Under a Bushel

If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve probably heard the parable of the Talents, if you haven’t or are a little rusty, I’ll sum it up:

Jesus told this parable to illustrate how God views the gifts and resources He gives us. A man goes on a journey and leaves three servants in charge of his possessions. He gives one 5 talents, one 2 talents, and one 1 talent. (A talent was a sizable sum of money at the time. I think it would be like a hundred, maybe a thousand, dollars or so for us, give or take. And depending on whether it was gold or silver.) When the man comes back, the first two servants doubled their amount to 10 and 4 talents, but the last buried his in the ground. The man rewards the first two with cities to look after, and is furious with the last for wasting his talent and not even putting it in the bank to gather interest, he is thrown into the outer darkness.

The meaning of this parable is that we should use the gifts God gave us, whether they are many or few. Jesus sums it up by saying “To him who has more will be given, but to him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

There’s an idea now, not new, but with a new name, that there are people in society called “the have-nots.” I don’t want to disparage anyone who is suffering for lack of necessities…though if you are reading this, you can’t be that badly off, because electronics are expensive…Anyway, I just don’t like this term.

Even the poorest among us have gifts. It all depends on your attitude. In the classic book A Little Princess, the author observes that if you are a giver by nature, then even if your hands are empty, your heart is always full and you can give things out of that. Kindness, compassion, a smile, all of us can do that.

The most selfish people in the world have moments of kindness, usually.

I think we all feel like we’re less gifted than other people, at least, I think a lot of people feel that way, but all of us have felt that in some situations at least once.

I have a lot of gifts, but I get stuck on what I’m not good at.

For example, I am very good at mental stuff, language, and crafts. But I’ve never been a sporty person. I’m not in terrible shape, but I’m not in great shape either. I don’t have a lot of practical survival skills. I still don’t know how to cook and clean that many things, change a tire, or pay taxes (can’t wait for that one obviously. Ugh.)

I can always learn more, I plan to, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me. For whatever reason, I dwell on this. People who are good at those things often lament their lack of intellectual exercise. We all wish we could be good at everything, don’t we? Or at more things at least.

But this focus on what I can’t do has made me forget about what I can.

People don’t guess this about me though.

I have the unique experience of being told constantly that m gifts are inspiring, and beautiful, and people say they just enjoy watching me use them.

My sign language for example. I never thought it would interest that many people. I initially started doing it in public to practice, I’d sign along with worship. And it was not big deal, other than I felt like people thought it was weird.

But when I started going to my church, people kept telling me it was cool, or beautiful, and they loved watching it. I thought “But…worship’s not about me. And I’m just doing it out of habit and because moving helps me concentrate on what I’m singing.” Still, why stop?

Turns out some folks also wanted to learn it. And recently someone filmed me doing it for a class project, kind of a show-and-tell type thing, but in college they call it something more adult. I have used it in teaching my Sunday school class too, kids like hand motions to stuff.

Teaching is another gift I have. And just talking in general. (Who can relate? Be honest.) I’m aware of all this, because I got into the whole personality assessment thing some years back. And I’m glad I did because I’m more aware of my strengths now. And weaknesses. But it still surprises me when people actually appreciate it.

I’ve shared before how as a teen and a kid I got shut down for talking too much. Teachers have always loved me for paying attention, but had to rein me in so other kids would have to engage. Luckily, in college this is less of a problem. But every class I’m in I manage to establish myself as a scholar without really trying. I have to open my mouth, that’s all.

I think it’s funny, at this point. But I do feel weird too. Maybe you can relate.

I’ve realized though, that if I don’t use these gifts, it’s ungrateful. God doesn’t just give us these things and the not care if we do something with it or not. And I can use my gifts in the smallest ways and it catches people’s attention, because God shows through us. He is the source of our inspiration after all.

I’ve always caught people’s attention by being myself, and I’ve been embarrassed by that, but I realize I’m lucky it happens so easily. I know a lot of you feel invisible.

And people like me, we feel invisible in different ways. Like all anyone sees is our talents, and not our needs and our deeper feelings. Sometimes not standing out can make relationships easier to maintain.

We all have our own struggles. But I want to encourage you to just start doing what you love, and doing it more openly. When you enjoy something, people like seeing it even if they aren’t personally interested in it. It’s why geeky YouTube Channels are so popular. Passion is refreshing to see.

If you display your gifts, people will be touched, if even for a moment. And as Christians we’re admonished not to hide our light under a bushel. It hurts us, not just other people. We’re made to give something back to the world.

Until next time–Natasha.

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