Using What We Have

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Making cookies at Christmas

I’m still chewing on Changing the World, a post I wrote a little while back.  In it I claimed that God uses normal, everyday people using their ordinary, everyday talents to change their world. I talked about how often church teaching is easily misconstrued so that people think that they have to be famous or doing something big in order to change the world.  The post did get some attention and I hope that it encouraged the people who read it to use their talents, no matter what they are, for good.

Since writing the post, I still think about this from time to time. I have had discussions with several people about this very thing. One of my sons is still in high school. He mentioned that he had not done anything of consequence because he did not have enough opportunities. His thinking was that once he left high school he would have more chances.

“Hey,” I said. “I just wrote a blog post on that.” I told him what the blog post was about, and how I thought that he was making a difference right now. He asked how. I mentioned several things, one of them was how he led Bible studies for his Fellowship of Christian Athletes group.

“Yeah,” he said, nonplussed. “But that’s what I should be doing.”

Exactly.

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Family at Mount Capulin

The other day I was listening to Christian radio as I drove home from Pueblo – it’s about an hour’s drive and the music keeps me from zoning out. One thing I like about this station is that it plays a lot more music than commercials and the disc jockeys don’t talk very much. However, this day was different. The two announcers were talking a lot about a sermon that one of their pastors had preached on being extraordinary for Christ. As I listened, I realized that they were chewing on the very same issue from my former post, but from what the two described, simple obedience meant that you were extraordinary. One of the disc jockeys mentioned that he has trouble talking to people when he feels the Lord nudge him. He said that he needed to talk to those people so that he could be extraordinary for Christ.

That really troubled me because not only is it a selfish look at obedience, but it also says that obedience (which is what it was called when I was younger) means that you are out of the ordinary. To me, however, “extraordinary” living for Christ means that you died as a martyr, or dedicated your life to serving the poor, like Mother Teresa, or some other behavior that clearly falls outside what most of us consider the norm. But I suspect that if you could ask a martyr, or Mother Theresa if they thought they were “extraordinary,” they would tell you … “Well, no … I am just being obedient to God’s call for me.”

Let me put it in a cultural rather than spiritual context. In the series, “Band of Brothers,” the real Dick Winters talks about one day having his grandchildren ask him, “Were you a hero in the war, grandpa?” And he answers them, “No, I was not a hero … but I served in a company of heroes.” Most of us would see Winters as a hero because he was their leader.  He did not see himself as one; but he did see his fellows in that light. He saw them all as “extraordinary.”

We live in a culture in which everyone is told that they are going to make their mark. Speeches at the high school graduations I’ve attended tell all of the students that they are going to do great things and be extraordinary. They are going to change the world. Yet, as I looked at each of those students sitting there, I realized that most of them would be regular people. Some of them would get a college degree. Most of them would work regular jobs to earn a living. Most of them would probably have children and spend a major portion of their lives shuttling the little people around. Maybe one of them would win a lottery and get rich. Yet, later in life, if they remembered those speeches and contrasted them with their current lives and accomplishments, they would probably all feel like they weren’t important, that they hadn’t truly done anything with their lives.

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Ethan doing one of the things he loves

In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, there are three servants, each of whom the master gave a certain amount of money. They were to do something with this money while he took a trip, so that he would have more money when he returned. The first servant, who had the most money, took the money and doubled it. The second servant, who had a little less than the first servant, also doubled his portion. The master was very pleased with them. The third servant, however, greatly displeased the master. He only had one talent of money and instead of trying to figure out how to use that one talent he buried it so that he wouldn’t lose it.

“Why didn’t you put it in the bank?” the master said. “At least I would have gained interest!”

With that, he threw the servant out and gave the talent to the first servant.

The parable is more dramatic than I have made it here, but you can understand where Jesus was going with this. Use what you have or lose it. In fact, if we don’t use what we have it is disobedience and this greatly displeases God, so much so that the parable says that the servant was “worthless” and was thrown “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

For those of us who struggle with the feeling that we’ll never do something truly important, the parable brings hope and rest. To me it says that I am to use what I have, as best I can, and God will be my reward and will also bring results. Don’t worry about being famous or doing what humanity considers great, just do good with what you have and let God handle whatever results, such as changing the world. Just rest in God’s pleasure and be glad. I am finding that life is more fulfilling that way.

Now, how does all this fit in with an observation often wrongly attributed to Henry David Thoreau?

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

P.S. This post contains pictures of our family just doing normal things and having a great time doing it. No one won any awards but all of us shared our talents in someway on these days and it was good for everyone.

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