A five-year-old girl sits at her desk looking eagerly at her teacher, waiting in ardent anticipation of her next coloring project. The little girl’s eyes widen joyfully as her teacher approaches, holding a colored marker in her hand.
“This green marker is for you,” the teacher tells the little girl. “Use it to draw me a tree.”
As the teacher walks away, the little girl looks at her blank white paper with unbridled excitement. She pulls the cap off the marker with her tiny fingers and then stops abruptly. She looks over at the edge of her desk and something spectacular catches her eye: a purple marker.
The little girl puts the green marker down, grabs this new, captivating purple marker and begins to draw a dainty flower on her blank page. “This looks beautiful!” the little girl thinks to herself. “My teacher will be so happy with me.”
Ten minutes later the teacher strolls back over to the little girl’s desk. She looks over the little girl’s shoulder to see a dazzling landscape on the colorfully transformed sheet of paper—replete with pink and orange butterflies, a star-studded blue sky, and a spectacular little purple flower.
The little girl turns around in her chair in the direction of her teacher, looking up with hopeful expectation of her teacher’s admiration and praise.
After what feels like an eternity of silence to the anxious little girl, the teacher finally speaks.
“Where’s the green tree?”
God has some very specific gifts He gave you. Why? Because only you can use your gift perfectly. And when God gives one of His children a special gift, He intends that His child puts it to good use.
Chances are, you can think of an item in your home that is sitting on a shelf, wasting away its usefulness because you completely fail to acknowledge its existence. But the last thing we want to be doing is subjecting our God-given gifts and talents to this same fate. In that case, we must take time to discover what gifts God has given us, and how He wants us to be using them, so that they do not get old, dusty, and helplessly ignored.
Well, what is the best way to find out what our gifts are and to know how to use them?
- Prayer. (Doesn’t it seem like prayer is the answer to everything?) First and always turn to prayer. Ask God what He wants you to do to serve Him. I’ve sometimes found myself justifying my lack of consultation with my Heavenly Father’s Will by saying that God can be too ambiguous at times. (This is, of course, completely nonsensical, as if God were to get some thrills by making His children blindly guess at His Holy Will for them!) If we are to be truly honest with ourselves, we can’t help but acknowledge that God is anything but vague and wishy-washy. In fact, sometimes He can be shockingly specific! Don’t let yourself be fooled by your own (and the Devil’s) deception. God answers prayers, especially when a sincere heart is in search of Him so that His Holy Will may be done. (You remember Matthew 7:7, right? “’Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”)
- Others. God is fabulous at dropping little hints for us, which He usually does through a spouse, family member, friend, coworker, acquaintance, or sometimes even a stranger. I remember in the tenth grade, after a class period of group presentations on parables in the New Testament, my theology teacher asked me to stay after class for a moment. She asked me, “Katie, have you ever thought about teaching theology?” Actually, thinking back on it more clearly and taking her personality into account, her inquiry may have been something more like, “Katie, you are going to be a theology teacher someday, right?” I had absolutely loved learning and speaking about my faith before that day, but I had never—ever—thought about making it my life. Good thing she said something! God is always speaking to us through other people; it’s one of His favorite ways to communicate to us. Make sure you are open to listening to Him through others.
- Study. Learn about how to decipher the Will of God. Read books about how God communicates His Will. Perhaps you should take a spiritual gifts inventory, so you know what gifts God has given especially to you: teaching, evangelization, music, hospitality, intercessory prayer…?
Remember, you need to take time to discover your gifts. Since many of us don’t take this to prayer, we end up stockpiling ourselves with an overabundance of ministerial activities and, as a result, give everything a half-hearted effort, instead of putting all of ourselves into the one thing God wants us most to do! We can all get caught up in mission trip work, food drives, women’s or men’s group meetings—all good things—but if God wants us to teach a fifth grade PSR class, we aren’t going to be truly happy (and God will never be fully satisfied) until we teach that class! We can’t let ourselves get distracted by those purple markers—not if it keeps us from drawing His green tree!
God gives us all the tools we need to create His masterpieces. But he gives us all different colored markers. He gave you a green marker to draw Him a tree, but what you don’t see is that He gave me a purple marker to draw Him a flower, because only He knows how marvelous you are at drawing trees and how beautifully I can color purple flowers.
When God hands us our markers, we often foolishly try to draw Him a whole picture. That’s because we don’t realize that God is piecing together a mural on the back wall of the classroom—made of a collage of all of our paintings: your tree, my flower, another woman’s butterflies, another man’s sky.
God wants your piece of the bigger picture. His painting is incomplete without it.
Where’s your green tree?
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