Sunday, June 24, 2007

Burying our talents? I think not

Recently, a reader asked me an interesting question, which I would like to address today. So here it is:

'God gave me talents. I want to be a wife and mother, but do you think I should only be a wife and mother and waste the precious gifts God blessed me with?'

Through blogging and otherwise, I met so many gifted, talented, special, intelligent and educated ladies that still choose to be full-time homemakers. No woman, family or home is ever the same. We don't live in a cookie-cutter world and each one of us has her own special talent or ability God generously blessed her with. Do I think we should we reject His blessings and throw these talents away? Of course not!

However, here's one important point to remember: since our talents (and everything we have) are God-given, it means we should use what we were given to glorify Him. Our abilities are our instruments which can be used wisely or foolishly, and if they don't bring glory to God, the gift is turned into a curse.

Another point: if God blesses us with a family, it means we are in charge of this family (both husband and wife in their unique and complementary roles). By serving our family, we serve God. No, I'm not saying we can only serve Him through our family; we can be for example active in our community, host a charity event, volunteer in a pregnancy crisis center, start a business and so on and so forth. Do I also include work in that list of other activities we might be doing? Yes. However, our primary concern should definitely be the well-being of our family – those precious people God entrusted us with. Can we juggle our primary responsibility and other interests (including work)? I suppose it depends on how much time those interests take. Even when I worked part-time, with the traffic I was absent from home for full 8 hours in a day - the best, most productive morning and daytime hours. Very time-consuming, if I may humbly say so.

Can the workforce benefit from our abilities? Sure. But who needs us more? And what is our most important responsibility? No, it's not like we should literally never set foot outside the home. You won't hear me say "having a career is wrong because having a career is wrong, period". But before we commit to anything, be it work, community projects or anything you can think of, we should ask ourselves two questions – does it bring glory to God? And does it lead me away from taking care of my family? I don't have an answer to that. Only you can answer these questions for yourself, through thought and prayer.

If there is a certain ability you've been blessed with and you're sure you will have to give it up when you take on the duties of wife and mother, you might want to think outside the box and see how this very talent can be used to bless your own family. For example: if I have an eye for interior decoration, I can invest in decorating other people's homes, or put all of my energy into making my own home a lovely place; if I'm a gifted writer, I can travel around the world as a journalist, or I can write wonderful children's books while telling stories to my toddler; and if you want a personal example, I can spend the best part of my day counseling people about their nutrition, or invest in the health and well-being of my own family. Well, you get the idea.

So, in my opinion, the question shouldn't be, 'do we use our talents?', but rather 'how do we use our talents?' We must remember that our time and energy are limited resources and we should manage them wisely. And wisdom will come from reminding ourselves about where our hearts truly belong.

13 comments:

Lydia said...

I have to wonder how the Almighty Workforce ended up as our highest aspiration.

One thing that seems to irritate the people around me is that I certainly don't seem in any hurry to get a job. Most of my friends at least have summer jobs at little places, but I haven't expressed any desire to do so yet, and it seems to worry people. The way I see it, even if I wanted to work, as a teenager the only jobs I could get would be low-paying and unrewarding. I would much rather spend my time improving my home.

Sarah said...

Anna,
Thank you for this wonderfully encouraging post!

One of the most influential things that I have ever learned as a believer is that God ultimately wants us to leave ourselves behind for the sake of becoming like Christ in everything. The more we die to our selfish desires, and learn to live for Christ, the more we bring glory to God.

I have been blessed with lots of talents and interests, but it would be ludicrous to pursue all of them! If I were to be involved and invested in all of them I would be of no use to my family, friends, or church. I think God gave me many interests so that I can repeatedly grow through giving up what I want and placing others before myself. It is so hard in the culture of self-gratification that we live in, but it is a battle worth fighting with our pride and selfishness.

magda said...

well said! michelle over at the walled garden had a great piece some little time ago about how it doesn't make sense to think that we are maximizing our potential simply because others are getting rich off our talents/labor. and according to the rules of capitalism, if somebody's buying it, they're making a profit on it. is anyone so deserving of our labor as our families? i love your ground rules for deciding about whether or not to work. your writing is so inspiring. thanks for doing this!

