I haven’t. Used what I got. For some time. Most of my life.
I wasn’t investing in my God-given talents. I was scared to.
That little voice of the Holy Spirit and several conversations with friends recently led me to understand that I had not been using the gifts and talents God gave me. I had been running away out of fear of failure. My career decisions seemed to be simply logical choices between these options:
1. I work long long hours at work — often travelling for days out of town — and make a big career as a consultant or investment banker or executive.
2. I take a more moderate path and have time in the evenings to do ministry, to volunteer and lead at my local church and through other outreaches.
Seems like I made very noble decisions to select #2. Right? …NOT.
Now I realize there was another unconscious factor at play: I was scared to death to choose #1 because I feared failure. I knew I could do well in ministry, but what if I failed at the job thing? So I continued to make choices that kept my career at an unsatisfactory place in order to major in extracurricular church activities.
Then I got married and pregnant and had kids and work took a real back burner (some kind of mixed metaphor, huh?!).
Then my husband lost his job and had a four-way bypass and I had to go back to work.
Something was different this time. Because of my positions, I often had to push through my fears to accomplish something or other. I grew in confidence. Then I worked for several company presidents and thought “I could do this.” I starting thinking I would like to run a company. I told my Bible study group about it. It felt sort of like a calling. And six months later, the EXACT job I had in mind fell into my lap. But not until I learned the lesson of the talents.
Here’s what several conversations and the Holy Spirit did to me.
You know the Parable of the Talents? It’s in Matthew 25:14-29. I realized I have been like the guy who buried his talents out of fear. For whatever reason I was scared to become who God made me to be. I knew at some level that I was called to a high level of responsiblility, but I had this magical thinking that one day (what, when I was 80?) someone would tap me on the shoulder and hand it to me. I wouldn’t really have to work towards it. A great way to avoid failure, huh?
But then I had these two discussions about how we avoid investing in our talents out of fear. We avoid taking risks because of fear. One of my friends was afraid of entering too deeply into relationships. The other had always heard “You can’t do it,” and realized she was afraid to try.
Here’s what I learned. God got upset with the guy who out of fear did not invest his talents at all, who buried them instead. God did NOT get upset with the guys who invested the talents. He didn’t seem to care how much they made when they invested (both doubled their money). God was upset when He gave someone something and they did nothing with it.
Think about it. If you gave a friend a really nice gift, then later found out the person never used it, how would you feel? I think part of my response would be hurt, but another part would be “What a waste. She could have been so blessed.”
I also realized that it was not God who would get upset with me if I failed. It was me and a thousand voices I had subconcsiously put above God: those internal voices programmed mostly by family that say, “You’d better not fail.” I had put the approval of man above the approval of God. Woe is me.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4: 18. Who am I to fear men’s approval more than I rest in God’s love? That is what I did when I didn’t risk investing in my talents. God punished Jesus for me. He doesn’t care if I fail, but He does care if I don’t try. As I invest in the talents He gave me, I may fail, but I may also display His glory and attributes in a way I may never have without taking the risk of failure. And I show that I trust His evaluation of me more than man’s evaluation.
And what value does He place on me? I am worth His Son’s blood.
I had run in fear, making career decisions borne partly of idolatry — decisions based on putting man’s opinion above God’s, of seeking man’s approval more than resting in God’s love.
When I realized that I had buried my talents and not invested them, I was cut to the quick. That is what repentance feels like to me: a momentary “a, ha, I’ve been sinning, ick, ick, ick,” then a turn. Shame drags on; repentance moves quickly back towards God.
So, when the job offer came, I took it. Even though it means I am a woman going where Christian women “aren’t supposed” to go (I will work full-time while having kids at home), I know this is God’s calling. I am finally investing the talents. I am excited and scared to see what happens. But what freedom!
Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes to my sin. Amen.