needed. Or I kept forgetting that I had them until after they were no longer usable.
I always feel a bit guilty running across such a gift…Regardless of how useful it ended up being to me, whoever gave the gift made an investment that was intended for my benefit. And while I would agree that it’s often the thought that counts, people don’t usually give gifts fully expecting them to gather cobwebs or be tossed in the trash. My point, however, is not about Christmas gifts. Rather, I have been considering the gifts of God – in particular, the talents and skills which He has given us – which we fail to put to good use.
Some people, of course, don’t have this problem at all. Whatever talents they’ve been given, they are out there finding ways to use them. But others of us are not so confident. We may feel that the talent we’ve been given is not as good or as important as someone else’s. Or we may be too afraid of failure or embarrassment to put ourselves out there.
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I tend to be one of the less confident types. In all honesty, I often struggle against feelings of inadequacy when I sit down to write one of these blog posts. I think of an idea for an instructional post, but I figure someone else is far more experienced in the matter than I am, or I’m afraid I’ll find that there are about a thousand articles on the same subject already.
Other times, I have something on my heart, but I don’t feel equipped to write about it yet because I feel I’m nowhere close to having it figured out. Or I may have something to say that I’m really passionate about, but I’m afraid it will be too controversial—or worse, that no one will really care.
The same thing tends to happen in other areas where I think God has gifted me. I want to use my gift, but I feel that it’s not really that significant…that I won’t do it as well as someone else could…that I’ll end up looking silly. So I crawl back into my shell and try to pretend it doesn’t really matter.
But there are several things about this scenario that are entirely wrong and unhealthy. First, as I have already pointed out, these are gifts from God, intended for use for our good and His glory. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Why would He give us something if He knew we were incapable of using it? I think the very fact that we have it tells us that He wants us to use it.
Secondly, we need not declare our gifts insignificant in comparison to others’. As we see in 1 Corinthians 12, all parts of the body of Christ have a purpose for which they are intended. Certain parts may seem less significant or receive less attention, but the body still functions best with each part rather than without it.
As someone who tends to have more ability in less practical areas (such as the arts), I am also encouraged by the fact that the Bible has examples of artisans, craftsmen, writers, singers, dancers, etc. Some of them are shown completing specific jobs that God had for them (e.g., Exodus 36), and others show how these gifts can be used for the glory of God (e.g., the entire book of Psalms – poetry!). There are no limits on what kind of talent He can use.
Thirdly, if God has allowed us to use our gifts in a particular scenario or for a particular audience, does it really matter what scenario or audience that is? And does it really matter what kind of response it receives? If it is a job He has for us, we ought to do it, regardless of the results. As I’ve said, there are times that I fear failure or embarrassment, and I am hesitant to use my gifts because of the negative attention I might receive. I have to admit, though, there other are times I wish my work would get more attention.
As a homeschool mom, chances are that my time and talents are primarily going to be used for the benefit of my children and husband only. I get rather tired of putting effort into something that is often taken for granted, if not made an occasion for complaint (mealtime, anyone?). At the same time, I know that I ought to work as if working for the Lord, not for men (Col. 3:23). Whether I am afraid of negative attention or no attention at all, it’s not about me—it’s about pleasing Him, no matter who may see or what they may say.
And while there may be periods in which certain gifts may not be utilized much, if at all, there may be other applications of the same gift that we didn’t realize. When I was a young mother, for example, it was not workable for me to use my abilities in church drama on the stage for a time. I did, however, (and still do) have the opportunity of reading and telling stories to my children. It’s not quite the same, and I am glad to be doing more with the drama ministry at my church again.
But it is good to remember that there is more than one context in which my gifts can be useful. Whether it is for the benefit of a larger community, or just one of my children, the gifts that God gives are worth using. We just have to be willing to step out there and try!
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.