A few weeks back, a man walked across the Chicago River. Nik Wallenda, perched on a wire strung between the Marina Towers and the Leo Burnett building, was over 50 stories high when he accomplished this feat. As my family and I were watching this on television, I was struck by how effortless he tested the wire. He just stepped out on it, maybe 10 feet out, and bounced up and down. How many of us could do that, 500 feet up? Yet he was as calm and relaxed as you or I would be walking out on our back porch.
There he was on the high wire, for the entire world to see. His was not burying his talent. When he was finished, he told the interviewer that as his real goal was to inspire others to take risks, to try something new, to dream about using their talents to the fullest. Someday he’d like to walk above the Inca ruins at Macchu Picchu, or maybe the Eiffel Tower somehow, or Egypt’s pyramids. He’s always looking to use his gifts, and he always thanks God for the gifts he has been given.
Wallenda got me thinking about my dreams. How have I used my gifts and talents to help others? How have my actions helped build up the kingdom of God? Wallenda prays out loud when he’s out there. He shares his faith through his gift. He inspired me to look again at how God calls me to do something that only I can do.
Today’s Gospel got me thinking about my dreams as well. It’s tempting to think of this parable as shrewd investing advice, but it’s not about making money. It’s about what we do with what we have been given. Unlike the useless servant, we know that everything is a gift from God, and everything has a purpose. The monetary unit “talent” in Jesus’ time was not a small amount – it was worth more than a worker would earn in a lifetime. In other words, the owner of the field left them with everything he had. He took a great risk and he wanted them to do the same, not to leave the investment rotting away underground somewhere.
You have been given talents and abilities that no one else has. At the computer, at work, musically, playing around with a hobby. There is no one else who can do all those good things that you do. How are you planning on using those talents today?
I’m sure Wallenda was a little nervous crossing the Chicago River. Sometimes that happens when you use your gifts. Maybe we’re a little nervous settling a grudge in our family with our gift of compromise, or maybe a little nervous investing in a start-up company and using our marketing talents, or feeling awkward supporting someone in a time of sorrow, failure or misunderstanding as you share your gift of empathy.
When you’re faced with those situations, think of yourself high on a wire. How are you going to make it across? How are you going to trust God?
When I was changing careers, I applied for a job as an entry-level mail clerk, even though I was overqualified. I’ll never forget the interview I had that day. There was no way the company was going to hire me, and vice president told me exactly why. Looking at my resume, he told me not to settle for this job, but aim high. He was the voice of an angel that day.
After some soul searching, I decided to share my gifts with the Church. Later, I decided to become a teacher. Then, a deacon. Years later, I decided to write a book. You could say it all started with that job rejection. He showed me where my high wire was, and I’ve been walking across ever since.
It’s as if God is saying to us, step out on your wire. I have given you the ability, you just need to go after your dream. Be bold. You can do more than you ever imagined in my name. You can cross greater things that canyons, rivers, Eiffel Tower, or pyramids. You have the Eucharist, you have the Holy Spirit, and we have one another.
Step out on your wire. Today. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.