When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.
The quote above is beautifully simple, yet deceptively complex. For sure, we need to make sure we’re using the talents and abilities we’ve been given; to know we gave it our best shot. After all, who wants to stand before the Creator of the Universe and try to explain the reasons behind why we didn’t utilize every aspect of the gifts we were given? That would be the ultimate lame excuse.
But, the trap comes when we gauge the success of our lives by the results of using those talents and abilities. What happens if we give it our all…and it’s not enough? What if, despite everything, we [gasp] fail?
Notice what’s missing in Erma’s quote? What’s missing is the word, success. What’s missing is the assumption that just because she used everything she’d been given…leaving no remainders…her life would automatically turn out successful. Of course, her life was successful. She was a best-selling author, television personality and deeply-loved humorist. She earned upwards of $1M a year. But, I get the impression all that may have been secondary in importance.
More to the point is the underlying message to never hold back. Never deny those God-given talents the opportunity to rise up and shine. And, never judge success in life by circumstances. There will be times when we use everything we have but life, in our opinion, doesn’t respond appropriately. There will be times when we leave nothing on the table, yet we fall short of our goals. How are we suppose to deal with that?
Most of the time we tend to define our self worth by our culture’s standards of success. How terrible is it to live in a society that judges us when we fail despite our efforts? I’m not advocating using sub-par effort as an excuse in not achieving goals. And I’m certainly not excusing intentional actions and behaviors that limit a person’s potential. What I’m saying is character is more important that successful results. Just because we gave it our all, doesn’t automatically ensure a happy ending. Circumstances beyond our control can get in the way, despite our best efforts.
And there’s the caveat.
I believe God wants us to give our all and hold nothing back during our time on this earth. He wants us to use every bit of talent to the best of our ability and….get this….not stress about the end result. We’ve been given talents and abilities for reasons we may not understand. And they may never be intended to be a reflection of our success. To judge the effectiveness of those gifts based on our culture’s definition of worth is misguided. The character and condition of our heart is more important to God than our stock portfolio, name recognition, status or accomplishments.
When my time comes, I want to face God knowing that, even though my life probably won’t be considered a success by superficial standards, I used everything that was given to me to the very best of my abilities…holding nothing in reserve. And, if I can do that, I’ll consider my life worthwhile.
Participating in Simply Living Photography’s LTTL and Quotography