Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some gifts are sneakier than others

I'm watching the Olympics right now...some downhill skiing craziness. It's easy to observe those people and say, "Wow. That person has such a gift!" It's also come to my attention that since I've started this blog, some people read my words and say something similar. One friend said, "Writing like that must take so much time! It would take me forever to get my thoughts out like that." It doesn't, for me, by the way. It flows, most of the time. But notice the "like that" - two words that slide out so subtly, and reveal something quite important that happens inside each one of us. We all compare our gifts to those of others, which does more to remind us of our inadequacies than highlight our strengths. My friend who admired my gift of writing would not be the slightest bit ruffled by having a home full of hungry guests. On the other hand, I could pull off a mass-hosting event, but I'd hate it. Hospitality is just not my gift, but it's probably hers. Sometimes I wish (really hard) that I could have different gifts; but since I don't get to choose, I try to spend my energy responsibly using what I do have.

The trickiness, when talking about giftedness, lies in the fact that some gifts are just more obvious to the world than others. Olympians are glorified as exceptional in one thing. But I wonder if a person is truly gifted in, for instance, skiing, or is the gift more in his or her dedication to a skill? Millions of people have the physical capacity for the sports showcased in the Olympics. But only a handful of those people have the natural bent to relentlessly pursue that level of performance. What if another person has that same bent, but applies themselves to medical research or helping special needs children? These could be less obvious manifestations of the same gift. No one is ever going to get a gold metal for simply being a super dedicated person or for hospitality or for blogging. But I truly believe all gifts are created equal in that all gifts are essential in God's great symphony of life.

I wanted to blog about gifts because in my last post, I casually referred to my daughter as having the gift of mercy. After the fact, I realized I wanted to qualify further what this meant. I am absolutely certain that everyone has at least one gift - a purposeful, useful gift - which hints about why he or she is on this earth. I am also certain that those gifts want out of the boxes and molds and coffins into which we try to cram them. Comparison to others is totally inappropriate in this conversation because God created each person uniquely and for a reason. He gets to choose how we are special, and does not measure us one against another. Ever. God can look straight at you alone and take pride in His creativity and intentionality in making you. It is just a matter of knowing who He made you to be, and then living it out with abandon.

So what is it? What is your natural bent? What useful thing about you just comes naturally? (Insert here the Thomas the Train standard affirmation using your own name: "______ is a really useful engine!" Sorry, I can't stop thinking about that) Well, fortunately, some smart people realized that this question is hard for us to answer, and so they've formulated tests. Here is one that I really like. http://www.gifttest.org

There are a couple of passages in the Bible which list various spiritual gifts. This particular test is based on Romans 12:4-8 which says:

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

I took this gift test a couple years ago and it really opened my eyes to my own gifts. It also validated me in ways that have been misunderstood by others. Sometimes it is hard for people with different gifts to understand yours without knowing what they're looking for. It also continues to help me see the ways in which my kids are leaning. Just so you know, the translation above lists the gift of "showing kindness," which is mentioned in the test as the gift of mercy. Also, the verse above says "prophesy" whereas the test names this the gift of perceiving. Take the test. It is very interesting. If you've already taken it yourself, try to look at it through the eyes of your child. Maybe that socially unacceptable, annoying bossiness means they are gifted in leadership, or the thousand crayon drawings you've been given means they are going to be encouragers. You may see someone in a new way, perhaps even yourself.

The conversation on the chapter in your story about then claiming your giftedness, partnering with God to wield it in a powerful way in all the opportunities you have handed to you, owning your purpose with bravery and a sense of urgency...that is for another post.

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