Gifts

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

— 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NASB

I have a friend who is struggling right now with a sudden physical ailment that, if it turns out to be chronic, will affect her ability to do a lot of things that she is very gifted at doing–namely, speaking and teaching. She is a woman of deep spiritual conviction, a woman who lives her faith unapologetically in a thousand different ways on a daily basis, a woman who walks in obedience to God in every facet of her life while still maintaining a degree of humility that makes her approachable and open.

In short, she’s not the type of person one would think of as needing to be disciplined by God.

Sometimes, stuff just happens–I realize that. This is a fallen and cursed world, and sometimes people get sick or injured just because.

Because nothing is perfect.

Because our bodies are fragile.

Because life isn’t certain, even when we live and walk in obedience.

I saw my friend this morning, and in a group of women who all prayed for her healing, I could only think one thing: “I need to tell her that this isn’t her only gift.”

I don’t know why that came to mind. I don’t know if God put it there, or if it was just a rare dollop of wisdom hard-won through my own painful journey of the last year and a half, or if it was just . . . coincidence or a random thought.

I fought it, but it didn’t leave. In fact, it crystallized into a more complete thought.

“This is not your only gift. You are a communicator and a teacher and a leader. Those things are internal. They aren’t dependent on your ability to physically speak.”

(Physician, heal thyself.)

I don’t like saying these kinds of things in front of others, and I hesitated to say it to her at all, because I didn’t want to sound like I was giving prescriptive advice or telling her, without saying, that the struggle would make her strong. But the idea wouldn’t leave, so when our group broke up, I approached her and told her what would not leave my heart or mind. “I don’t know why I’m supposed to tell you this, and it will probably come out wrong, but . . . ”

And I told her.

“Your gifts are inside. They aren’t dependent on the external things. As someone who had her “gift” wrested from her pried-shut fists, I have to say that this isn’t the only thing you are. You aren’t a speaker; you’re a communicator and a teacher, and those things are internal. Those things won’t leave.”

She thanked me, and we shared a hug. I have no idea if what I said was meaningful to her, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to say it to her.

Maybe it was for me.

Most of the time, I feel like a very ungifted person. I belittle the gifts I do have, and assume that whatever I am capable of doing could be done by someone else in a far more competent way. And when it comes to spiritual gifts and the work of the Body of Christ, I am always willing to say what I’m not good at: “I’m not good at prayer. I’m not good at joy. I don’t have gifts of hospitality or teaching or shepherding. I’m not an encourager.”

In all honesty, sometimes I wonder exactly why God wanted me in His kingdom.

So, here it is:

Writing was not my only “gift.”

And even if it was, and even if God did take it from me (which I firmly believe He did), it doesn’t mean it was forever. Like my friend’s illness, it may just be for a season.

If God truly did give me an ability to communicate through the written word, then that’s something that’s inside. It’s not dependent on the specific outward expression of that gift. It doesn’t mean that I can only use that gift through writing and publishing fiction.

God’s vision is so much bigger than mine. His Kingdom is so much larger than I can see. I get focused on my little world, my little brick in His big plan, and I can’t see how that brick might be vital to something else. The truth is that my brick might be a foundation, or a keystone, or part of a support column.

I have been so fixated on the “me” of my work that I have neglected the “Who” of my abilities.

There’s that prideful spirit again.

I don’t know what God wants me to do with my work. I don’t know if He wants me to write fiction, or maybe just to keep this blog going, or find some other . . . thing.

C. S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

All I can do is be faithful, and take the next step down the road, and know that God will illuminate my journey one step at a time.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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