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed!

Brenda

Janelle said...

I think I am accustomed to seeing my talents in terms of the world.

At home I am encouraged in cooking and cleaning (I especially need encouragement doing the latter). I actually taught myself mostly how to cook and have cooked most meals in the past nine months, a post I've only recently been released from. I can sew, but my parents prefer (and can afford to) a tailor. These are all talents. I was very proud the day my mother told me (after my first three and a half course meal) that she could now marry me off, at least knowing that I could cook. I don't make it a habit to usually speak with my parents about politics and philosophy, because I am either abrasively reprimanded or have to endure a lecture from my father on current politics, where I am given no room in edgewise or disagreement.

My friends know that I can cook and all that, but I kind of like that they ask me to edit their papers or if I could please debrief them on current events. I like the intricacies of foreign relations and campaigns. I enjoy predicting the actions of countries and their leaders. I was never very good at math or science, but I can sometimes, after much labor, see clarity and a whole tradition of legal philosophy within a Supreme Court decision. The clarity is brief, but I am challenged into making headway. Try as I may, I can't see putting that to use at home(unless I marry politician, and I would never do that unless given a burning bush sign.)

So this becomes more of a trust issue. I am afraid that I may be succumbing to the idea that the "housewife is a parasite". Not really, but we all have doubts. Then I am maybe also equally afraid that I am entirely unequipped for womanhood and won't be a failure by the world's constructs, but by my own design. What is my option then? Not my own, but God's. I choose then, to push aside these existential rumblings and study where my talents lay, both at home and in the world. I am staying at home, partially because two years of G.E at a state school will save my family money, and also because I need to learn to be a better daughter and sister. I am going to college because I need academic structure and this way I can lay in waiting for God to call upon my services in some mysterious way. I may graduate and never go to law school, but I strongly feel that my abilities point in that direction. I am not waiting for a calling. I have one already designed in my heart to be a wife and mother. That should be the final answer. If I knew for certain that was to be my one mission, then I could resign to it quite contentedly. But I don't. Instead, on top of this I see how God could use me elsewhere as well. He hasn't ensured me both (only one), but I prepare for both.

In the end Miss Anna, we agree more or less. I am far from a cookie cutter Christian. Even if you took my beliefs out of the picture, I still would be far from cookie-cutter. Thankfully, my life is not my own (you can see how my insecurities would eventually lead to disaster).

Thank you for considering my comments and responding with grace.

Anna S said...

Thank you for your encouragement, ladies.

Magda,

I also enjoyed reading Michelle's thoughts on the subject of our look-at-me culture.

Even as a daughter, I'm often overwhelmed with responsibilities both in college and home. For example, a couple of days ago I came home around 6. Then I had mountains of laundry to fold and iron, dishes to wash and sinks to clean. Please don't think I'm complaining. I'm so grateful for having a home and family to take care of! But the point is, as much as I rushed, I was only done at around 10 pm. If I struggle right now, imagine what will happen when I have the duties of wife and mother! Imagine both me and my husband coming in the evening to a messy house, cranky and tired, no dinner ready. I will make ANY sacrifice to avoid that!

Ways of Zion said...

I worked for the first year of our marriage. Needless to say it was not the best, we were blessed that we did not need the income and so I quit. What help spur me on was that an older couple that we were close with were both diagnost with cancer and the family needed help.

When we were both working our weekends and evenings were full! laundry, baking, cleaning, scrubing the toilets, everything had to be done in the evening and the shopping done on the weekend. AH! stress! I didin't realize how stressful until I was at home and could do them properlly during the day.

