Use It or Lose It

by Larry Hehn on August 16, 2013

use it or lose itMy legs used to be in pretty good shape. Until seven weeks ago, that is, when I injured my right hamstring at a softball game. I had to be helped off the field.

After four weeks of nursing the leg, I was able to walk without a limp. Today I can run (gingerly, at half speed and over very short distances) without any pain. I’m even back at the diamond once a week.

But the recovery is far from over.

I used to walk to and from my office twice a day on weekdays, a total of about 2-1/2 miles. But, after driving to and from work for the last few weeks instead, my legs are out of shape.

I can’t complete the walk at my normal speed without my leg getting stiff and sore. When I try to run at my usual speed or attempt any feats of strength or endurance, my legs turn to Jell-O.

It’s a classis case of Use It or Lose It.

It only takes a short time of not using your muscles, your mind, your talents – or even your money, according to Henry Ford – for them to start dwindling. I was amazed at how much and how quickly the strength and endurance in my legs faded with lack of use.

God has blessed us each with a unique blend of gifts, and we were meant to use them. Just like with my legs, it might surprise you how much and how quickly they can fade if you don’t.

What are your gifts, and how are you using them?

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” – Matthew 25:29

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” – Luke 8:18

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

David Rupert August 16, 2013 at 8:24 am

I’ve been not working out the last month or so — doing summer stuff instead. And I walked up a few stairs yesterday and felt it!

As far as gifts, I have taught for 30 years but havent for a year as writing a book and other projects have pushed my teaching time to the back. I wonder — can I jump back in? Is it like riding a bike?

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Larry Hehn August 16, 2013 at 11:24 am

There’s one sure way to find out!

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Kari Scare August 26, 2013 at 7:44 am

Yeah, jump back in. You may feel rusty, & it may be more struggle than it used to be, but you’ll eventually get a rythym again. Don’t let fear get you. Go for it if you feel called to!
Kari Scare recently posted..A Gentle & Quiet SpiritMy Profile

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Rick Dawson August 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

I have only a slight disagreement, but it is based on my own experience, so caveat emptor.

I was told to put my guitar in the case and leave it there for a year after I’d entered 12 Step recovery, as I had made it an idol. At first – say, for a month and a half or so – I wanted to get the thing out, positive my chops were going to waste away from the lack of practice time. Somewhere between the third and fourth month I simply stopped thinking in terms of actual practice and instead concentrated on listening to new music and hand strengthening exercises with a focus on dexterity. I was surprised that I went over a year without playing; I was grateful that, when I did pick my axe back up, I was playing new stuff that I’d never played before and my technique was markedly improved.

Sometimes, in order to get something moving in the right way, we need to leave it alone on the altar. When I put the guitar down, I was not a follower of Christ – when I picked it back up again, I was.

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Larry Hehn August 19, 2013 at 8:13 am

Excellent point, Rick. When something becomes an idol, it’s definitely time to put it down. I heard a similar story about tennis great Bjorn Borg, whose father made him put away his tennis racket for a year as a youngster. Thank you for adding so much to this!

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seekingpastor August 19, 2013 at 9:55 am

Exhortation and encouragement.

So many times I have seen this happen to people. And then they want their gift back when it is gone. So sad.

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Larry Hehn August 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm

As fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell once sang,
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone”
Right on, Matt.

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Hazel Moon August 24, 2013 at 2:45 am

I discovered you at Rick’s Saturday Shortcuts. Glad you are recovering from your injury. Yes, we must use our spiritual gifts or lose them – – some times we must even make a way where there seems to not be one. For me, Blogging has been that way and telling my stories, with a message has been one method.
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Larry Hehn August 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Welcome, Hazel! I’m glad you joined the conversation.

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floyd August 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Yep… after seventy two hours the atrophy begins… Great analogy. Got me thinking.

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Larry Hehn August 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Many thanks, Floyd!

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hutch August 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Use it or loose it. What a great analogy. Thanks for this reminder that we all have gifts (callings) and we are called to employ them in service.

Found you from Ricks shortcuts tonight.

-Blessings.
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Larry Hehn August 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Thank you for stopping by, Charles!

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Caleb Suko August 26, 2013 at 1:30 am

What a good reminder Larry. I’ve often thought there was a strong similarity to working out and strengthening muscles with spiritual gifts. You can lose your ability to do your spiritual gift well if you do not practice it on a regular basis, I would also add that you can eventually lose your ability to do your spiritual gift if you never rest. If there’s activity there must also be appropriate times for rest.
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Larry Hehn August 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm

So true, Caleb. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons for Sabbath. We were meant to take breaks, rest and recharge. Good point!

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Kari Scare August 26, 2013 at 7:41 am

I lost my ability to write for a while. Just couldn’t form the words. Once the Holy Spirit helped me get some things right, it came back. I try to not take my gifts & abilities for granted now. When I start to, He gently reminds me of that empty place.
Kari Scare recently posted..A Gentle & Quiet SpiritMy Profile

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Larry Hehn August 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I find that I need regular reminders like that. I’ve learned to be thankful when they come. Nice to have you here, Kari!

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Jan Moyer August 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

As always, you hit on a great truth. I feel like I’m using my gifts well right now, but it’s so easy to rest on your laurels “I just need to take a break and then…” but really, it’s better to find a different place or way to serve, not to stop. It’s so easy to find other things to fill that time.

And yeah, I need to get back to running. Thanks.

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Larry Hehn August 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Thank you for your encouragement, Jan. Keep running!

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Carla December 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I think the key is to remember that the purpose of every gift God gives us is to glorify God and to serve his purpose.

If we take it for granted and don’t use it, we can lose it. Also, if we misuse or abuse it, we can lose it as well.

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Larry Hehn December 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Great point, Carla. Glad you could join us!

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