I am currently lost in motherhood. There are days I feel like everything that makes me who I am is slowly disappearing and I’m gradually becoming nothing more than the coordinator of everyone else’s lives. I feel like the ultimate goal for the entire week is to find an elusive hour for myself to take a nap. At the end of the day there is little time or mental energy left to actually pursue an avenue for any of my creative abilities. At times I allow the hectic life of having small children to convince me that I am of no use to God. If my talents and abilities cannot be used in big, life-defining ways then, to me, they must be worthless. If at the end of the day I do not feel like I have accomplished anything then I think that everything I did must have been wasted.
I am guilty of believing numerous lies that have kept me from using my talents for God’s glory. Here are a few ways that you could be wasting your gifts without even realizing it.
- You are thinking too much about yourself. God has gifted me with the ability to sing and I’ve practiced my whole life. But for many years my tendency was to think about how singing made me feel. If I had a bad performance, I was crushed. I scrutinized every note and rated my success by how few mistakes I had made. My goal was always perfection. My goal was always to please myself. Within the last year God has shown me how much I was wasting my gift by looking at it that way. If I thought I might fail I just simply avoided the opportunity. I never took any risks by trying something new. I only shared my talent within very specific parameters. And worst of all I always thought about the details of my performance and never about how I could serve God and others with my voice. Within the last year I have learned to pray for those who are hearing me. I have learned to sing to my family and friends…no matter how awkward it feels. I have learned to let God guide my steps instead of always taking the reigns. And the rewards I have reaped from this are tremendous. When I laid the desire for my glory aside the burden of perfectionism, anxiety and selfishness disappeared and I was able to experience the joy of giving the glory to God, the only one who deserves it.
- You could be thinking too small. You write in your journal every day but it’s only for you. You are afraid to let anyone read it or even know that you write at all. But what if you were meant to share your internal processing with others? You could open up to a close friend. You could write a blog post. You could share an idea with your Sunday school class or bible study. You could meet with another writer to encourage each other. You could even write a book or send an article to an online magazine. You could be potentially wasting your gift by keeping it all to yourself.
- Or you could be thinking too big. My generation is particularly bad about seeking instant gratification. We have not had to work for things like people did in prior eras and so what has developed is a sense of entitlement, a need for recognition and a desire for great self-fulfillment. This can be prominent even in Christian circles where we are told to live big for God…step out of our comfort zones…do hard things…which in and of themselves are not bad concepts but have forced a culture that inadvertently expresses that big and brave and bold are all that counts. In order to keep our focus, we must balance bold living with steady plodding. We can’t all be public speakers and authors. We can’t all be missionaries and non-profit founders. We can’t all be on the radio or pastors of mega churches. Some people have to work in the nursery and serve communion and sit in the pew with a child and make sure the bulletins get printed. We can use these opportunities to support those who are doing big things. These may even be the situations that prepare you for the next step God has for you.
- You could be too specific about how your gift is used. It is a commendable goal to want to be a pastor. But if that is the only acceptable venue for your public speaking ability then you may miss a lot of chances to bless others with your teaching. What if you teach a bible study at church? What about teaching one-on-one in a mentor-type relationship? What about teaching at a college campus ministry meeting? Pray about a creative way to use your skills that could lead you in a different direction. Many of the most innovative, successful ministry opportunities have come about because someone with an unused gift prayed for an opportunity.
- You may be failing to see the big picture. Matthew 6:33 is a familiar verse, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” Because motherhood robs me of brain cells…because I am weak and unfocused…because I cannot determine on my own what is the most valuable thing to be spending my time on, I must submit to what these verses are saying. If I put God’s kingdom first, everything else will fall into place. I can get so anxious about what I’m supposed to be doing, how I’m supposed to be spending my time, how I’m supposed to be using my talents, how I’m supposed to be serving God that I actually end up not serving God at all because I am so caught up in the logistics of it all. If I am working toward the correct goal…to build the kingdom of God…then every little bit counts. Every shoe tied, every nose wiped, every letter sent, every phone call made, every hug, every text message, every word written…adds up to something greater than myself.
- You may be forgetting who you are trying to please. The ultimate goal is not to feel pleased with yourself at the end of the day but to please the one who has given you the ability to do what you are doing. You can please God just as much by singing your child to sleep at night as you could standing before a crowd of thousands or recording a chart topping Christian hit. Or if you worry too much about pleasing others you could become paralyzed with doubt or you could become unfocused and wishy-washy because you are swaying with the differing opinions of those around you. Focus on pleasing God in every decision you make and you will never be wasting time or opportunities.
God has strategically equipped us all with the skills we need to serve Him but if we continually give in to these pitfalls then we could be wasting our gifts and talents without even realizing it. How can you reshape your thinking so that you can guard against wasting your gifts? In what other ways could you be wasting your talents?