Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Tragedy of the Unopened (or Underused) Gift

Last night I sat here for three hours and couldn't think of a thing to write. And to think that followed my post on head pain!

Oh, I had lots of ideas. But nothing I thought anyone would really care about reading. I flipped through page after page of writing books looking for inspiration.


Why in the world did I start a writing blog anyway? What do I have to say that others who know more can't say better? I mean I haven't even worked on my WIP for--I don't know--weeks? I researched some while I was sick, but then I had classes to teach and income taxes to do and now I have a cold. Oh, and the time change. Yeah. That.

Anyway, after I dozed off and bonked my head on the table and wiped the drool off the keyboard, I went to bed. Awake now, I picked up the book--If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg.

Chapter two. Boat Potatoes.

And I couldn't help but put the whole chapter in the context of writing.

John wrote about the tragedy of the unopened gift. He told about the most beautiful china his grandmother had collected over the years--and stored in the attic. "So my grandmother went to the grave with the greatest gift of her life unopened."

When we went through my mother-in-law's things, we found many that were never used--some beautiful placemats that she never took out of the box and some embroidered towels with a note pinned to them. "Please give these to Lucille. She made them for me."

Lucille would not enjoy them, either. She had already died.

And that reminds me of all Mom King's pretty china I inherited--still stored in the bottom of the buffet. Waiting to be passed down to a child who likely won't use it. Because it has no meaning.

Anyway, John says when we receive a gift, we can choose to respond in two ways.

1. This gift is so valuable it can't be risked.
2. This gift is so valuable it must be risked.

John uses the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) to illustrate that God is Lord of the gift and that we have a responsibility to use that hand-chosen, specially-designed gift. God will hold us accountable for how we use or don't use what He gives us. And He won't let us blame external circumstances or play the "when-then game."
  • Comparison is not an adequate excuse for the tragedy of an unopened (or underused) gift.
As writers, we can't compare our talent with others, whether writers of best-selling books or writers of encouraging notes--though we can strive to increase our gift like the first servant.
  • Fear is not an adequate excuse for an unopened (or underused) gift.
The last servant was afraid to risk, so he buried his talent and did nothing. Maybe he spent a lot of time reading books on how to invest or networking in the marketplace.
  • Sloth is not an adequate excuse for an unopened (or underused) gift.
We writers are all good at finding something to do instead of what needs to be done when it comes to writing. Procrastinating. Or clutching comfort instead of challenge.

So how about you? Have you opened your gift? Do you compare yourself to others in ways other than to grow? Are you afraid to risk rejection or bleed on the page? Are you just plain lazy? Are you using your gift to its full potential so others can enjoy and benefit from it?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King


  1. I love that book! I read it several years ago, and still talk about some of the stuff I've learned in that book. So thanks for reminding me of this principle... and about this tragedy. I really love that idea about a gift being so valuable that it MUST be risked! That is something that can seriously change the way we behave if we really get our heads wrapped around that one.


  2. Yes, it's a great book! We're studying it as a church right now. Certainly worth several rereads with pen in hand!

  3. My mom plans to sell her china set, the one she collected 1 piece at a time—1 week at a time, by buying groceries at the supermarket. (They had some sort of offer: buy $$ groceries, get a plate or a gravy boat, etc) She has not offered them to me. :(

  4. Maybe I'm afraid if I bleed on the page, people will hate it or laugh at me.

  5. Does she know you'd like to have them?

    I know the fear thing. The thing is, we are not responsible for the response or the result. We are only responsible for use.

  6. Yeah, she knows. Just like she knows I'd like to have all the pictures she has on slides (for use with a projector)—most are from when I was little—but she made some excuse to not let me have them.

  7. Gifts. Hmmm.. I think mine are stashed up in the attic. I'm afraid to open them. For years I kept my love in a suitcase till' Jesus came along and unzipped it, now it's like papers flying around in the wind!

    Thanks for a great post:)

  8. Oh, Melinda. Get up to that attic. Take Jesus with you.

  9. Love your application of this to our writing! I think it's true that we often make excuses for using our gifts.

  10. Hi Jody! I love when you have time to swing by. :)

    I think some have difficulty actually acknowledging that they have a gift at all.