When I was probably seven or eight I went with my family to Michigan, to the national convention of the church association our church belonged to. As a pastor in that association my dad went almost every year and that year in particular there was programming for the kids during convention sessions, making it a family friendly event.
When you're from the Midwest you understand cold. Brutal winters are par for the course, as a kid I had more "cold days" (days where it would have cost too much to heat the schools) than I did actual snow days. And being from the Midwest you get that cold weather season starts any day after Labor Day and can stretch till the Fourth of July. So why my Midwestern parents neglected to pack coats for us kids during this early April trip to Michigan I will never know. It didn't matter a whole lot till the day all the convention kids were supposed to walk down the street to the park and play capture the flag (we can discuss the merits of trooping 30 five to thirteen year olds down to a park to play possibly the most competitive game on the planet another day). Someone in the convention had thought to bring extra coats for their kids and so I was leant the puffiest, shiniest purple coat I have ever seen in my life. I hated it. And, at some point after wearing it, I lost track of it.
Now, during the course of the several day convention I had stumbled upon possibly the single greatest discovery ever made in the history of everything: THE PERFECT PEN. It had a black cap and gray barrel and a point so fine I could hardly believe it. It made smooth and beautiful lines, it was a pen that inspired you to write things worthy of it. I carried it everywhere that week, along with my Paul Frank diary, so that I could write every thought I had into what would undoubtedly be the world's most beloved piece of prose bar none. But at some point it too got lost.
I was devastated.
The morning we were packing up to go home I was lamenting and begging my mom to let me out of the room on my own to find my pen, I knew this was my last chance before it was gone forever. Simultaneously my mom was asking me about the coat I had irresponsibly lost and telling me I needed to go find it and return it to the family, and she gave me their room number. Our wires crossed and I understood her to say that this family had found my pen! And knowing it was clearly something special had put the word out to locate its owner. I skipped to the elevator and ran down the hall to their room. I knocked on their door and when no one answered I knocked again, harder. The door opened to a completely pitch black room and a half asleep teenager recognized me as the girl who'd lost her little sisters coat.
"Yeah that's me," I muttered, "but I heard someone here found my pen? Can I have it back now please?"
This girl looked at me with what can only be described as the disdain of a thirteen year old aiming to be a seventeen year old and said "No, we do not have your pen," and she shut the door.
Here are the lessons to be taken from this memory:
1. Always have a heavy coat with you if you're traveling in the Midwest between Labor Day and the Fourth of July.
2. Don't lose things other people lend you.
3. Don't lend things to eight year olds.
4. Don't lend things to me because I lose things.
5. I am super weird.
6. Don't neglect your gift.
The pen in question is a standard, run of the mill office pen. I've come across thousands since I was eight, and even though I get how ubiquitous they are, I still regard them with a certain amount of wonderment, not because it really is anything superior, but because when I was eight this pen taught me something really important: I love to write so much, it is such an important part of me, that I am willing to look crazy for it. I am willing to be ridiculous in order to write using something I feel will optimize my skills. This little pen taught eight year old me that I am deeply passionate about words. As silly as it sounds, that pen led me to my gift.
In a letter to Timothy Paul gives very clear instructions to his young protege. He tells him that his age doesn't matter, that he is a gifted and anointed teacher. Paul tells Timothy not to neglect this gift but to practice it, devote himself to it, and that by doing this Timothy will bless himself and others. (1 Timothy 4:12-16)
When we know what our gift is, when we know what our passion is, we assume the responsibility of stewarding that gift or passion. It's on us to use it, to devote ourselves to it, to practice it and grow in it, to bless others with it and ultimately honor God with it. No one can force you to use the gifts God has given you, no one but you can move you out of a place here your gift is being neglected. How we steward our gifts is a direct reflection of how much we respect God.
I still have one of those standard, run of the mill office pens, and I smile every time I see it. It's a reminder to me of how long I've consciously been aware of what my passion is, and a challenge to me on whether I'm being a responsible steward of my gift.
How are you responsibly stewarding the gifting God has given you?