Welcome to The Best of 2010.
Five years ago, I sat across the table from an editor at my very first writer’s conference. I thought God gifted me to write, so I spent the previous year crafting my very first manuscript and book proposal. Fifty-three thousand words and 19 chapters later, I kissed my babies and my husband goodbye and boarded a flight to God’s Plan For My Life.
Sporting fresh highlights, a structured jacket and cute shoes, I walked confidently into that 15-minute appointment expecting Mr. Major Publisher Editor Man to, I don’t know, do a back flip or something.
Instead, he asked some questions, listened as I answered, and offered a few suggestions. Then he graciously accepted my proposal and set it on top of the growing pile of proposals sitting on the table.
I went home trying to decide how to spend my book advance and who should watch my kids when I departed for my upcoming world-wide book tour.
Six months later, I received a generic e-mail saying, “Thanks. But no thanks.”
It is frustrating when we know God has given us a gift, yet the utilization of that gift appears to be in the hands of others—publishers, editors and agents in far away offices somewhere—most of whom don’t know us personally, and really couldn’t care less about our gift or God’s Plan for Our Lives.
So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.
After one rejection—or in my case, multiple rejections—it’s tempting to wonder if maybe we’ve completely missed the boat. “Maybe God didn’t gift me to write after all.” Like a bad American Idol audition. Everyone knows you’re a terrible singer except you and your momma.
Or perhaps we start thinking that God, indeed, gifted us to write, but not so others could actually read it. Maybe all the snot and emotional toil involved in giving birth to a manuscript is more about the journey to purification, and not at all about the journey to publication. Maybe He’s calling us to write for Him and Him alone. In the privacy of our hearts, minds and journals. With nary another human to ever lay eyes on the manifestation of our God-given gift.
“If all I ever do is write for an Audience of One, I will have fulfilled my purpose and glorified God.”
At first glance, this sounds so humble. So obedient. Tres self-sacrificing, does it not?
But what does the Bible say?
You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
(I Corinthians 14:17)
I mean, does God ever really give us a gift, a talent, an ability of any sort and then tell us to use it only for Him and no one else?
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
I’ve searched the Scriptures concerning this, and I’m thinking the answer is a resounding “no.” He does not.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
(I Corinthians 12:7)
Certainly, there are seasons where God may ask us to lay something down—to cease utilization of the God-given gift so He can accomplish something greater in us or through us. Shoot, that’s the story of my life, pretty much. “Wait, Sandy. Not yet, Sandy. Hold your doggon horses, Sandy.” Does God say “doggon”? Maybe that part was just me.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
And certainly, God’s road almost never looks the way we think it should. What looks like rejection is usually more like a “Trust Me on this one. I’m doing something gigantic here involving a whole lot of other people.” We have a hard time seeing that, having only our meager human perspective, and all.
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God,
(II Timothy 1:6)
But I’m convinced, if God gifted us for anything—to write or to lead or to hit a baseball or to decorate a house—He did not do it so we would go into our prayer closets and hide it there. No, He gifted us for the sole intention of building up His Church.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Seriously, consider this. What if C.S. Lewis had concluded his analytical mind and gift of communication was for God only? What if Beth Moore had decided her gift of teaching was really only between her and her Savior? What if Chris Tomlin had determined God only wanted Him to sing in the shower? Billy Graham, to only preach at the mirror?
Sandy Cooper to only write in her journal?
YOU to only (fill in the blank)?
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
(I Timothy 4:14)
I’ve never been more convinced than I am today that God gifts us for a divine purpose, and He accomplishes that purpose through us when we use our gifts to serve other people. He receives all the glory when we discover our place in His Church and use our gifts to draw others close to Him. I think God just beams with Holy delight when we discover who He created us to be and then find ways to blossom in the Church.
Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
(I Corinthians 14:12)
What is your talent? When other’s see you, what makes them say, “Wow, you’re really good at this!” What activity feels easy and fun to you? What makes you lose track of time?
I challenge you today to embrace that thing and own it—find ways to improve it and grow it. If a door closes, go knock on another one. If someone rejects your gift, ask God to show you others who need it. Think outside the box.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (I Peter 4:10)
Consider that maybe if you think God is asking you to use your talents for Him only, what He really might be asking is for you to go nuts exploring ways you can refine your talents and be the best version of you possible.
Don’t hide. Don’t be afraid. Put yourself out there and serve others with the amazing and unique talent he has given you.