My Closet Monster is Green and Likes to Eat Strawberries

Silly title, I know, but it fits in a roundabout way with this entry.

My closet monster is green because he’s jealous. He’s in the closet because I don’t let him out much. He likes strawberries because I do.

Ever read something and wish you could write so well? How dull and shallow your own writing seems by comparison and you wonder, “Why bother?”

Some blogs I’ve read of late cause my little green monster to kick down the closet door, forget his love of strawberries and torment me.

He’s difficult to fight off once he sinks his teeth in.

God doesn’t let the little guy suck too much motivation and confidence out of me though, and he uses my own words to lock the monster back in my closet.

I wrote the following article years ago when I allowed Closet Monster chew on me too long – God’s way of smacking me in the back of the head:

Selling Me Short

Christmas morning. You pass out all your presents to loved ones and watch with breathless anticipation as everyone tears open their perfectly wrapped packages. You spy the one person to whom you gave the most touching gift. The moment you saw it in the store, you knew it was perfect and she would treasure it forever. You hold your breath, eager to see the bright joy in her eyes once she discovers what sits inside. The wrapping paper falls away. She rips open the box with an excited grunt.

Silence.

She looks up at you with disappointment and even disdain. Without a word, she tosses your gift aside. It lands with a thud amidst all the forgotten wrapping paper and empty boxes. She unwraps another gift from someone else, something you know she thinks will be much better than yours.

I doubt if many of us have experienced a similar even or so impolite to treat someone we love in this way. But how often do we treat God’s gifts this way?

Sometimes we do throw aside His gifts and for a variety of reasons. For instance, I sometimes grapple with envying what others possess. I’ve always been aware of this, but knowing it and working to do something about it are entirely different things.

Perusing the internet while doing some research, I found a website offering a monthly poetry contest. As a prize, it offered a blue ribbon and publishing the poem on the site. I figured I had nothing to lose by submitting a poem of my own.

The end of the month came and went, and I received no response. Figuring I didn’t win, I returned to the website to discover what sort of poem beat out mine.

The winning poem brought tears to my eyes and for several reasons. First, it was one of the most beautifully written poems I had ever read, and I saw the beauty of God in the author’s every word. To my surprise I discovered the main cause of my tears came not from the winning poem, but how pathetic mine was in comparison. I switched off my computer and sat at my couch to indulge in self-pity. I wondered how God could have given me only a smidgen of talent while He showered so much more on others. It simply wasn’t fair.

Hardly any time passed when God set me straight. After venting my frustrations to God, the Christmas story above unfolded within my mind. If I could be heartbroken over someone treating a gift from me so callously, why would God feel any different when I do the same to Him? I was that petulant, selfish child expecting a wondrous gift to take my breath away. When I received something I felt didn’t measure up, instead of appreciating it, I threw it aside.

After mulling this over a while, James 3:14-16 came to mind: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.” (NIV)

Harsh words, but sometimes, harsh words force us to pay attention. Not only did I envy the winning poet, but my true intentions behind submitting my poem clarified. I didn’t want to share a profound spiritual experience or a piece of God in an eloquent or even loving way, but to show off. I wanted people to see how well I used my God-given gift. And if I had won, I’d go around bragging to everyone how I won a poetry prize. That’s never what God intends. Glory belongs to God, not to those who serve Him. I now understood that my poem wasn’t meant to win a poetry contest, but merely to help me grow closer to God, or even to touch a friend or family member. As for whose poem was better, it doesn’t matter. However similar my gift seems to another, they don’t compare. God desires for us to walk different paths; to touch different people in completely different ways.

I have no idea the ultimate use God intends for my gifts, nor is it up to me to decide. 1 Peter 4:10-11 describes this best: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaks the very words of God. If one serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

I admit my longing to see my name in print in every book store, and hundreds of people approach me for an autograph. But at what price? Will I maintain my humble walk with God, or will I concentrate more on seeking the accolades of man, attempting to please them instead of Him? I need to keep in mind that bringing even one person closer to God has greater rewards than the praise of the masses.

This is not about us, but for the glory of God. We must keep our focus on why God graced us with His gifts in the first place. He has a purpose, even if it’s to only reach one person who goes on to reach others. Are we the springboard, or the one who soars? Which do we seek, and is it the same as what God wants? In the end, when we allow God to work through us as we exercise we gifts, He rewards us with at least a closer walk with Him. He may even allow us to see how our gifts have impacted on others.

Isn’t that worth sacrificing envy, pride and selfish ambitions?

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