God doesn’t intend for us to play it safe. He wants us to stretch. In discerning the will of God on a personal and intimate basis, not only must we recognize that unique combination of gifts given, but also we must put the gifts to bold use.
Jesus’ parable of the talents makes that clear, and the feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:14-21) shows us how. In all four gospel accounts, Jesus retreats with his disciples to a remote place for rest and, instead of rest, he is greeted by a great crowd. Having compassion for them, Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God and heals until late in the day. The disciples grow concerned about where the next meal will come from and ask Jesus to send everyone away. Not one to miss an “open table” opportunity, however, Jesus instructs his disciples to feed the crowd.
What happens next is the crux of the story. The disciples say, “We don’t have enough.” Jesus says, “Give me what you have,” and then he does the miracle of making it enough. So it is with us. If we are really stretching, doing something bold with our talents, we will feel like we don’t have enough–enough acumen, perseverance, persuasiveness, tenacity, grace, generosity, etc. If you do have enough, then you might just be playing it too safe. Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to have enough. And he didn’t ask them to do it on their own. He asked them to give what they had in partnership with him. If you think big, God will do the heavy lifting for you, but you have to do some lifting! The first step is yours, and it is to get working with what you have.
I wonder which would please God more:
(a) beings who lament, despite the innumerable gifts and opportunities bestowed upon them, paralyzed by uncertainty, pleading for paint-by-numbers instructions; or
(b) beings who imagine boldly, come up with wild and outlandish ways to use their talents and have faith they will receive serious intervening help?
At the risk of projecting human attributes on God, I imagine he’d be greatly entertained and delighted by the second group.
Scripture indicates it glorifies God when we ask for his help in this way. “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7) There are no caveats on this scripture. The passage does not say it will be given to you if only you ask for the right thing. Undoubtedly we do ask for the
wrong thing at times. Sometimes we are sorry we got what we wanted. Other times we’re grateful we received something else instead. We don’t find out, though, unless we ask.
Many religious traditions encourage jumping into action to avoid squandering the gift of life waiting for perfect circumstances to come along or for perfect clarity. The great Indian mystic Kabir offers this poetic example:
Do you have a body?
Don’t sit on the porch! Go out and walk in the rain!
Join the conversation. How did you make a leap into action even though timing or conditions seemed suboptimal?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.