Responsibility — it’s a heavy word, isn’t it? It makes you feel guilty just to hear it, but if you hold up your end of a deal, you can square your shoulders and look the world in the eye. The word makes me think of three friends — Lonna, Mark and Nina.
This story is taken partly from Matthew 25 and Luke 10 and is based on the people in my mind. To one, He gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one. Each according to his own ability.
Lonna was just a pretty little girl, with knobby knees, skipping rope like everyone else when one day the dance instructor came to town. It was a summertime special. The local mothers enrolled their daughters for posture lessons and a chance to get together and visit for an hour in the afternoon. It wasn’t much and didn’t amount to much to anyone. Not much to anyone, but Lonna. From the first point of her toe, she felt like marble in the sculptor’s hand. She could feel the spirit inside of her waiting to get out, to have the unnecessary stone shaved away and the masterpiece revealed.
Lonna practiced from the end of one lesson to the next; and when the five-week session finished, it was clear to her teacher, and her parents, that this bud must be allowed to flower. This could be a long story, but actually it has only one scene — Lonna practicing and practicing, unfolding her talent until the day she stepped forth as a professional ballet dancer. She had world acclaim, fame and fortune, but to Lonna, all that mattered was the dancing.
At the end of each performance, she willed herself to practice and study, discipline her body and her movements, so she could better her next effort. Many years later a little girl looked up at her and with wondering eyes and asked her how she had accomplished so much.
“Faith” Lonna said. “Faith to bring to fruition the gift that is given you.”
Her five-week dancing course had doubled, tripled and flowered. Lonna fulfilled her responsibility and lived in the “Joy of the Lord.”
Then there is my friend Mark. Like Lonna, he was just a friendly, happy little fellow. Sure, he loved to mark with Crayolas, and it seemed to his doting mother that his color choices were unusually attractive. It seemed that his little drawings had some pleasing lines, but he was just a little boy, growing up, playing baseball and learning to get along in this world.
In high school, he discovered art classes and decided to make his living at it. Mark went to college, received a degree in graphic arts and soon had a job with a top advertising agency. Mark was successful. He had money in the bank, a beautiful apartment, a fast car and fancy friends. But he wasn’t happy. It seemed his effort was empty, and the work had no substance.
Finally, after a disagreement with his boss, Mark walked out. Soon his savings was gone, and he had to move. He lost his car, but Mark would laugh and say, years later, it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
He had to take the bus, and on the bus, he met a friendly looking guy who told him about his work — a graphic arts business that made religious tracts. Yes, they had an opening and needed someone to illustrate the covers and do some work inside. Sure, come along, bring your portfolio. Mark got the job. Didn’t pay much, but enough. He felt like his two stabs at art training had paid off double.
Years later a little girl asked him why he gave up such a good job for one that paid so much less. “Respect, “ Mark said. “You have to have respect for the work you do and the One who gave you your ability. I am paid many times over when I hear of a changed life because of one our tracts. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be a ruler over many things. For right now I’m living in the ‘Joy of the Lord.’”
Then there is Nina. From the day she was born, Nina was special. When she was three, her daddy said she had one talent — just being Nina. Her smile seemed to light corners, and you couldn’t help but smile back when it fell on you.
Nina wasn’t much past Kindergarten when the church visiting team requested that she accompany them on nursing home visits. “Let’s take her along. She makes the old folks feel young,” the leader said. She wasn’t in Junior High when the choir director asked to have her join them. “I know she hasn’t much volume, but even if she can’t carry a tune, it won’t hurt. That smile brings us together.”
It was like that everywhere and all the time. When Nina was there, you could feel the light and love drawing and pulling, to each other and to the Lord. Then when Nina was 16 a terrible thing happened — she looked in the mirror and a saw that she was beautiful. From that moment on, she took painstaking care of her appearance. Her makeup had to be the right shade, her hair styled, her clothes in the latest fashion.
But as Nina’s appearance improved, people seemed to pay less attention. The visiting committee didn’t tell her when they were scheduled at the nursing home. The choir director forgot to tell her about practice. Folks didn’t notice when she joined their group. It wasn’t intentional; it just seemed to happen. Nina got a little mad over it and she decided she would make them notice, so she studied her glamor magazines and paid more attention to her makeup and clothes.
Finally, she was all alone and very bitter. She said in her heart, “God is unfair, He expects me to do His work and then He turns His back on me. He expects me to do what I cannot do.” Then the Lord came to her in a dream. It wasn’t as my loving friend Jesus, but rather in the role of an inflexible judge. He was a hard and austere man, demanding interest on the gift that had been freely given.
“You have wasted the talent,” He thundered. “You have hidden the greatest gift of all. I gave you the gift of the Holy Spirit. All you had to do was open up and allow Him to do His work. You have hidden my gift under makeup and vanity and conceit.”
Friends, this story could end any number or ways — three come to mind:
• It could be a happy ending. The next morning Nina wakes up, sees the error of her ways and goes to her prayer closet and her Bible. She allows the Holy Spirit to again take control of her life.
• Then there is the chance that it is too late. While she slept, a deadly fever steals through her body and she must watch the world from an invalid’s chair until an early death takes her away.
• But there is an even sadder ending. Nina had buried the gift of the Holy Spirit, the most important gift of all, too deeply. The Holy Spirit was quenched. He could not work. She lived her life a bitter, disillusioned woman. Unknown and unloved.
Those are our choices, friends. We, born again people, have a gift, it’s the Holy Spirit, the most important one of all. As His children, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit living in our lives. We can allow Him to live and accomplish His work through us and we will hear Him say, in the fullness of time, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things I will make you ruler over many things.” Jesus said that twice in Matthew 25. He promised that we can enter into the “Joy of the Lord.”