But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind." -- 1 Corinthians 7:7
Last week, my sister and her husband, my older brother and his girlfriend, and my other brother, gathered at my house for a mini-family reunion. Because we had not yet met my brother's girlfriend, it was a time for us all to get to know one another better.
It didn't take long to see that my brother's girlfriend, Lory, was very friendly and was a good talker. My youngest son, of a similar disposition, found a kindred spirit. He is also quite a talker. Sometimes he can be exhausting, but Lory joined right in with his conversation, asking him thoughtful questions and making him laugh. At the end of the day, my son drew her a picture showing a tall woman with long blond hair standing on a hill being hugged by a smaller person. In between them, and floating up into the sky, were many tiny hearts. When he gave it to her, Lory was surprised and very touched. I said, also touched by his drawing, but not surprised, "He is such a lover." And he is. That is one of his special gifts. After a couple of days in her company, it was clear that Lory has a special gift of connecting with people -- of all ages.
At one point during the week, I overhead my sister say, "Pam is a good teacher, but I don't know what my talent is." I was surprised. My sister is a wonderful baker, can do any kind of needlecraft, is always kind, and has a gift for finding amazing bargains. But she didn't see this. These home-maker gifts did not seem special to her. Why? I wondered.
Last Sunday, I too had similar feelings of inadequacy. Over the past few months, our high school youth group has dwindled to almost nothing. Thinking that what they needed was just consistent leadership, I made myself more available for them. But, "a good teacher" is not what these teens want. They want camaraderie. Last Sunday, I teamed up with one of our other adult leaders for the first time. And as we went through the lesson, I thought, "He is cool. The kids respond to him. He gets to the heart of the matter, in a way that I do not." I let him know how important he was to these kids and asked if he would be able to help more often. He's thinking about it. I hope he can. His is probably the only person who can turn this group around.
As I thought about my failures in this area of ministry, I felt a bit depressed. I really thought God was asking me to be more involved in these kids lives, that my consistent presence would make a difference. Was I wrong about this? I wondered.
I read the Scriptures for the day, and was struck by their appropriateness: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another the gift of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) Paul follows these words with the metaphor of the body. All our various gifts are needed to make the body of Christ complete.
I thought about these words of Paul. What is my gift, I wondered? There are some things that I am good at. I can help the youth group in other ways: organizing schedules, keeping in touch via emails and texts, writing articles about their activities. But a gift of the Spirit is different, special.
I thought, If I have any gift of the Spirit, it has to be experiencing God's guidance, seeing and hearing his word speak directly
to my concerns, daily. This truly feels like a gift. It is not something that comes from within me, or that I have any control over. Because I find it so remarkable, I feel it is a blessing that must be shared. I just wish I was better at sharing it.
I am beginning to learn that in order to more effectively share God's guidance, I must make time to listen and to reflect, to think about what God is trying to tell me. I don't do this enough -- especially lately. In the last few months I have piled on more and more other things to do. Some necessary, some not so necessary. Some days go by with no time for quiet reflection at all.
Why don't I value this singular gift enough? Perhaps because reading, thinking, and writing about God doesn't feel like real work -- not to me (it's too enjoyable), not to my family (I'm sitting down), and, not to my culture at large (not unless I'm a theologian or a pastor). So, I fill my days with activity and busy-ness, with things that feel important, more like real work. And I miss out on bearing much real fruit.
How do I value this gift as it should be valued?
Dear God, you know the answers. Please show me the way to do what I long to do, while still being a mother, wife, sister, friend, teacher, and active member of my church. Love always, Pam