In The Nesting Place Myquillan Smith writes that candles are one of those things you can find at thriftstores almost pristine, for cheap, because Americans never burn their candles. Looking around my own house, I see it’s true. Aside from a couple nice ones my sister gave me to light when we have company coming over and a child recently pooped, my candles were largely untouched.
What am I saving them for?
In our home, I often find things I’m saving for later. The wedding china for the fancy dinners we never have. The date night idea book for when we have time for date nights. The little bag of toys for the trip we’ll take one day.
Saving Pinterest boards full of recipes I’m too intimidated to try, saving book ideas for the theoretical future of when I’ll have time to really write, saving fun trips and adventures for when the kids are older and easier to handle.
Sometimes season of life will mean that there are things that have to be put on hold for a while—no month-long sojourns across Europe or writing residencies or bi-weekly pilates classes are possible for me right now, with my husband working nights and my babies young and finances tight.
But saving things isn’t about what you aren’t able to do right now, but what you are holding back due to fear of trying, fear of imperfection, fear of not having enough, or of others rejecting what you offer. Which are all really a desire for control—what will people think of you if you try and don’t succeed? If you start that novel now and it takes you ten years to write? if it isn’t any good, doesn’t sell?
Cast Your Bread upon the Waters – Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 (ESV)
11 Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
3 If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb[a] of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Shortly after bryan and I became members of our current church, I was scheduled to work nursery. I heard from the hallway the woman I was to work with referring to me as “the pregnant girl” (I was–largely!). Watching the kids, I tried to make some small talk, get to know her some, and she stopped me short–“we’re moving in a couple of months so we’re not making new friends right now.”
I can’t help but contrast her with my friend Missy; her husband and mine attended many of the same seminary classes. She has a naturally open, bubbly personality, and I do not and wanted nothing to do with seminary wives–why bother, we’d scatter to the winds in a couple of years, everyone leaving for their appointed ministries?
I am so glad that she bothered–I learned a lot from her in those couple short years of friendship at the seminary; I’m grateful she didn’t decide that it wasn’t worth the time, because I wouldn’t have learned as much about hospitality, homemaking and ministry if it wasn’t for my friendship with her.
Hoarding our gifts, talents, material blessings, friendship or even conversation, doesn’t show people who God is. God doesn’t hold back with us—we are given extravagant love, forgiveness, grace.
The temptation is to hold back part of ourselves—to not reveal our struggles at mom’s group because we don’t know how they’ll be received. To not share our artwork with the world because we don’t know what the critics will say. To not let the world, a rampaging toddler, play tea party with our fine china.
But God has not given us a spirit of fear! And our Maker makes all broken things unbroken.
A candle isn’t any good sitting there with the wick unlit, just a hunk of wax gathering dust. Offer up your body, your talents, your dreams, all of your nice things.
Burn through them. Because when you do, there’s light.