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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I did remember and suddenly felt humbled and
blessed. God was watching over me and had heard
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
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
Ann Dangerfield is a freelance writer
who can be reached at:
240 Lancaster ST. SW Aiken, S.C. 29801 Email: