“Why don’t you help that little girl over there?”
I looked around the appliance store, wondering what “little girl” the salesman was referring to. I had my three young children with me, one a babe in a stroller. Seeing no one else in the area, I realized he was talking about me. For heaven’s sake! I was thirty-two years old. Hardly a little girl. I was there to buy my first microwave oven, a big investment back in the early days of that miracle technology. I expected to be taken seriously, especially with money in my wallet.
For much of my adult life, I have looked younger than my age. As a junior high teacher it wasn’t unusual for me to be confused for a student when a parent entered the classroom. Proof of age was a common request in stores and theaters.
It’s hard to be in a position of constantly proving yourself when others want to dismiss you. When we’re young we want to be older. Then again, when we’re older we sometimes wish we were younger. This isn’t necessarily a vanity thing. It’s more about credibility. Toddlers don’t want to be treated like babies when they are capable of doing things for themselves. The elderly can do many tasks and rightfully resent not being asked to participate.
The age of credibility is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to responsibility and leadership. This has been an issue down through the ages and a concern even in the Bible.
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy not to let others dismiss him because of his age (1 Tim. 4:12). Timothy was obviously young, but he was entrusted with the important message of the Gospel.
Jesse’s youngest son was David, someone with little credibility since he was given the mundane task of watching sheep. Yet he was chosen to be King of the Israelites (1 Sam 16:11-12).
God also didn’t eliminate those advanced in their years, such as Moses or Sarah, when it came to choosing who would serve Him and carry out His promises and plans.
As Jesus-like leaders of an organization, company or family, we must keep an eye out for those who aren’t given the credibility they deserve. Perhaps those who aren’t properly matched to the job they’ve been given. Oh, it’s pretty easy to spot people who are overwhelmed by a task beyond their abilities, experience or skills. Their faces mirror the discouragement, exhaustion, or even panic bearing down on them. Hopefully, before there is a major breakdown, a good supervisor or manager quickly recognizes the unreasonable nature of the expectations placed on someone who is stretched beyond his capabilities.
On the other hand, it’s not so easy to pick up on those who are being underestimated in their talents and abilities. Usually they display a quiet determination or resignation that might mask an underlying sense of being underappreciated. It’s hard for someone to be enthusiastic about a job that really doesn’t have enough expectation for competence. Imagine being relegated to the “kiddie pool” when you know you’re an accomplished swimmer!
As leaders, we must ask ourselves if we are utilizing all the gifts of those we lead. Perhaps we are unaware of how talented some people are. But do we try to find out? Do we ask? And if someone truly has a gift, ability, or talent, are we using it do we simply file away that knowledge in a mental folder? How sad to not acknowledge someone’s credibility, leaving him waiting to be asked, ignoring her potential! How can there be true joy in this picture for either party?
How much more rewarding when we really use people’s gifts to the fullest!
The leader who takes the time to discover the “hidden” talents of his employees may discover those gifts were evident all along. A simple request to be involved or a supportive word of encouragement may be all that’s missing. Who knows how far an organization can go when people are given the credibility they deserve? Imagine how much joy can permeate a family, company or church when everyone feels they’re in that “sweet spot” of being appreciated for what they can contribute.
And then I think of the times I don’t treat my Lord Jesus with the credibility He deserves. It’s almost as if I think He can’t come through with what I need so I don’t always ask Him for help in the challenges I face. He has the ability to accomplish anything, considering He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28: 18). He says He will give me the words to say when I’m faced with difficult situations (Luke 21:15). He says He wants to give me an abundant life (John 10:10 ESV). He promises to be with me always (Matt. 28:20) and I still try to go it alone. I wonder if sometimes He feels I’m relegating Him to a spiritual sideline just waiting for the right moment to invite Him to get in the game?
But then I remember that it doesn’t depend on my asking. Even when I think I’m handling life just fine without Him, He’s right there with me working through my problems, big and small. I shouldn’t be surprised when I find the exact words coming from my mouth when I didn’t think I was brave enough to speak up or when the problem I thought was too insignificant to bother Him with suddenly is resolved.
No, the credibility of my Jesus doesn’t wait for my acknowledgement. And my credibility doesn’t depend on the judgment of this world either.
Thank goodness, even in times when I feel incapable or underestimated, I can hear His voice reminding me that as His child I have a life that is more than full.
I’m living in that “sweet spot” of His love, and I’m enjoying the best of all places… His abundantly given life filled with His joy!
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