In a recent blog post, a young friend of mine wrote about realizing her dream of playing professional sports after college and about the future day when that career will come to an end.
She talked about “using her gift” and “doing the only thing at which she excelled.” Reading between the lines, it would seem this smart, beautiful, funny and Godly girl feels like this is her one “gift.” And more, she feels a responsibility, almost a duty, to use it.
I can read between those lines because that’s how I once felt. My gift was different, but my situation similar.
I struggle with diffidence, so this is hard for me to say, but I am a skilled reporter and writer. I was lauded for my journalism throughout my time at South Plains College and Texas Tech University. I landed a full-time internship with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and helped break and cover one of their biggest stories of that year. And my series “Lubbock in the Dark” for The Daily Toreador won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award; my parents and I flew to Washington D.C. for the ceremony days before my graduation from Tech.
All these things were amazing blessings … but they also were feeding a burden I didn’t yet know I had.
At a graduation reception, my favorite professor and I talked about my future.
“Ruth, I’m so excited,” he said, beaming.
And that burden grew … the burden to do something with my gift. Now, I also wanted to use it to make him, and my other teachers, proud.
There’s an idea among evangelical Christians that we should excel in life … should be the leaders in our fields and our communities. If we have a gift, we should be using it with all our might, glorifying God from the spotlight. And perhaps, for some, this is the path God has. But not all. In fact, I might say, not most.
We’re talking about the God who “chooses the weak to shame the strong.” The God who asks us to take up His cross and follow Him … laying down ourselves; our abilities; yes, even our gifts. And while He may ask us to take them up again for His glory, He may have another plan altogether. He may ask us to sacrifice what we believe is our gift, so He can reveal something even better … or simply so He can make us more like Himself.
It was hard for me, at first, to quit my career in order to be home with our children. I truly believed I was called to do it, but I also felt woefully ill-equipped in almost every way … surely, this was a waste. And, if I wasn’t a journalist, who was I?
My wise husband knew better. He said he was excited to see what God had next … to see what other gifts He had given me and how I would use them.
Seven years into motherhood, I have a glimmer of an understanding of this. During those years, I’ve had to reach deeper and work harder than ever before and try things I thought I couldn’t do. I’m learning to plan ahead and keep to a schedule. I’m learning to organize my thoughts and chip away at projects a little at a time, as opposed to the procrastinate-til-deadline method I used as a reporter. An opening in our church Sunday School has taught me the joy and wonder of teaching children … something I hope will be part of my life from now on.
So to that girl with the gift, I just want to say, take heart. Leave that gift in the hands of the Giver. And, when the time does come to step away from your sports career, hold your breath as you wait to see what other gifts God will reveal in you and to you. I’ll be holding mine, too.