A few months after Noah was born I decided to make him a scrapbook. I scoured the aisles at Michael’s for stickers and dye-cuts and fancy papers and special scissors with ruffled edges. And then, every night after Noah was finally settled in his crib, I sat at the dining room table, construction paper littering the floor at my feet, and I scrapped.
The problem was, I hated every minute of it.
Nothing turned out like I had envisioned. I didn’t have a creative eye for matching papers and pictures. Everything I cut with the fancy scissors turned out crooked and off-kilter. My handwriting was messy, and the magic marker smudged and bled. I had envisioned Martha Stewart magnificence, and what I created looked like the work of a ten-year-old. Scrapbooking, I learned the hard way, was not my thing.
As I paged through that rag-tag scrapbook a couple of days ago I thought about the verses we read for this week from Acts 6.
Because the twelve disciples were struggling to maintain order within the rapidly growing church, they called a meeting with the larger group of followers to decide what they could delegate and what they would continue to focus on themselves:
“We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program,” they announced. “And so, brothers, select seven men who are well-respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)
The disciples recognized their strengths and their mission – teaching and preaching the word of God. They focused on their God-given gifts and then delegated those responsibilities better-suited to the strengths of others in the group.
I think sometimes we feel obligated to do it all. And instead of focusing on the special abilities God has given us, we run ourselves ragged funneling our energy into areas in which we don’t especially excel. Sometimes we say yes to something because we feel like that’s what’s expected of us. Like me with the scrapbook. As a new mother, I thought that was what I was supposed to do: make a scrapbook of my baby’s first year. Regardless of whether I was good at it or not, and regardless of whether I even enjoyed it.
A few years ago the director of children’s ministries at my church called to ask if I might be willing to teach Sunday school. A wave of guilt washed through me before I took a deep breath and informed her that I didn’t think I would be well-suited for such a role. “Frankly I don’t even really like kids that much,” I blurted to Faye. Thankfully she laughed.
There are times you do need to try something new in order to grow or to step out of your comfort zone. But there are other instances in which you know saying yes would result in a cataclysmic disaster.
Sometimes, as with my ill-fated foray into scrapbooking, a period of trial and error is necessary in order to discern our strengths. But sometimes, like the disciples, we simply know what we’re good at and where we need to focus our energy. And in those circumstances, it’s okay to say yes, or no, with confidence and without guilt.
What about you? Do you know what your God-given strengths are? Have you ever said no to something you knew wouldn’t be the best use of your skills?
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