Discerning Your Spiritual Gifts

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service in our serving; the one who teaches’ in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12: 6-8


I love those verses from Paul. They speak to me about God-given gifts, opportunities to exercise the very creative spirit God embeds in all of us. What I love most about ordained ministry is listening to other dreams and visions and using my memory and creativity to aid in the concrete work of making the abstract come to life. I recall that in seminary my favorite courses were either pure theology or pure action. I was told the combination of these two passions was rare. Most ideas people struggle with concrete expressions of same and most task people struggle to articulate and understand the larger purpose behind their actions.

I have always struggled with process. I hunch it is because process, unlike ideas and action, takes patience. Process is inherently time consuming. It also can inhibit the free flowing expression of thought and action. Process is important, without it ideas are unrefined and poorly thought out and action is rushed and counter-productive (one step forward, two steps back…). I know process is important, I just have little passion for it.

Today I was called and offered a position in the larger church that would have given me a very critical role in the process of the church. I can see why they might have imagined I was the one for the volunteer role, I work with non-profits, I see the impact non-profits have on vulnerable people and I am timely in my work, I generally get work one early and completely. But stopping bad things from happening is not my passion, my gift or my interest. In fact as I reflected on this offer today I realized I have never been interested in preventing the bad, only in creating and supporting the good. I can honestly say that I have never placed a lot of energy in my life in creating policies or protocols or cautions to warn of bad outcomes if changes are not made. I guess I put a lot of faith in others of good will to do that work, I trust people to make those adjustments.

My life-long focus has been on making good things happen, on maximizing the positive outcomes of collective visioning and action. Whenever I have a good idea or hear a good idea I am ready to jump into action, ready to plan the implementation of this new initiative. I love imagination, creativity and rolling up my sleeves and making things happen. Life is too short to sit back and wait, the time is now and the energy is all around us.

I know we need to prevent the worst case scenarios, we need to construct institutional guardrails to keep us on the right path and we need to be guided by solid evidence based research to ensure we do right by each other. I know this. I am blessed to know people who do this work and do it well. But today in my discernment I realized that is not my passion. I offered the nomination committee to serve in other capacities, in theology and faith articulation or in social action or in any work that would stimulate my creative, abstract and task oriented being. It is good to be self-aware and open to use your gifts when the Spirit calls.