As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. [1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)]
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. [Romans 12:6 (ESV)
More years ago than I care to admit, I attended my 25th high school reunion. Since this was long before Facebook and social media, we received questionnaires to complete before the reunion. We were asked about our education, achievements, and careers along with a variety of personal questions. Our responses were then copied, bound and returned to us in advance of the reunion date.
As I read about my classmates, I felt like the greatest underachiever in the world. Some classmates were playing in famous orchestras and others were well-known soloists and recording artists. I only played piano for the children’s Sunday school services, accompanied the kid’s choir, and strummed the autoharp at sing-a-longs around the campfire. Other classmates had acted on Broadway. One had a featured role on a popular sit-com and another had been nominated for an Academy Award. My theater work consisted of doing readings at church, moderating political debates at candidate nights, and reading bed-time stories to the kids. A fellow grad danced with Martha Graham and another with Twyla Tharp; I danced the hokey-pokey with my Brownie troop. Several alumni had become doctors. Although quite skilled at removing splinters, putting on Band-Aids, and kissing “ouchies” to make them better, I was just “Dr. Mom”. A few classmates had their PhDs and taught at prestigious universities but I had gotten my Mrs. instead of a BS. Instead of lecturing at university, I’d helped kids with homework, volunteered at our local elementary school, and had become quite adept at school science fair projects. Classmates had composed music played by major orchestras; I’d composed two unmemorable songs for Girl Scout camp. People had published books but I just wrote the local League of Women Voters’ newsletter. Several classmates had traveled the globe and lived in exotic locations—I lived in a small town and traveled the county ferrying kids to activities or meals to the home-bound. One person had his art work displayed in major museums and another rescued people from cults. I was skilled with Play-Doh and crayons and the only things I liberated were the fireflies caught on summer nights. In short, I was just a wife and mother.
I’d attended a private arts academy and my class was filled with bright, talented and intense over-achievers (except, apparently, for me). After reading everyone’s accomplishments, I was embarrassed by what I’d written—my life was so mundane in comparison to theirs. It’s not that I didn’t like my life—it’s that I thought I should have done something more impressive. Imagine my surprise when, at the reunion, a classmate greeted me with the comment that he’d loved reading my profile. “My life is so ordinary,” I protested. “But, you’re so happy!” was his response. His reply gave me pause and I looked again at my reunion booklet. I wrote of family; others wrote of fame. I wrote of giving; other wrote of getting. I wrote of children; others wrote of colleagues. Although we had shared a few years of boarding school, twenty-five years later there was little I had in common with most of my classmates. We all aren’t meant for fame or fortune; we’re meant to live the life God gives us and to use our talents wisely.
God gave missions of great consequence and the ability to do His work to people like John the Baptist, Paul, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Gideon and they made history. Noah, Abraham, Esther, Moses, Peter and Joshua—few of us will ever be asked to do anything as great as were they. That our achievements may never be written about or listed in a Hall of Fame does not negate their value. That most of us live in obscurity does not mean our lives are insignificant or unimportant. God has given each of us abilities and assignments and we must do His tasks and use our talents as He intended. Now, more than twenty-five years after that reunion, I ask myself if I used my talents well or buried them in the ground. Will God be pleased or disappointed? I look at my family, church, and community and believe those talents were invested wisely. I hope to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”. [Erma Bombeck]