Recently, I shared the story of a high school friend of mine, Joe. Joe was a talented artist who created stunning images in several mediums. I have already talked about the wonder and the transformative power of Joe’s art, but there is more. To explain the rest of the story, I’m going to project my own insecurities onto Joe.
Joe graduated from college with a degree in art education and then he got a job in a school district. He didn’t apply for an art teacher position, instead he took a job in shipping and receiving for the schools. We were all happy for Joe landing a good job at a time when our area was experiencing 15% unemployment. In fact, we envied him for landing such a plum job. I was working at a sliding door factory applying rivets, for instance. Shipping and receiving seemed like heaven by comparison.
But Joe had a gift. This still irritates me like a heat rash on a humid night in Houston. Joe was an artist, and one day he stopped producing art. None of us knew why. We even asked him about it, but Joe never gave a reason.
Whenever I think of Joe, I’m reminded of a line in the song "This Little Light of Mine." “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.” His story fills me with sadness and regret—and this is unfair to Joe. He had a good job, like I said. But we thought of him as an artist. We wanted him to shine. Instead, he covered his light with a bushel.
Joe still works for the school district as head of shipping and receiving, but he stopped painting. We begged Joe to paint for us, but he wouldn’t do it. He never talked about why he quit, though I suspect a professor or a critic insulted his work beyond what he could bear. He lost heart. We all lost heart when Joe put away his brushes.
This story scares me because I wonder if I’ve buried any of my talents. I think about it often. Am I using the talents God gave me? I think about Joe. I don’t want to fail to use my talents for God’s glory. Such failure is painful to consider. It’s even difficult typing the words.
Hide it under a bushel? No, I’m gonna let it shine.