Sometimes when something comes easy, we become complacent and start taking it for granted. But if that thing that we are taking for granted is a God-given talent, not developing it can lead to a life that is not being lived according to His plan for us.
When I was in grade school and high school, like a lot of kids I really did not put much effort into studying or paying attention to what was being taught. Even though learning came easy for me, getting a great education was not something that was a high priority.
One might say that God gave me the gift of intelligence but because of foolish youthful pride, I failed to develop this gift. This ambivalence toward education would prove to be a large negative in my life. Studying and higher learning can be hard work but it can pay lifelong dividends. Treating an education as optional or of no value, however, can limit one’s options as time goes by.
Taking a talent for granted
As a young man I viewed ‘learning’ as something that was not too important. After graduating from high school, there was no thought or desire within me at all to go to college and pursue a higher education. Nor was there any contemplation that higher learning might even be necessary in order to qualify for a certain job or career.
Instead of pursuing a college education, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. While serving one’s country is an honor, it was not war time and jobs on base were pretty routine. Feeling as though I was accomplishing something in life was usually furthest from my mind.
I could have gone to college when I got out of the Air Force, but instead I went to work for the Post Office. My foolish youthful pride and arrogance once again kept me from using the gift of intelligence God had given me.
Suffering from Foolishness
It says in Proverbs 15:5 “The fool spurns a father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”
This quotation from Proverbs, as with all of God’s teaching, is sound advice. When we go through life thinking that we know everything or can learn it easily with no help from others, we run the risk of becoming a person who cannot or refuses to be taught. That is what happened in my case.
Being taught is one of the main ways in which we learn, and if a person cannot be taught then that person fails to learn. I ended up as a know-it-all who knew nothing. And that combination led to alcoholism and drugs in my case, and many missed opportunities.
Trying to Gain Knowledge on my Own
It also says in Proverbs 28:26 “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are safe.”
Thinking that opportunities and chances simply just come along without working for them is naive. And one of the results of being naive is living but not learning.
Looking back on some of the lessons I wish I had learned a lot earlier in life, a number of examples things come to mind right away. For instance, I never really learned how important it is to manage money wisely and have a savings account. It’s also dangerous to procrastinate and put things off until later, only to realize that later might not ever come. I also did not understand that if I wanted to meet a Godly woman, I needed to be a Godly person myself. And most of all, the single most important thing we should all do is to put God first in our lives instead of making Him just a part of our life.
Needing to be Taught
In Proverbs 3:11-12 it says, “The discipline of the Lord, my son, do not spurn; for whom the Lord loves, he reproves, as a son He favors.”
I had a lot of growing up to do. And sometimes growing up is not fun, nor is it easy. For example, in learning how to manage money, I went through 2 bankruptcies and experienced what it is like to be broke, not just once but twice. By not living as a Godly man, hard lessons were learned about how complicated life can become with a person who is not Godly. It was also not easy to learn that putting things off might sometimes mean that opportunities in life may pass by with no second chance to ever come again.
Eventually I came to realize how much time I’d wasted by not seeking the Lord’s council as life progressed. And once lost those years do not come back. My complacency when it came to using and developing the gift of intelligence God gave me set me up for failure.
It says in 2 Timothy 3:7 “always trying to learn, but never able to reach a knowledge of the truth.”
Because of my foolish pride I tried hard to change my ways and habits all by myself, instead of submitting to God’s will and allowing Him to change me. Eventually I came to see that there is a need for learning from others and being taught. Even though I had intelligence I had not grown in wisdom. Intelligence and wisdom are two very different things, and it took me some time to realize that I was not very wise.
We read in Romans 12:2 “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
I was told by a priest to try praying about putting together a plan of growth that would help me to become the person that God willed me to be. To become the person God wanted me to be I had to turn to God for the desire to put Him first and to cease being my own authority. Even though we are told in Exodus 20:3 “You shall not have other gods beside me,” I was living as my own god.
Second, remaining in a state of grace had to become a top priority for my daily life; something that is mandatory. I could not take salvation and my relationship with God for granted.
Third, I had to make a conscious decision to spend daily time with Jesus Christ in both scripture and prayer. For most of my adult life, Jesus was like someone in the back room who I would only bother with when it suited me to do so. That had to change in order for me to change.
Becoming a Disciple
It says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price.”
It may be easy to look upon Jesus as our Lord or Savior, but turning to Him as our Master is necessary to become a true disciple. A true disciple in is someone who is actively following Him on a daily basis, trying to become the person God wills him or her to be. Being a disciple requires discipline.
A difficult lesson for me to learn and put into practice was paying attention at mass and offering God true worship. Changing from just showing up to being actually thankful and happy to be there did not happen overnight. But as it did happen, God helped me to grow in both knowledge of Him and His presence inside of me.
It says in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”
Finding a True Identity
The person that God has shaped me into today is someone who is perhaps wiser and closer to God. Receiving Holy Communion as often as possible and taking the real presence of Christ with me out into the world has given life a real sense of purpose.
Knowing that each and every day, I am on my way to Heaven, makes daily life take on an importance that it never had before. And seeking God’s will in all things, no matter if they be big or small provides both direction and companionship that guides me through any obstacle.
And best of all, as I grow closer to God, Christ grows more fully in me and more recognizable to the people and the world around me. By God’s grace I have become a person who “has the strength for everything through Him who empowers me” [Philippians 4:13].
Being blessed with intelligence but not using that intelligence to gain wisdom was certainly not very smart. It was a poor use of gift from God. Luckily God never gives up on us even when we fail to develop out talents, as long as we don’t give up on Him.
Our Father in Heaven may not prevent us from making mistakes, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay in them. In admitting that I needed to grow up and be taught by God, how to be me according to His will, I found the real me. This has turned out to be the best thing I have ever learned.