I have felt the need to talk a bit about gifts. Not presents, or gifts we give/receive, but spiritual gifts. As you read this, take a minute to think about all you have to offer this world.
Let me preface this by saying that if you feel like I’m “tooting my own horn” just keep reading on to see me throw myself under the bus 🙂
Over the years, I have volunteered in several different positions at church, but the one that I grew closest to was serving as a leader in a women’s ministry. I grew so much, and I watched so many people’s lives change through Jesus. It was humbling, and amazing, and heart warming . . . and I wanted more. As God used me to speak into these women’s lives, I learned so much about myself and His great love.
During this time, I had several people tell me they felt I had “the gift of encouragement”. Uh, what? (That was my thought). Well, I have to admit, at first I just let this comment come and go, and truly didn’t fully understand it. Then, within the next month, I heard a sermon on Spiritual Gifts. We learned that God gives each of us a “gift” that is unique to our spirit and our personality, and if used for good, can do amazing things in this world. For some people, it’s strikingly obvious . . . like a beautiful singing voice or something. But, for most of us, discovering our “gifts” is hard. And why is that?!
I think one reason it’s so hard to realize our gifts is because of how hard we are on ourselves. When we receive compliments, it might make us feel good for a moment, but do we allow ourselves to really take in those compliments, and give ourselves a pat on the back? When people take the time to compliment you, it’s not typically just some flippant comment. Think about when you GIVE a compliment. Usually you do so because something has caught your eye, you’ve been impressed, or moved, or effected by them in some way. Therefore, you feel moved to let them know- in most cases, hoping to see more of the said action. Same thing applies when you RECEIVE a compliment. When someone acknowledges something you’ve done to impress them or make them think “WOW”, they want to see MORE. You’ve had an effect on them! So, when multiple people give you the SAME compliment, it’s wise to take heed. Don’t you think? Who you receive the compliment from is also of great importance. I had been receiving these compliments from people I really valued. They were leaders at my church, close friends I worked with, my mom . . .people I trusted and looked up to.
As I began to give more attention to this “gift of encouragement” comment, I started to unravel things about my personality that I wasn’t expecting. First I took an actual “Spiritual Gifted” Test. This was hysterical to me because I literally felt like I was taking one of those quizzes in Seventeen magazine that would tell me which boy I was compatible with! LOL! Hey- don’t make fun- you ALL know exactly what I’m talking about! So, at the end of this test, you know what it said?!? That I seemed to have tendencies focused on the Gift of Encouragement. I was totally shocked. Now, this little test was actually a feat- it had tons of questions and deep thinking items, and I promised myself I wouldn’t put too much weight into it. I mean- it’s a computer. But, same holds true for personality and compatibility tests that large corporations perform. So, I did put some consideration into it. This, coupled with the random compliments from friends, intrigued me. I started to think about what those closest to me would think about this said “gift”. And honestly, this is where I hold some shame and guilt. Here’s my truth bomb . . .
I AM good at encouragement, darn it! I am really great at comforting people, talking to them, listening to them, writing encouraging notes and letters. I am compassionate, and I TRULY LOVE people. I don’t hold grudges (another gift I was said to have was of Mercy), and I do not like to fight. But, guess what? As talented as I am at loving on and encouraging others, I am EQUALLY as talented at tearing someone apart. And although I don’t like to argue, I’m good at it- something I am not proud to admit. Just like all of you, I have a negative side- one that makes me embarrassed and ashamed to admit. The more I explored my spiritual gift, the more God revealed to me the truth about His gifts to us. ALL parts of us can be used in a manner of our choosing. God gave us FREE WILL, and WE are in control of our choices, our actions, our words. Our gifts are no exception to this rule.
My gift of encouragement is really a gift of love and use of words, and an ability to lift people up and see to their hearts. Unfortunately, on too many occasions, I have taken those talents, and used them to be angry, and make people feel yuck, and tear people down. Embarrassingly, I have a silver tongue- I am witty and quick to react, and I have a TERRIBLE habit of swearing. Those that know me best can attest to the fact that I used to cuss like a sailor- my husband even called me “his little sailor” when we first met. Definitely not super proud of that either. My mom used to always tell me that ONE DAY my mouth was going to get me into trouble, or beat up, because I would mouth off to the wrong crowd. . .
BUT!!! What happens when I CHOOSE to turn that around? ONE DAY my mouth might change people’s lives, or put me in a position to help the wrong crowd in a positive way? What if I CHOOSE to use my mouth to encourage and lift people up? Instead of being super sassy and bossy, and witty and snide and manipulative, what if I was encouraging and inspiring, and positive and uplifting? What could I do with that? I think about the times I was too tough on my kids, or frustrated with them or my husband. Or the people I encountered at work or in public that I was otherwise rude or short with. I think about the people that have caught the nasty end of my mouth and how I pray now that they don’t see me for that person anymore. Because I KNOW that I have the power to positively affect those that I love, and those that come into my life, I have promised myself that I will use my gift for good as much as I possibly can.
As I started having these revelations, and God started showing me all that He has intended with my gift, I really started taking a hard look at my REACTIONS- how I treat others, how I choose to speak and act. Things that would normally make me mad, I tried to look at from a different angle and not shoot off with my mouth. I started putting LOVE first, and I have seen a HUGE change in myself and my relationships with others.
Consider this quote from Spiderman (seriously): “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It’s your choice. Are you going to use your gift for good, to make people’s lives happier and easier? Or are you going to use it for bad, to make people’s lives harder or more difficult? God gave you a gift. No matter how you use it, it holds power. The power to influence others. The question is whether you will use that power for good or bad.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”1 Peter 4:10
Start asking yourself what your gift might be, and then inquiring as to whether you are using it to make a positive or negative impact on this earth. You CAN make a difference!