Thursday, January 21, 2016

Not My Gift

One of the most troubling questions regarding spiritual gifts is what we are supposed to do with the gifts that we don't have. Over the past few days, we have seen that we have the responsibility to receive them as those who have been given them offer them for our benefit, but is that all? Is it enough to say that those of us who are not gifted to be teachers then spend our lives as students?

There are some who would argue that we have a responsibility to develop the gifts that we have not been given, that we should purposefully work on those things that we are not so blessed at, in order to become better at them. Not a teacher? Work on it. For one day, you may be called upon to teach. Not a leader? Work on it. For one day, you may be called upon to lead. Do you speak not with the wisdom or knowledge of God? Work on it. For one day, you may find that you need to speak in just this way.

On the surface, it would seem that there is some validity to this position. After all, most of us will, at one point or another, have children in our lives and shouldn't we know how to do all of these things at least for the sake of our children? Can you imagine a child who is only encouraged, but never taught? Can you imagine a child who only knows God in one language - your language? Can you imagine a child who is led, but never encouraged? There's something about this that strikes us as, well..traumatic. In many ways.

But is it fair to subject our children to the things that we do not do well? Is it fair to demonstrate for our children that we must be everything in order to be one thing? (In other words, must we say that we must have a measure of all of the gifts of God in order to be a worthy parent, for example?) This puts an amazing amount of pressure on both us and them. 

What if, instead, we were willing to face the children in our lives with humility and be honest about who we are, who God has created us to be? We could encourage our children, if our gift is encouragement, and we could be honest with them about it. Do you know why mommy encourages you so much? It is because mommy is an encourager; it's what God has gifted mommy to do. And I'm sorry that mommy is not some of the things that other mommies may be, but mommy is who God has created mommy to be, and she will give you every bit of it so that you, too, can be who God created you to be.

We could interpret a thousand different God languages for our children, if our gift is interpreting languages, and enable them to see God throughout the world in all kinds of different ways, and we could be honest with them about it. Do you know why daddy sees God everywhere? It's because God has given daddy the incredible gift of speaking God in a thousand different tongues. And I'm sorry that daddy is not some of the things that other daddies may be, but daddy is who God has created daddy to be, and he will give you every bit of it so that you, too, can be who God created you to be.

I think our children deserve 100% of our best, rather than some small percentage of something less. I believe if you give the children in your life the fullness of God's gift in you, they may not even notice what you're "lacking."

And the same is true in our churches. Sometimes, I'm approached about taking on a ministry or volunteering for one thing or another in my church, and I've taken to saying, simply, I'm sorry. That's not my gift. Is that fair? Not everyone thinks so. Some chide me for being "unwilling" to serve in my church, just because I've turned down their specific ministry opportunity (despite the other ten things I AM doing). 

But if I am not a teacher, and I am asked to teach, and I buy into the idea that because I am a member in the church, I should teach, then what am I really teaching? The whole thing stresses me out because it's not my gift; it takes a tremendous toll on my heart and my spirit. By the time I get to the class, I'm frazzled and stressed and probably a little upset and definitely "over it" already, and so a whole classroom full of individuals - kids, adults, whoever - see that teaching in the church is a ridiculous burden, something to be despised or at least detested, something that drains all of the energy out of you...and so on. And I haven't even begun to stumble through the lesson yet! 

Now imagine there is a person or two in that room to whom God has given the gift of teaching. And imagine they see what teaching does to someone like me, someone they have likely seen serve very joyfully in other areas in the church. Why should they want to develop their gift of teaching? What would be the good joy in that? All of a sudden, they are tempted to turn away from their own gift because they see me working in something that's not mine.

On one hand, I'm setting a good example by being willing to do something in the church that I am asked to do. On the other hand, I am an incredible discouragement while doing it. Even if I do some things well in the course of teaching, even if some of my real God-given gift shines through in what I'm doing, even if I have the opportunity to show some of what God has put in me while also teaching, I am a poor teacher. Maybe I am a good encourager or server or leader or speaker or whatever, but I am a poor teacher, and that fact is not lost...particularly on all the gifted teachers in the room.

And this, too, is our responsibility to the gifts that aren't ours: we should not discourage them. We should not squash them. We should not diminish them. Rather, we must build up all gifts within the hearts of those who love God and who He has blessed in such ways. And sometimes, that means saying a difficult no.

It means saying, do you know why I....? It's because that's who God has created me to be. And I'm sorry that I'm not so many of the other things that maybe someone else is, but I'm just who I am, and I'm giving you all of who God has made me to be so that you can be all that God has made you to be. 

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