Pastor Christa looked deceptively casual, leaning against the concrete wall of the hallway.
I was walking out of the parlor with a couple of ladies after a rousing meeting of the Military Spouse Support Group at church. Something about her standing there seemed a bit off. Probably because she was alone. In this busy little church, I had never seen Pastor Christa without a few of the youth kids buzzing happily about her. Instantly, my brain decided to go in for a hug, and I dropped back from my friends to accomplish the task.
"Hey! How ya doin'?" I asked nonchalantly.
"Oh, good. Just waiting for my evaluation."
"Alrighty!" I said brightly, moving past her. Wait, I thought, what evaluation?
I paused, turned, "What evaluation are you waiting for?" It was then that I caught a glimpse of nervous energy behind the demur facade.
"An evaluation of me. I get one once a year."
Being Assistant Pastor, and having graduated from seminary school within the last few years, I was fairly certain that we were still counting these evaluations on one hand. Well, that sort of thing requires a Good-Luck-In-There-I'm-Behind-You-200%-style hug, about four levels higher than the How-Ya-Doin'-Nice-Night-Isn't-It? quickie hug that I'd just bestowed.
I don't care how awesome you are at your job, how confident you are at your abilities and skills, nobody since the Evolution of Evaluations has ever looked forward to actually receiving one.
"You'll do GREAT!" I added.
Too generic, I thought. Lame. I had to do it. I had to tell her that thing that I'd been meaning to tell her for months and hadn't because, well, I guess I'd just been chicken.
"Are you ready for this?" I asked, holding her hand. She nodded. "Are you sure?" Another nod. "You're a huge reason I started writing again."
"Really?" she asked in that are-you-just-being-nice-to-me-cause-I-look-like-I-might-vomit-on-you kind of way.
"Really. Truly. Honestly," my eyes getting wet thinking back on that day.
I didn't want to go into the whole story of it right then. A story that I'd been meaning to tell Pastor Christa for quite a while. I knew any minute she'd be called up for that evaluation (which in my mind was going to look like two men in black suits and dark sunglasses whisking her up the elevator to a stark white room where she had to choose between the red pill or the blue pill. OK, so my thoughts like to steal their material from The Matrix.....or did The Matrix steal its material from me?)
It was a Sunday many months ago. I had just dropped Miss Priss off at Kid's Church, all the way on the opposite side of the building, and had made my way back to the sanctuary. I don't normally go through the center door, opting to sit on the left side of the church. But in my tardiness, the only person still handing out bulletins was handing them out in front of the middle doors, so I gladly accepted one and walked in to find a seat.
The pews were pretty full that day and I was one of the last to enter. The only spot I could find was on the right side of the church. It felt a little weird, being way over there. But the sunshine was streaming in through the large windows lining the wall, making me feel comfortably warm and oddly illuminated.
The speakers came and went, talking about church goings-on, upcoming meetings and missions, the choir sang, the plate was passed, everybody settled down, and then Pastor Christa took her place behind the pulpit and delivered her sermon. Since she normally speaks at an earlier service, I considered it a special treat that she was here in front of us 11:00ers.
The verse that week was Matthew 25:14-30, The Parable of the Talents, which spoke of a man giving his three servants talents, to see what they would do with them. She explained that back then, a "talent" was what they had called money, and the first two servants had invested their coins and managed to return to their master with more than they were given. The third decided to bury his talents in the ground, saving them, and came back with only his original coins. The master was very displeased that this third servant, due to a fear of losing, had not even bothered to try, and wound up gaining nothing.
I was confused. I had not heard of this parable before. What did money have to do with anything? Did I need some stocks or something?
As if reading my mind, Christa explained that "talents" are not simply money, but can be interpreted as the talents you were given by God. Like the master in the verse, God had given each of us specific talents when we were born, and it is up to us, as we move through our daily lives interacting with family and friends and acquaintances and strangers, whether to use our talents to create something more and better for the world, or to, likely because of fear, bury those talents in the ground, allowing them to be useful to no one.
Sitting in the warmth of those bright beams of sunshine, I felt like I finally had the answer to a question that I've been asking for the last few years.
"What should I be doing???"
Although the job of Home Maker has been rewarding and exhausting and fulfilling and draining, I still had a feeling that there was something else. The blog that first pointed out to me that I could maybe, possibly be a half-way decent writer had fallen to the wayside. Frankly, I was tired of just being funny. "Funny" was simply the black wax on the top of a craft-store scratch board. I knew there was a rainbow of colors barely underneath the surface, but exposing those colors would make me vulnerable. And that was terrifying.
My other love is my crafty projects. Jewelry making, loom knitting, sewing, paper crafts, hairpin crochet, the Crafty Closet is like an archaeological dig for my multitude of crafting ventures. (Did you hear that? That was Hubby banging his head on the wall. The Crafty Closet is kind of a sore subject with him!) Although I enjoyed them all immensely, there had been no inspiration to pursue any craft in particular.
With two small kids and a sea-bound husband, I have limited time, and knew I could not actively pursue both. So I sat on my hands, and did nothing.
There had been other signs before that fateful day. Small nudges. Bigger prodding. I had ignored all of it. I was always of the inclination that I would just know what the answer was. And all I heard was silence. Fear is a remarkable thing. It's a material so tough and durable, not even the light can shine through.
Alone in my pew, bathed in pure sunlight, I reached for a pen and a blank concerns card from the box in front of me. Feverishly, I began to write:
God has given me these talents. I am selfish and lazy to not have used them.
Do not have fear.
Give that fear to God and let Him sort it out.
There will always be more....
Something inside that sermon, on that day, in that seat finally broke through the wall of fear that I had been surrounded with. I knew. And beyond the discovery of that answer it became so clear, in that brilliant white light streaming through the church windows, that the answer had come to me a thousand times before in a hundred different ways. I am a writer. The one gift that I had determined I could never be good enough at, tossed into a coffee can and buried deep into the ground. I wish I had the wherewithal to have written down some of the inspiring quotes from Pastor Christa's actual sermon. Unfortunately, there is no Podcast to refer to, as of yet.
After the service was over, I patiently eeked down the center aisle towards the main doors where I knew both Pastor Lee and Assistant Pastor Christa would be greeting parishioners. I typically circumvent this line, preferring to exit out of a side door so I can retrieve my children. But on that day, a blissful, blue-skied, beautiful day, I waited my turn and met Pastor Christa in the doorway, startling her with a hug.
"Thank you," I had said, holding the embrace a couple beats too long. "It really meant a lot."
"OK!" she said, bewildered.
Knowing there were others waiting behind me, I beamed one last smile at her, turned, and left.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I could never have told Christa all of this in the middle of that hallway. First off, I could never have told her all of the above and had it come out in a cohesive manner. I really am better in writing.
And I could have typed it all out and emailed it to her, but then I would have missed sharing this story with all of you.
I know that God has blessed me with many talents. But the one I had buried and ignored for most of my life was writing. Unearthing that coffee can wasn't instantaneous; it still took a little while to remember where I'd buried it. And that old fear continues to grip me on occasion (like with this soul-baring post, for instance), but now I feel an energy and passion for my work that the old fear and anxiety were determined to keep from me.
What about you? What did you bury? What is fear telling you you can and cannot do?