Friday, March 15, 2013

Unless The Bush Is Burning, Say No

Growing up in Sunday school, there was one thing -- at least -- that I got wrong. 

Many times did I learn the story of Moses hearing God's voice from the burning bush, telling him to go back into Egypt and free the Hebrew people from Pharaoh. Moses has multiple objections, but his main one is that he is not qualified. He is not a good speaker, and therefore not the guy to walk into the court of the most powerful nation in the world and start making speeches and demands. 

God's response is hard to argue with.  

“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

What I took away from this story was inaccurate: When God asks me to serve Him, it will be hard, not something I want to do, and probably the thing I am not very good at. But He will make me good at it through His own power. Some pieces of this are true, but not completely.

It was due to this mistaken reasoning that I volunteered to be the Daisy Girl Scout Cookie Manager for my daughter's troop of 16 girls.

A Cookie Manager's job is to order cookies, distribute cookies, keep accounting of all the packages their troop sells, collect all the money, and balance the accounts at the end. In our case, that meant keeping track of 2,268 packages of cookies. Why did I think I was capable of doing this? I do not know how to balance our checkbook. Truly. I'm not even sure I can count. I have extreme math anxiety (it tops the list of my phobias which include vomiting and going to the dentist).

When I told my husband I took this job, he looked at me like I was crazy. And I was!

Ordering, picking up and distributing cookies was lots of fun, actually. I like people. I liked meeting all our troop's moms and having them move through my house-turned-warehouse. I even kind of liked how my neighbors started calling me the crack dealer, as they saw lots of mysterious boxes going out and envelopes of cash coming in. 

But I did not like how I could almost never answer our troop leader's questions about procedure, our current balance box balance, or how much money had come in without making a mistake. I literally lost sleep. I probably would have lost weight too if I hadn't had all these blasted cookies lying around.

And the low point was the afternoon I spent four hours at the kitchen table with my spread  sheet and my orange "Cookie Time!" Girl-Scout-issued calculator in accounting hell trying to get the sheet to balance. All my formulas got messed up (should I mention that I also don't know how to use Excel?). I forgot what I was even trying to accomplish. I called my husband in tears and he had to come home early from work to bail me out.

There are definitely times that God calls us to do things that are outside our skill set. But what I believe as an adult which I didn't understand as a child, is that more often God asks me to do things that are difficult, but also things that I am gifted at. They challenge me, they make me uncomfortable, they help me grow, but they are not totally outside my wheelhouse. 

This is the influence of studying the New Testament, where God says that I am given spiritual gifts when I believe in Him, which I should use to glorify God, lift up the people who love him, and help restore the world to Shalom. In fact, the apostle Paul teaches that we should embrace the fact that there are some things we are good at and some things we aren't good at, and we should not wish we had someone else's (see 1 Corinthians Chapter 12). 

As it turned out, I didn't do such a bad job. Out of over 2,000 boxes of cookies, I only lost track of about six. And our troop collected more than enough money to cover what we checked out; we made profits like crazy.  I took some of the time burden off our troop leaders. But I did not bring them shalom. All three of them are great with numbers; one has an uncanny ability to remember lists of figures; another is just pretty darn meticulous about everything. So having someone who was less capable than they were handling this big task stressed them out! I probably would have brought them more peace had I  been less candid about my insecurities, but that's not really my style. (Subject for another blog.) 

People who hate numbers should not volunteer for accounting positions. Just like people who can't carry a tune shouldn't be worship pastors. Or try out for American Idol. Let people who are good at those things do them!

Here's what I now understand about Moses: He was a prophet, and in ways, an exception to the serve-in-your-giftedness rule. God spoke to him directly and chose to use him to pull off the rescue of millions of people. In Moses' weakness, God's strength was shown. 

But God did not appear in a burning bush to me and say, "It's is not I that gives people their mathematics ability? Go and be the Cookie Manager and I will teach you how to use Excel." He didn't even whisper it quietly, the way He speaks to me often, that He wanted me to serve my daughter and her friends in this way. I just jumped in my own, and kept at it though I had opportunities early on to graciously get out, but was too prideful or stupid to do so. 

God did get to show Himself strong in my weakness, however. When I sent the balance sheet to one of our leaders, she e-mailed, "Is it appropriate to thank God for this?" Uh, yes. And I have. He pulled off a daring accounting rescue on my behalf for sure. 

And I learned a lot, not just about the inner working of Girl Scouts Orange County, but also about myself, relationships, and a bit about Excel. And also, that my husband is an incredibly patient person who should definitely continue to be in charge of our checkbook.

Most importantly, I learned that God is gracious. He wants me to spend time on the things I am passionate about and that bring me joy, not just the things that stress me out or scare me. Within the tasks that God has called me to do there are enough challenges, without taking on things that He hasn't asked of me. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to ceremoniously smash my orange calculator, and eat a cookie. And here's official notice to my sweet Daisy troop: unless the bush in my backyard is burning, I won't be doing this again next year. Cookie Manager, out.



  1. I will post this for all to read - you did a wonderful job managing not only the money and cookies, but all the parties involved as well. Kudos for stepping up and taking on a difficult, time-consuming role! Well done, Cookie Mama!

  2. Well said. This will be a story for years - and a lesson for your daughters too.