Earlier this week, I made a massive mistake on the dad/husband front: I accidentally threw away some of my son’s birthday gifts.
I could offer up a litany of excuses, like how the cardboard boxes full of gifts were in the same place in the garage that we usually put the empty cardboard boxes that go into the trash, or that I was half-asleep because it was 5:30 in the morning, but regardless of whatever I may say, the mistake happened because I was careless. And because of that, we had to spend more money to replace them. I upset myself and a few other people that morning, and the horse I had running in the 2022 Father of the Year race tripped over a bucket and broke its leg before it even got a chance to get out of the stable. Thankfully, my wife and son were both very forgiving, but the lesson was painfully clear: carelessness has consequences, and because of that someone else’s gifts may get tossed in the trash.
What is a gift really? If you dive down deep into what a gift is at its deepest core, it is potential personified. When you describe someone as “gifted”, everyone intuitively knows that person has more natural talent and potential in their chosen field than the average person. When you receive a gift, the possibilities of what could be inside of that wrapped box are practically endless. When you give someone a gift, you can have no way of knowing how they will react to the gift and what kinds of enjoyment or use they will get out of that gift. Gifts are endless potential, and a gift is by nature something we don’t deserve. Think about that: you have received things that have endless potential and you did nothing to deserve them. Even if you feel you possess few gifts, if you’re breathing air into your lungs you still have the gift of life, and there is boundless potential wrapped up in that.
However, we have all seen gifts go to waste. Like the athlete in high school who could have earned countless scholarships and instead squandered every opportunity with poor grades, drugs and alcohol issues, negative life choices, or all three. Or that kitchen appliance you rarely use (This was the Instant Pot for me – the steam component and complicated directions stressed me out) that someone bought you. Or maybe you wasted an opportunity with a gift, waiting until the last minute and bringing a loved one a halfhearted present instead of putting some extra time and thought into your purchase. We are all guilty of wasting gifts and we have all seen others waste theirs. What is interesting is that we often don’t think about how much influence we have over others’ gifts.
As I was (pathetically if I am honest) wallowing in self-deprecation and depression in the hours after my mistake, I remembered the responsibility I have for not only my gifts, but also those under my influence and in my circle. As a husband and a father, I am called to guard and cultivate the gifts of those in my family. As a teacher, one of my responsibilities is to be mindful of what gifts I see being manifested in my students and to encourage their growth. As a follower of Christ, I am called to encourage and build up others. Here are a few examples of what the Bible says about this concept:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. – Romans 15:2 ESV
… from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:16 ESV
We are called to watch over and cultivate each other’s gifts, along with our own, and what a glorious calling that really is.
I also shudder to think of how many opportunities I have missed to do that because I was careless or not paying attention.
As I was thinking through this, I was reminded of something one of my bosses said to me after he challenged me with a difficult task. He could see the fear in my eyes and he said: “You’re a leader. I see it and so does everyone else. It’s time you saw it too.” That was almost 12 years ago and I probably think about that moment on a monthly basis – that’s how big of an impact it had on me. Thank God he paid attention and spoke that word to me, because who knows where I would be if he had never challenged me, or if I had never risen to that challenge, or if I had wasted all of the other opportunities given to me by so many who have graciously poured into me. They saw a potential in me, and have I reached it? Nowhere close. But I’m certainly working toward that by God’s grace.
Pay attention. If someone has a gift, do your best to encourage it. Don’t carelessly help them throw them away, or even worse, throw them away for them by being a voice of discouragement. Pay attention to your gifts and work diligently to cultivate them for God’s glory and the good of others. If you aren’t sure what your gifts may be, talk to people close to you that you can trust. A gift used joyously can change lives and change the world. Don’t throw them away.
Also, on a more practical note: double-check your cardboard boxes before you throw them out (sorry again kiddo).
This article appeared originally on jarrodterry.com.