I was reminded recently of my first real “career” job. I was a 9-1-1 operator and police dispatcher. It was a great job and I did it for 6 years. During the last year or so, the stress level started to get to me. Like a frog in a pot of slow boiling water I didn’t realize the heat was rising. When I finally left the profession, I left it suddenly. And, to be honest… I left out of fear. I was afraid of making the wrong decision; afraid someone might get hurt as a result of a mistake I made. And, worst of all, I believed the lie that I couldn’t do the job anymore. The stress of the job shook my confidence and the fear of what might happen paralyzed me.
I’ve always struggled a little with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. A master gives his three servants some talents (or money). To one he gives 5 talents; to another 2; and to the third, just 1. When he returns the first two servants had doubled his money. And the third? Well… he buried what his master had given him and gave the single coin back to him. At the end of the parable, that same servant is kicked to the curb and his one talent is taken away from him and given to the one with 10. I never really understood the fate of that third servant until I considered how closely he resembled me.
Like me at the end of my dispatching career servant #3 was fearful. He tells his master, “I know what kind of guy you are! I was afraid and I hid the talent you gave me.” He was so worried about what his master would do if he didn’t do enough with the talent he was given, he became paralyzed. The only thing he could think of doing was to bury it so he could give it back to him. I wonder how many times he buried it while the master was away. I can just imagine the stress building in him as he waited for his return. What if I can’t find where I buried it? What if someone digs it up and steals it? Whatever I do I can’t lose this! He stayed focused on his circumstance and let the stress of it take over his reasoning. …I can relate.
Then I looked even deeper into this story. When the first two servants were asked to give an account of what they had been given, they both begin by saying, “you entrusted me with these talents, here is what I have done with them.” Guess what servant #3 says? He says, “Here is what belongs to you.” He never understood that the talent was his, given to him by his master. I lost sight of that too. The Lord gave me the talent to be a dispatcher. But when I started focusing on my circumstances and getting swept up in the stress of it all, I didn’t recognize the gift I had been given. I was so shaken, that I didn’t even believe the talent had been entrusted to me to use.
Now, I want to be clear… I’m not using this story as a “pity party” for a decision I made to leave dispatching more than 15 years ago. Leaving that job led me to going into the seminary! The Lord ultimately blessed that opportunity to move into a whole new venture in my life. But, I do share this story with you because I think there is a really important lesson for all of us.
If we are going to be “God’s Glove” in the world, we need to be like those first two servants! We need to recognize God’s gifts to us… the talents He has ENTRUSTED to us. We can’t deny they are ours. We can’t say they are His and just give them back to Him at the end of our life unused. We must be good stewards of them. Put them to use as He directs us. And most importantly, we cannot let the stress of our circumstances or the fear that surrounds us keep us from using them.
Thank you Lord, for the talents you give to each and every one of your lambs. Help us to recognize those gifts and use them for your glory. Protect us from the enemy who would like nothing better than to get us off track through stress and fear. Help us to stand firmly grounded in who you have made us to be and help us to rely on your faithfulness always. In Jesus name, amen!