As we work to uncover our gifts (yes, giftS - with an S), I think part of our equation is always what we seem to be pouring out into other people's lives. We're told that our gift is for His work in the Kingdom, that He is using what He put in us to somehow bless and encourage others. Thus, we know, when we are blessing and encouraging others, we have found our gift.
Caution: This may be draining. And incredibly inaccurate.
Because there are people out there that we can bless and encourage without being in our gift, and they will tell us we are terribly good at what we're doing and they are so thankful for us. Then, years go by and we find ourselves stuck in things we can do but haven't necessarily been gifted to do, and we're drained from pouring our energies into it.
This is precisely the cause of so much church burn-out. And trust me, I know - I've been there, too. They say (whoever they are) that in most churches, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. And I would add that it's work that is draining them because they are capable, but not called, to do it.
It is entirely true that what God has called and gifted you to do will bless and encourage others. But here's the second truth of our purpose that I think we leave out: whatever God has put in you uniquely to do, what He has called and gifted and purposed you for, will feed you, too.
Do you get that? Your gift is not given for the sake of others; it's for your sake, too. It is to bless and encourage you. It is to draw you closer to God. And if it's not doing that, then it's either not your gift or you're not giving it back to Him.
You know this is true, any of you who have for even a moment touched on your purpose. It is those moments where you're just lost in time. Where you could do this forever and not even grow tired. Where the sun sets and you're not ready for it to set because you're not done yet. When you walk away without a care in the world, but more - with a smile and a song of praise on your heart because that was it. You know that was it. That was awesome.
It's the adrenaline of your first roller-coaster ride, where you hop off and run back in line. Let's do it again! Let's do it again! It is the exhilaration of your first free-fall (I'd say cliff-diving, but you're probably thinking bungee-jumping, so whatever suits your taste) and not quite being ready for the ground to be underneath you again. It is dancing in the rain. It is hiking the trails...and a little off the beaten path. It is climbing the mountain. It is spelunking the cave. If your purpose isn't giving you the high of a grand adventure...then you have to consider you're missing something. Because when you hit on it, you know: this is what it does in you.
As I write about purpose, I hope I'm encouraging you to start searching for yours. But don't settle for what you can do because there are a million things out there that we can do that will only keep us so busy that we never find what we should be doing. And I encourage you today, for a bit at least (a week, a month, whatever it takes for you) to stop asking what you're doing that's making a difference to anyone else and ask instead what you can do that fuels you. It sounds counterintuitive and a little self-centered, maybe, but when you hit on it, you will realize it's not.
Be honest about the process. Don't settle for shallow. When you get to that place, that awesome adventure that is your purpose, that draws on your heart and pulls you closer to God, that blesses and encourages you, I promise that if you pour yourself into giving that back to Him, into focusing on that work, into pursuing that purpose...then it will naturally flow that you will bless and encourage others. Then you will know you've got it. This is it. This is awesome.