I believe in creating an oasis for our families. Our homes should be somewhere that they can come and relax. When I worked we were both being bumbarded with the immorality present in this world and found it difficult. Now Hubby can come home to a loving wife and kids.

Oh and dinner isn't any longer a "Ah hubby will be home in 15 min, what can I feed him" instead it is nice to think it out and prepare something from scatch.

Thank again!

Anna S said...

Ways of Zion,

I think many people don't realize how stress damages us, both physically and spiritually. Just like cigarettes, fast food or alcohol, stress is a slow killer. And why the new meaning this word got in the last several decades? Because never before, people wanted to cram so much into their lives.

Perennial Pioneer said...

Anna,
I am afraid of bringing my talents out, for fear I will become prideful, and forget the One who gave me the talent. That is something I need to work on.
If a talent can be useful for others, then you must make sure that it is done in all humility. I have a hard time with that.
I agree with you, do we hide our Talents, to what do we do with them? That is so true. I like to design clothes, and sew, so what am I afraid of? Being really good at it, and people asking me what to do next. I hide in my hidden talent. Sad I know, but there it is!
I also like to write stories, but I am afraid to get them published for fear that if they actually do, I would be prideful, and forget God.Silly, but that is what the problem is.
Thanx for the posting!
God bless,
Laura

Anna S said...

Laura,

I understand you. I also have to keep the fine balance between enjoying my abilities and being prideful.

I believe that everything we have, everything we are good at is a gift from God, and should therefore be accepted joyfully. As long as we remind ourselves our talents are gifts from Him and keep a humble attitude, we should be fine.

Emily said...

Good post Anna - I like what you say about how it's not a question of if you will use your talents, but how you will use them.

Machelle said...

Hello!

I've been reading your blog for a while, on and off, but can't recall if I've ever commented.

I simply had to at this article. My name is Machelle from Kansas, I'm 18 years old and currently (miserably) attend college as an art major. Why? Because, as I'm sure you know, I was told all throughout school that you will fail at life if you don't go to college.

God gave me a contradictory gift; although I'm nearly legally blind, I can draw and paint. He blessed me with the gift to record the world, either the real one or the images He graces through my imagination, realistically and almost effortlessly. And so my friends and family all told me I must go to college, get my Master's in art, and become a world famous artist, and for a while, I liked the idea. My work was (is) selling, I was humbly blessed with honors and awards for my work, and when I earned a full-ride to college for my portfolio, I was overjoyed. But college life, in a nutshell, is torture. My teachers make me cry, the counselors are unhelpful. My art teacher even went so far as to insist I am "a modern liberated woman!" and didn't need anyones help, despite the fact that i was currently making a fool of myself in front of the whole class by being unable to loosen the bolts on my easle. I'm quitting after the next semester is over, and most of my extended family is devastated. "But you're so talented!" they tell me, and ask what I'm going to do all day, clean?

Sure, happily. and cook, and bring out my sewing again. learn to make my grandmother's noodles and glace. All sorts of more useful skills than sitting through a two-hour lecture on the different ways to draw a line (Yes, that actually WAS a class!)

My family is sad because they think I'm wasting my talents, but I fear they don't realize that God gave me an even greater blessing; a smart mind with which I made the decision to be homeward bound. He gave me the desire for family, the intelligence to look over the lies of feminism. And he gifted me with the compensation for hindering my eyesite. I can't drive, and could not get a job if, God forbid, my future husband and I ever fell on hard times. If it ever did get to the point where, for whatever reason, we needed a few extra dollars, drawing portraits is something I could do in the evenings, quickly and joyfully, to help my family through life's rough patches. I've always loved art, but I want my finest masterpiece to be my home!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Machelle, may God bless you as you pursue your talents from home, to His glory and the blessing of others. No one said you need college to be a successful daughter, wife, mother, homemaker, artist, or simply a gifted, accomplished human being. Furthermore, many artists and writers became famous without ever pursuing formal academics which often just dumb people down.