The Exact Way We Encourage Our Children to Use Their Gifts

3 1/2 Minute Read

I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Marketing. I always wanted to be in the sports marketing field and preferably in sales. I grew up with a dad who worked in sales and I knew there were goals to be met and numbers to hit and that fit my personality perfectly. My dad always joked that he knew out of me and my three brothers, I‘d be the one that went into “sales”. I went through sports marketing internships in college and knew I had to start at a 'non-dream sales job' in order to get experience for the job I wanted. I started about a week after graduation and it was fun and exciting and I loved the thrill of beating a quota. 


Then my mom volunteered me to do something at church. Thanks, mom. Our church offers weekly religion classes in the evening for children grades one through eight who don’t get religion class at school. They needed one more teacher for the whole school year. My mom told me, “You should do this. You aren’t doing anything anyway.” Thanks again, mom. She was right, though. I had graduated and moved home, so most of my friends were scattered now. I said that I would do it, but it had to be eighth grade because I couldn’t work with children any younger.

I started teaching the eighth graders one evening a week for one hour and I really enjoyed it as something on the side. One day in January after class got out, a parent of one of my junior high student’s told me, “Hey, you’re really good with this age group. Not many people can handle them, but you do really well.” Of course, I said thank you and probably laughed and never thought much more about that. However, a seed had been planted.

Work was going fine, I was doing well, but I started to feel like it wasn’t very fulfilling. Was this the right place for me? Did I want to spend my career hitting numbers? Part of me loved it and part of me thought it wasn’t where I was supposed to be for the long term. I began to pray about it and see what I should do. I didn’t know what God’s other plan could possibly be. I just wanted to see if maybe he’d reveal to me another company I should pursue or another position. Little did I know he had huge plans for me.

I will never forget waking up one morning in March, going to my cubicle at the office, flipping my flip-a-day-calendar and seeing this: “Abilities not used are abilities wasted.” That may seem like a nice little phrase, but, to me - Wow. It was like time froze, lightning struck, and God spoke. I knew right then God was placing me on the path to be a teacher. I turned to the girl next to me and I thought she might fall out of her wheelie chair when I said, “I know what I am going to do. I’m quitting to be a teacher.” Boom! Done. It was crazy and scary and exciting, but I knew. I spent the next part of that day researching some local schools to see what education programs fit and probably didn’t do many cold calls. (Sorry old employer!)

I went home and was so excited to tell my parents. I was also nervous because I was living under their roof and well, you know, there’s a big financial piece of this that could induce panic in parents. So I was sitting at the kitchen table, my parents were at the counter, and I just blurted out, “I’m going to go back to school to be a teacher.” My dad’s first words. His very first were, “That’s awesome, Jen! I think you’ll make a great teacher!” Say what?!? I mean, that’s what I needed to hear and what I wanted to hear, but there was zero hesitation on his part. Not, “where is your medical insurance going to come from?” Or “how will you pay for that brand new car you just bought?” Or “how are you going to pay for school?”

Don’t get me wrong, those questions certainly followed and I made lots of plans to cover everything, but here I was in a defining moment and revelation in my life and those closest to me encouraged me and did not crush my spirit. Getting through 70+ credit hours of graduate and social studies classes year round over two years while working 20 hours a week was not easy. From the very beginning I needed the support of my family and I received it in an astounding way. If I had not experienced that, I may never have fully known what God created me to be - a teacher. 

My children are not at ages right now where we are supporting them in life-changing decisions, but there are many moments where they are attempting to find their strengths and what makes them happy. And in many of these moments, I will recall that conversation with my dad, and find myself with a bit of regret for my response. The little times when the kids want to have a lemonade stand and I crush their spirit and tell them that no one will be driving down the road. Or the times they want to drag all the arts and crafts stuff to every room of the house and outside because they are designing a "hotel" or a "vet hospital" or a "spy club" and I immediately want to put an end to it. 

Why do I go with my first thought that seems so obvious to me, but that is so crushing to them? Why do I tell them it can't be done? In big or little moments like these, it does good for all of us to remember what our family needs. They just want their dreams to be validated, supported, and lived, and the details can be worked out later. Who knows if, in that moment, seeds are being planted to help our children figure out what they are created to do and who they are meant to be. 

Abilities not used ARE abilities wasted. But how do we know unless we are given a chance to see what they can become? Let’s build families that foster our children’s (or spouse's) God-given abilities. Gather together, listen, encourage, and make those moments happen. Don't let those moments - or abilities - go wasted.   

Jennifer Zumbiel