By Beth Demme
I’m not a neat freak. Truly, I’m not. I’m perfectly comfortable with a level of disorganization and clutter that would make some of you insane.
Even though I’m not over the top about it, I do love the way our living room looks when everything is in its place. The room is quite pretty when there are no dirty socks, random shoes, crumpled blankets, or abandoned cups (always half-full, never half-empty) strewn about.
It’s the room where the kids watch TV so it’s just the way I like it approximately 1-2% of never.
The trouble is, the only way to keep it looking its best is to leave it unused.
But a room that’s never used is such a waste, don’t you think?
I’m beginning to see talent is like this, too.
An unused (or under-used) talent is such a waste.
My son is in 7th grade this year. For the first two weeks of school, the sign out front said “School Starts at 3:25 am.” At first I chuckled. By day four I wondered why they didn’t change it. By day six I was annoyed by the lingering typo. But by day 10 I finally realized what was happening. Yep, it really took me 10 days.
The sign actually said “School Starts at 9:25 am,” but one lightbulb was burned out. The missing light made the 9 look like a 3. The sign didn’t make any sense because one little lightbulb wasn’t on.
Maybe life is like that sign? Maybe we each have a light to shine and the overall message makes sense only when all the lights are on.
I think two things keep my own light from shining— not knowing what my light is and feeling like my light isn’t unique. Is it the same for you?
Two light-related experiences from our travels this year are helping me overcome these obstacles.
In June we were in Barbados for an amazing family vacation. While there we went to a Gospel Breakfast at one of the resorts.
As we ate breakfast and the small group of singers started singing “This Little Light of Mine” the leader shared this wisdom (in her beautiful island accent):
Everyone has a talent that can shine God’s love. Some of us are still trying to find our talent and I want you to know, it’s okay. Keep looking for it.
I felt like she was speaking to me. Was she speaking to you, too?
Hearing this made me more determined than ever to identify and grow into the talents God has given me. (Click here to read what Jesus said about unused and underused talents. Matthew 25:14-30, NRSV)
But determination only goes so far. It seems like each time I head down this road I’m confronted with how common my talents are. It feels like there are millions of people using their words to encourage others these days.
Have you ever felt like your talent wasn’t unique enough to justify the time and energy it would take to pursue it?
Each time I come up with an idea for a lecture, speech, or blog post, I find other people who are covering the same subject. I wonder, what’s the point of adding my words?
When those feelings creep in on me, I think of Thomas Edison.
We were at the Museum of American History earlier this year and I learned what you may have already known — Thomas Edison wasn’t unique. There were lots of people working on the idea of an incandescent lightbulb at the same time as Edison.
It seems this drove Edison to work harder. It certainly didn’t cause him to give up. He said giving up was the “greatest weakness.”
Edison wanted to make his light shine — literally. Now every time I turn on a light switch I remember how important an idea can be, even when it isn’t unique.
Yes, we are each only one lightbulb on the sign, but the sign doesn’t make sense without every light, right? The world needs your light. You are the only you there will ever be.
I’ll keep trying to find and shine my little light. Will you?