Day 4: Wasted Gifts {31 Days of Re-Entry}

If you read my post yesterday, you know that I struggle with pride, so it will come as no surprise to you that when watching the movie, The Incredibles, I identify with being an undercover super hero.  If you haven’t seen the movie, a super hero couple marries and decides to try and live a “normal” suburban life without using their powers, until, of course evil forces threaten and they are coerced into using their powers once again.  Currently a stay-at-home-mom in America, I sometimes feel like some of my gifts for language, culture and teaching have gone into hiding. I am Elastigirl incognito.

From childhood, we develop gifts that we often use only for a season, or they are latent in us until we have an opportunity to feed and water them once more.  Those who have changed careers, left jobs to stay home with children, immigrants with PhD’s working at McDonald’s in the states, those who were concert pianists, on the varsity team or on the traveling dance team in their childhood can probably relate. 

Missionaries develop a unique skill set that is often less useful if they return to their passport country:  tribal languages, cultural knowledge, bargaining skills, and the ability to live without running water and electricity aren’t skills that are usually in high demand in the western world.   If you return home, are you wasting your gifts?  Will you ever use them again?

I returned to the states to marry an amazing man, an actor who had just begun recording audio books full time, but did theater on the side.  He studied theater in college and has his MFA in acting.  In addition to loving God (and me), His passions in life are books, theater, Frisbee and craft coffee (in changing order depending on the time of day).

Before I met my husband, I got my Masters in Intercultural Studies and spent five years studying Mandarin Chinese, including two years of full time study, fully intending to spend the rest of my life in China.  Weeks before we met, I began applying to PhD programs in cultural studies.  

But God had different plans for us.

It seemed that each of us, in being called to marriage, were being called to lay our most precious gifts on the altar.  Missions and China for me and theater for him.

Upon returning to the states, one of the most painful questions someone could ask me was, “Are you using your Chinese?”  It triggered a sense of shame that I was perhaps squandering a gift I had spent hours in honing.  Likewise, my husband now knows to brace himself for sadness when he attends his friend’s plays or is asked what show he is currently in.

In the past five years of being back in the states, my husband and I have each had some opportunities to use these latent gifts, which I may go into in another post, but for the most part, we have had to leave these talents buried in the ground.

From the world’s perspective, this is “waste,” but God seems to operate by a different economy and at times, His equations just don’t seem to balance.  Living overseas, I was always surprised when the most “qualified” people (fluent in the language, with deep relationships, culturally savvy) were the ones that seemed to leave. How could God want that when they were “doing so much to help the kingdom?” 

Similarly, in Scripture, I have always been baffled by the fact that God called Paul, who seems like he would have been the perfect candidate for ministry to the Jews, to preach to the Gentiles.  Not logical.

Paul must have felt this loss.  It seems to come through in Philippians 3, where he recounts his qualifications as being a Pharisee from the “right” lineage.  He knew what he was capable of by the world’s standards.  And yet.  He counts all these as LOSS for the sake of Christ.  He is willing to lose all–his status, education, gifts and abilities–for the sake of knowing Christ.

This is the kind of man God wanted to use to spread His kingdom in the world. 

Jesus, take my gifts.
I break this valuable alabaster jar and pour it out for you.
You are worthy of my every sacrifice because you already sacrificed your life for mine.
Nothing done for you or for your glory can ever be considered “waste.”
Thank you, Jesus.


Do you feel that you have latent gifts?  What gifts is Christ asking you to lay at His feet until He chooses to use them again?

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This post is day 4 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)

4 Replies to “Day 4: Wasted Gifts {31 Days of Re-Entry}”

  1. Leslie, what a great job of exploring this idea of latent gifts! I had never thought of Paul being the ideal apostle to the Jews. That's so true! But God had a completely different plan for him. I love your prayer at the end about offering all of who we are as a sacrifice to the One who sacrificed Himself for us. And to believe that nothing is wasted when it is given for His glory. May you and your husband see that to be true in your surrendered lives to Him.

  2. Jodie, I just realized that I never responded to your comment–sorry about that! Just wanted to thank you for reading. I'm glad you were able to take something away from it! Thank you for your encouragement:-)

  3. This article is beautiful, especially your prayer at the end– so happy you wrote it, thank you.! Came to your blog from the wrap-up link-up at crystalstine.me. Was moved by your closing article, too– working to "feed the stream" with my "thimbleful," too. Beautiful words, may the Lord bless your day and week!~

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