The Courageous Olive Tree

By Ann Dangerfield

"And then," Cindy jabbed the air with her fork, grilled chicken dangling precariously, "I called the kids and told them I'd finished the marathon and was bringing home T-shirts. Mom said they'd watched the entire race on television hoping to catch a glimpse of me in the thousands of runners." Cindy's eyes flashed with joy.

"I was busy that weekend too," Melissa said. "We pulled up the carpet on the first floor of the arts center and discovered hardwood floors underneath. I got on the phone and found the best person to refinish it. He'll start next week. After that we'll be able to set up the partitions for the displays then I'll meet with the architect about the second floor classrooms."

After salads, my friends and I sipped coffee and shared a dessert while they talked about other projects they were involved in.

Returning home, I sank into my favorite reading chair in despair. I ran my fingers through my thin hair, thinking of Melissa's thick blond mane. I stared at my plump thighs, so unlike Cindy's muscular marathon legs.

I don't have the talents of my friends. They're creative, industrious, intelligent, clever and attractive. I have friends who are painters, decorators, professors, businesswomen, and Bible study teachers.

I glanced at my watch. I had one hour before our son came home from school. I could devote every second to self-pity. But as I began to cry, I stopped myself. The truth is I'm aware of some of my talents and I knew God had given me a special one in particular-writing.

He had even prepared me. Twenty years after my first college degree, I'd returned for another one in English. In addition, I'd taken a four-year correspondence course in a specific type of writing. He gave me a public relations job with a major emphasis on writing. He's given me experiences to write about and now, with only one child left at home, He's provided the time. But there's a problem.

I lack courage. I'm fearful.

I fear my inability to focus. Life calls loudly with duties and responsibilities, frivolity and fun. Can I ignore its call until I've completed a project?

I fear isolation. What if my friends race past me while I step away from the circle?

I fear self-awareness. To what extent can my writing be developed? As I explore myself, will I discover that I'm not the person I think I am?

I fear failure. It's easier to tell myself that someday, I will polish and produce.

I fear success. What if I produce something useful? What if I realize some of my potential? Can I handle success?

I fear rejection. In the past, the writings I've sent were returned unpublished.

But, would God give me a talent and then withhold the courage to help me use it? Surely He doesn't want my writing to lie like dusty artifacts in a museum storeroom. He wants it used to help others.

I picked up my Bible and sensed God directing me to read Judges 9:8-15. A group of trees went out to search for a king. They asked the olive tree, the fig tree and then the vine.

The olive tree responded, "Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?" The fig said, "Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?" The vine replied, "Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?"

Each turned down the opportunity because he was aware of his talent and purpose. Each had the courage to use those God-given talents, and each gave himself permission to be who he was.

That passage comforted me. I prayed for courage, asking God to develop, direct and empower me.

Over time, I stepped back from some of my activities. In addition, I granted myself the same permission I allow those who take time to paint, decorate, train for marathons, and raise funds. I allowed myself the time to develop my gift. I remembered past events, and realized new situations to write about. I began to sit in front of my computer on a regular basis. Eventually, my articles started being published, and I received my first writing paycheck and free copies of magazines.

I was also receiving rejections, causing me to wonder if I was putting too much time into writing when maybe there was something else God would rather I do with my time and energy.

Then, my friend Elise called. She said, "It was my mom's turn to give the devotional the other night in her club. She used the one you'd written about taking dinner to a widower. Remember, you wanted to visit him on a different day, but that voice in your heart said to go today and when you got there, it turned out that it was his wife's birthday, the first one after her death?"

I did remember and suddenly felt humbled and blessed. God was watching over me and had heard my prayers.

I hung up the phone but remained quiet for a moment. "Thank you, God," I prayed. "Now I see that You use my work in ways besides publication."

Now when I lunch with my friends, I'm no longer envious of their talents because I'm developing my own according to the desire God put in me. I feel more complete and centered, enjoying both a fulfilling sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. I'm happier and more confident. Now I can more deeply appreciate my friends and enjoy who God called them to be, because God's courage grants that same permission to me.

Ann Dangerfield is a freelance writer who can be reached at:
240 Lancaster ST. SW Aiken, S.C. 29801 Email:


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