God is our gift giver. And all too often we are like hesitant, nervous children, questioning the gifts under the tree. We leave them lying idle, gathering dust.
Our Creator, our heavenly Father, the ultimate parent, has lav¬ished on us a generous wide range of incredible gifts, talents, skills, and abilities.
There are abilities we have developed that we weren’t always great at initially. If it was riding a bike, we always fell off! But over time, with some practice and perseverance, we got better, until it came so naturally to us that we forgot we ever had to learn.
Then there the gifts, that we have no explanation for. They are part of us and when we unwrap those, it seems a bit like a whisper from heaven, because there’s something a little bit special, God given, about them. Somehow when they operate in our lives, they seem to have God’s smile on them. Something about those are naturally super¬natural.
You’d think with gifts like these, we’d celebrate from the rooftops. Huge gifts from a good Father, a Father who delighted to give us these gifts, who lavishes gifts on us because He loves us and because those gifts can be life giving to us and those around us. You’d think we’d not be able to stop celebrating.
Sadly, that’s not always the case.
We’re afraid of that gift, we don’t understand how it works, and we’ve forgotten that it’s okay to learn, that that’s actually part of the fun, so we quietly put it back under the tree.
We tried that gift, but other people were critical of it.
It wasn’t a popular gift or the right gift for someone like us. We felt embarrassed. Other people felt uncomfortable with our gift, which in turn made us uncomfortable.
The gift became cumbersome, burdensome. It upset the balance of our friendships and other relationships.
So . . . we put it back in its box, resealed the wrapping paper, and put it back under the tree.
We didn’t use it anymore. We played down and denied its existence, and we called our denial humility.
We didn’t talk about it anymore to God or to anyone. There were some gifts we just avoided, thinking, I know that’s a gift with my name on it, and I’m intrigued, but isn’t that gift only for men? Why has it been given to me? I don’t remember including that in my PowerPoint presentation! We scribble out our names and leave the gift there, hoping someone else will lay claim to it.
Some of the gifts seem so ordinary we dismiss them. Is there even a gift of cooking, for crying out loud? Or making a bed for someone who needs it at short notice? It’s just managing a home. It’s just run¬ning a budget—it’s what we went to college to learn. It’s only organization—it’s a practical way to live. There are no dreams or grand visions around it—they are just basic necessities that help us function. Isn’t it a bit of an embellishment to wrap it up in fancy language and stick a pretentious bow on it and make it sound more meaningful than it is? It’s not special, just normal. Surely anyone can do it. And al¬though this gift is not left under the tree, its value and potential in the lives of others is discarded like old wrapping paper.
Over the years, I’ve noticed the way women sometimes downplay their influence and impact with the use of the word just or only. “I’m just a mom.” “I’m only an assistant.” “I’m just a grandmother.” “I’m only a college student.” Just and only can sometimes make us believe our contributions are insignificant or inadequate. It’s not true. So while the ordinary basic-necessity skills we possess aren’t a big deal to us, they’re actually so valuable that they could be used to help someone else, love someone else, transform someone else—for life. Further¬more, we can sometimes conclude that our roles disqualify us from wider leadership and influence. As former White House secretary Dee Dee Myers once reflected, “I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising chil¬dren isn’t.”
There are the gifts that are like seeds waiting to be sown, ideas and dreams embedded in our hearts and minds that will take time to un¬fold and need our attention. But the fact that we don’t know all the details and how it will all work out can be intimidating. They feel too scary to feel like gifts, so we don’t just leave them under the tree; we kick them behind the couch next to the tree and try to forget they are there.
We’ve forgotten something important: they were always gifts from a good Father (see James 1:17), a Father who knew exactly what we needed and even saw things we wanted but couldn’t articulate. A good Father who knew that as we learned how to use some of these gifts, they would become life-giving sources to us and life-giving re¬sources to other people. He knew what gifts would take practice and perseverance, but ultimately they were gifts He delighted to give.
Jo Saxton is an author, speaker, podcaster, and entrepreneurial coach. Born to Nigerian parents and raised in London, Jo brings a multicultural and international perspective to her leadership training for women. A sought-after speaker, Jo has a diverse calendar addressing universities, churches, national conferences, nonprofits, and corporations, including Q, Catalyst, Evereve, NoonDay Collection, LakeShore Media, and internationally in the U.K. and Australia. She is co-host of the podcast Lead Stories and the founder of the Ezer Collective, an initiative that equips women in leadership. Jo is the author of three books, including The Dream of You.
Excerpted from Ready to Rise: Own Your Voice, Gather Your Community, Step into Your Influence. Copyright © 2020 by Jo Saxton. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.