08: Discovering Your Gifts

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt was Sunday, and I was crying for the third time already as we headed to lunch after church with some friends. As we pulled into the parking lot, I quickly dabbed away any watery trails of mascara with the corner of my cardigan, praying that no one was keeping track of the seconds it took to catch my breath before we walked into the restaurant. That night, we were set to gather in the pastor’s living room with a group of young adult leaders to talk about vision. When my husband told me about it, he did so in a way that suggested that I might not be included, as I was not in a position of service at the time. Of course, he tried to be as loving as possible, but there’s really no way to communicate the sentiment of “hey, you might not be invited,” without reducing me to tears. The Sunday prior, Craig had attended alone.

I had reached a point in my identity crisis that had me feeling totally wrecked and very lonely. I fought for a place in that community. The ironic thing was that when I finally was invited, I felt even more off base, because I believed that I had nothing of value to offer. So there I sat, in the middle of worship leaders and youth pastors and color coded spreadsheet makers, next to my amazing tech genius husband, feeling totally out of place.

The thing was, I was busy trying to be all of the people in that room, instead of trying to just be myself. I thought if I could be a worship leader/youth pastor/color coded spreadsheet maker, I would be accepted. Never mind the fact that writing was one of the great loves of my life since the time I could hold a crayon. Never mind that I had sat with fellow students for countless hours to do peer counseling. Never mind the fact that I had been given gifts of my own. I can hardly carry a tune in a bucket, and am easily one of the least organized people you will ever meet.

On the drive home, I admitted to my husband through more tears that I didn’t know what I was good at. I didn’t know what drove me to get up every morning. I had completely lost sight of my dreams.  I wanted to feel happy and fulfilled, but had absolutely no idea how to get there. I only had vague ideas.

So lately, I have been taking an inventory of my life, and reimagining the things that bring me joy. I’m thinking about the things that I look forward to every day, the parts of myself that I feel the most satisfied in. And I am becoming even more intent on hearing the call of the Lord on my life, even though the prospect of surrendering my own plans and ideas proves to be a daily trial.

I read this tweet the other day that said evangelism is not an option. I have to say, I agree with that statement. What I cannot bring myself to agree with is the sentiment that evangelism is a cookie cutter process.

What I’ve learned about gifts is that the come in all shapes and sizes and colors. I’ve learned that worship doesn’t just happen inside the church building, but through gardening, hair styling, letter writing, interior decorating, and even the things that I am good at. But how can God make use of my individual talents and giftings if I’m trying so hard to have the talents and giftings of everyone else?

Scripture talks about the Church like a physical body. The ear cannot do what the nose is designed to do, nor can the nose do what the eyes are designed to do. Each entity has a specific purpose, and no purpose is more important than another.

Maybe you’re one of those people that is totally secure in your gifts and abilities. Maybe you know exactly where you fit in the grand scheme of things. If so, let me tell you, that is awesome. But maybe you’re like me: maybe you’re fighting to figure out who you are and what passions were sewn into the sinews of your being. Maybe you’re worn down after believing for so long that you don’t have a place. My challenge to you (and me) is to start with the basics.

Do this little exercise with me. Close your eyes and start by examining your life and the things that make you happy. If you don’t consider yourself to be happy right now, think about a time that you were. What was different? What were you investing your time and energy and resources in that made you feel satisfied when your head met the pillow at night? Do you have something in mind? Now think about whatever is holding you back from experiencing that same satisfaction today. Is it fear? Success and recognition can be just as scary for some as failure and lack of acclaim. Is it the hurt we talked about on day six? What can you do to break down the barrier?

These days, there is a restlessness in my spirit, a deeply rooted sense that we were made for more than the mediocrity we often settle for. I don’t know what more looks like for you. Perhaps it is preaching the gospel or sharing your testimony with an overflowing stadium. Perhaps it is an MBA. Maybe more for you looks like publishing a book or seeing your artwork in a gallery. The second part of my challenge for us is to really and truly and fully submit those things to the Lord. I believe that He put those desires in our hearts for a reason. The reality is, most of us could probably achieve more on our own. We have a wealth of knowledge and resources at our fingertips. We could make our own abundance out of our own strength -- but God’s abundance is infinitely greater than that of any self-made man or woman.

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See, on our own, we have limitations, but the God who fashioned galaxies and the human nervous system and the sound of an A chord and chocolate (can I get a hallelujah on that one?) is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.


The conversation starts here: 

Share one dream or goal that you have kept secret.

Complete the exercise in this chapter either individually or as part of a group. Talk or journal about what has been holding you back from experiencing joy and fulfillment.

Ask some of the people around you what gifts they believe you have. I’ve been told that I’m good at encouraging others.

Take this inventory to discover gifts you may not even know you had.  There is a test for youth and a test for adults. (Note: I don’t believe the results of this test are totally prescriptive for anyone, but they might just serve as a springboard for your thoughts and conversations.)

{Leave your questions + answers + thoughts in the comments below.}




Some Fine Print:

This is the eighth of thirty-one installments to be posted throughout the month of October. To view the entire table of contents as it is made available, click here. You can receive the entire series in your inbox for free by subscribing via email (no spam, just my heart by way of weblog). Please feel free to pass these words along to a friend. Sharing is caring!