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Shelving our Scotties

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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At home, after a day at my first real job, I placed the package on our kitchen table. It had come in the mail. A gift from mom.

Slowly, I peeled back the tape. One side, two sides, three. Then off with the cover and a quick flip of tissue paper to reveal . . . this? My throat tightened and hot tears rose. I removed a short-sleeved, stretchy white cotton shirt from the box. A black and white plaid Scottie dog stood cheerily on the center of the garment, his tail sticking up sprightly. Three red bows lined up like obedient children under his feet. There was even a bell at his neck—the perfect gift for a little girl, not for the young woman I was becoming.

After throwing the box in the trash, I took the shirt to my room and placed it in the top drawer. Some days, I would see it and consider wearing it, out of guilt, for the sake of my mom. Once or twice I went so far as to put it on, brush my hair, and put on a slick of red lip gloss. But I never could bring myself to walk out the door.

Over the next few years, the Scottie shirt shifted. Top drawer to second drawer. Second to third. Then to fourth. At last to a bag in the closet. Then, one moving day, to the Salvation Army collection bin.

It was hard to shelve that Scottie shirt. Gifts have meaning to us, even if they don't fit who we are or who we're becoming. Culturally, we are primed to receive and appreciate gifts. If we exchange a gift or regift something, we tend to do so with a little pang.

So it's dangerous when we speak of our jobs and talents as "gifts" from God. Indeed, in some manner they are, but who can eventually put a gift aside without at least some measure of guilt? And some people, burdened by this difficult emotion, will continue to walk out the door wearing an ill-fitting "gift."

I am a person of different gifts. An artist, a teacher, a writer, a business owner. Over the years, I have put on and taken off these gifts to varying degrees. Sometimes I've felt guilty for moving on, sometimes not. Recently, I read an account of someone who was trying to escape her "gift for children's ministry." She was struggling with external pressures to keep on with the gift—even to the point of feeling a sense of failure.

Calling our jobs and talents "gifts" has its place. We honor the God who gives us opportunity and sustenance. But perhaps we'd do well to remember that this same God inspired these words, "For everything there is a season . . . a time to keep, and a time to throw away." A time, even, to shelve our Scotties and refashion our skill set or mindset to prepare for a new vocation.

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