"I like to eat at buffet restaurants occasionally, but by the time I sample everything I'm too full to eat what I really like," said my friend Casey.
I agreed with him because I too relish an assortment of foods when dining in restaurants. Like Casey, I eat so much while tasting everything I fail to enjoy what I prefer most. A revealing insight exploded in my mind as I applied that scenario to my life.
In trying to sample too many different interests, I'm unable to actually enjoy the ones most important to me. I thought about Casey's comment and my habit of overextending myself.
Life can, indeed, be like a smorgasbord. When we try to cram too many things into it, we miss what's most valuable. I'm especially apt to participate in more activities, skills learning sessions and jobs than I can comfortably handle.
Consequently, I become exhausted and burned out. Since I enjoy delving into a wide range of skills and causes I constantly overfill my plate. I'm sure this habit stems from my belief that God bestows gifts and talents to everyone according to our ability and interests -- expecting us to use them for the betterment of the world.
I genuinely believe Matthew 25: 29 -- "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."
The parable was making the point that the faithful use of our gifts will lead to participation in the fullness of the kingdom of heaven, but lazy inactivity leads to exclusion from it.
Attempting to find what gifts and talents God conferred upon me has been an enlightening lifelong experience. When I attempt to discover my desires and talents, I find God equips me with innumerable more abilities than I could have imagined.
Seeing this reality develop in my life convinced me that everyone can accomplish infinitely more than he believed possible if he'll search and focus on the revelations of the Holy Spirit.
Withholding your talents and gifts and refusing to find new ones is unjust to God and humanity. We should search for our talents and use them to benefit the world.
How can we solve the dilemma of employing all our capabilities without becoming overloaded?
After extensive inner probing, I found my life genuinely was like a buffet. A smorgasbord of traveling so many paths that by the time I'd tried them all I possessed too little time or stamina to enjoy what I treasured most. I simply wanted to know what God desired me to contribute to his kingdom.
I decided I must find where I'm most fulfilled. Then I should involve myself in those activities or services. Spreading myself too thin merely caused incompetence due to lack of time and energy.
Even though it's wonderful to boast of possessing numerous areas of expertise, sometimes what we're doing can be done just as well by someone else. We need to look for what we're happy accomplishing.
Often this means simply attending to loved ones. Doing what God desires brings genuine happiness and satisfaction.
Most importantly, it brings praise and honor to God. How can unhappiness, overwork and a smorgasbord of stress-causing activities praise and honor God? Don't fill your plate too full!
Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish.