Petrified. Do we get stuck in the fear of failing? Does cautious anxiety strip us of blessings? 

Friends from America came to the African village where my husband and I serve as missionaries, bringing with them twenty soccer balls. We hooped and hollered. A soccer ball is way more awesome than kicking around a bunch of stinky plastic bags that are tied together.

Where we are, a soccer ball costs two weeks’ salary (if we’re lucky enough to get paid), so they are a treasure. We put the balls on a shelf for safekeeping, not wanting anything bad to happen to them. We had to live cautiously, understanding we would never have such a grand opportunity again.

But the balls deflated, and hungry mice came, chewing through our village’s savings. If only the balls had been used more often, we could have prevented this catastrophe. The kids went back to kicking around plastic bags, hearing only rumors of yesterday’s storehouse of treasured new balls.

If only we had not buried our treasure.

In another village, a teen helper, Pagi, asked me for a soccer ball. Begrudgingly, I complied, recounting the previous ball waste. Pagi started a soccer club at his kid’s program where they play against neighboring youth.

The neighbors asked, “Who are you, and how do you have a real soccer ball?”

“We’re from a church’s kid’s program. Come check it out,” Pagi answered between passes.

The athletes came to church. Non-churched guys heard about God’s love because of a soccer ball that couldn’t just sit on the shelf. It was designed for greatness. A little soccer team gained great players, and God was glorified.

I wanted to tell that seventeen-year-old youth leader, “Well done. You have used your talents for the glory of God, and God is increasing your talents” (Matthew 25:14-30).

Could I be like Pagi? Can I use what God has given me for His glory and my growth, or will I let it sit on a shelf, waiting for the mice? God has given each of us a story, which is a talent. “In Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 NIV).

Is my personal story sitting on the sidelines, collecting cobwebs, or is it drawing people to Christ? Sometimes, I’m not sure how to answer that question.

God has creatively given us interests, connections, and physical talents. These qualities shine like a winning score on the field when we use them, instead of shrinking back in caution.

My life can be used and grown, becoming more vibrant as I share who I am now and who I am becoming. Or, my life can be stagnant as I hide on the sidelines…on a shelf…cowering in self-preservation.

We should grow and not shrink back from fear. Mice and atrophy have no hold on dreams and callings. Our talents and gifts will not be shelved but will be multiplied again and again as we dare to shine—believing in our callings and the One who spoke breath to our individual stories and talents.

Michelle Heed

Michelle and her husband David serve as children’s missionaries in Tanzania, Africa. She enjoys eating fresh mangoes and spending time with their daughter. Michelle is originally a nurse from New York State.

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