“From the Hart” Devotional for Nov. 16, 2023

“Laying Down Our Shovels”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
Matthew 25:18

It is week four of A Disciple’s Path series. We have talked about prayers, presence, and gifts, and now we come to service. Pastor David taught us that spiritual disciplines fall into two categories: acts of piety (our relationship with God) and acts of mercy (our relationship with one another).

I was recently asked about what I own that is of the most value. That is an easy one. The most valuable thing that I own is my time. The older I get, the more aware I am of how precious my time is. There is a certain amount of our time that must be spent on things like eating, sleeping, paying bills, and doing the laundry. And we have obligations at different times of our lives tied to our jobs and families. So, depending on what stage of life you are in right now, the amount of what I call “discretionary time” varies. So how do you go about deciding how to spend it?

In a time management training that I recently watched, pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof suggested that we stop managing our time and start managing our energy. He showed three circles labeled Gifts, Passion, and Impact. He called the part where the three circles overlapped the optimal green zone. This is where we should be expending our best energy — where we should be spending our most precious time. It reminds me of the two circles that Frederick Buechner talks about concerning vocation. He suggests that when we are deciding which path to take in life, we do best if we choose the place where the world’s deep hunger and our deepest gladness meet. When we are spending our discretionary time wisely, I believe that all five circles are in play. When we are using the gifts that God has given us to meet the needs of those whom we feel most passionately about, we cannot help but feel joyful, and it is then that we can make the greatest impact.

But what happens when we bury our gifts and ignore our passion?

In the Parable of the Talents, one of the workers buried the talents he had been given in order to keep them safe. They could not be lost or stolen if they were safely buried in the ground. But that did not go over very well. What about you? Have you ever done that? Buried the very gifts that God has given you in the ground? I know I have. I hid some of my greatest gifts during what I sometimes refer to as my sabbatical season. Sure, I could justify it for a while. I told myself (and others) that you can’t pour from an empty vessel and my vessel had run dry. I told myself (and others) that I no longer had those gifts, I no longer had the time, I no longer had the resources. I told myself (and others) that I was putting my time and energy into other things. And I was. And they were good things and good causes. But most of them were not God’s things or God’s causes. I was squandering or denying some of the best of what God had given me.

Lucky for me, I was given another chance. And when I started to use my talents and passion to serve others, I found a great joy that I hadn’t even realized was missing in my life. Over time, God gave me even more talents and passion for other things and other people. The more I used what God had given me, the more God kept giving me. I just had to lay down my shovel!

So, at least for this week, I invite you to consider what gifts and talents you may have buried. Is it time to dig them back up? Is it time to put down your shovel and stop denying what God has given you? Some questions to consider as you think about it are:

What are the things that come easy to you that don’t seem to come easy to everyone else? Are you using them?

What gifts do those close to you point out? Do you recognize them?

What is it that energizes you the most?

What great needs of the world do you find yourself thinking about most often?

Do you pray about how to spend your time?

Are you ready to lay down your shovel? What do you think might happen if/when you do?

God of grace, giver of gifts, and believer in second chances,
Thank you for the unique gifts and passion that you have blessed me with. Thank you for the role that you have given me as a part of the Body of Christ. Help me to honor your gifts by being in service to others. Reveal the great needs in your world and equip me to do that which you have called me to do. It is my desire to be a joyful servant. Amen.