Gifts That Keep Giving

A Baptist church near my home spent a fortune on its digital billboard. The messages that flash across it are a testimony to proof texting—ancient verses plucked out of context, meant to inspire modern commuters. I usually disregard them.

But the other day, in strobing yellow, came these words: Do you know why you were created?

Wow! How’s that for a writing prompt?

Beyond the first patriarchal query of the Westminster Catechism, I thought of ways people might answer this question today.

  • Learn to love and be loved.
  • Serve the common good.
  • Raise a family, leaving your legacy for the next generation.
  • Do your duty without complaining.
  • Be mindful of the present before it slips away.
  • Realize your full potential.

That last one is dear to my heart. I have always encouraged people to discover their deepest purpose. My doctoral work focused on spiritual gifts, a Christian concept that I demystified and extrapolated far beyond the confines of religion. These gifts are talents, abilities, and inclinations that spring from the nexus of our genetics and personal history. They take myriad forms, but there is one thing they have in common. When we exercise them, we feel a quickening, a satisfaction, the joy of living in the center of our being.

In golf, tennis, and baseball, we us the term “hitting the sweet spot.” It’s that place on the club, racket, or bat that connects most cleanly with the ball. In golf it creates a ping, in tennis a resounding thwop, and in baseball a sharp snap that often results in a homerun. When we are utilizing our gifts, we are hitting our sweet spot!

Do you know what I mean? Do you have a vocation or advocation that gives you keen satisfaction? Have you been blessed enough to both know and exclaim, “This is my calling!”

Here’s an unfortunate truth. In a world that trains us to gauge our value against other people’s accomplishments, we too often feel we are lacking. Please don’t let this happen to you. As Wayne Dyer famously said, “Don’t die with your music still in you!”

Reflect on this quote from Deepak Chopra: “Everyone has a purpose in life… a unique gift or special talent to give to others. When we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”

If you’re still not convinced that “little old you” has a gift to offer, let me share an illustration from my years of ministry.

I had a stole I wore on special occasions, a brightly colored weaving given to me by a woman who labored amongst the poor in Guatemala. I will always remember her and the vitality she radiated. I called it our “community stole,” not just the accouterment of a priestly class, but something each of us would wear at various times in serving each other.

Occasionally, I would interrupt our worship services and call people forward. I would place that stole around their necks and thank them for exercising their gifts in our midst. People like:

  • Jack, an older gentleman who came early, turned on the lights, brewed the coffee, made sure the bulletins were ready. He relished doing small things behind the scenes.
  • Deirdre, a young woman whose love for children was charismatic. She cared for my son, Kristoffer, and others with a patience and grace that amazed us.
  • John, not only a consummate vocalist, but a director of music who encouraged others to overcome their timidity and find their own voices.
  • Mike, a master numbers cruncher, who consistently found ways in our budget to serve the community.
  • Melissa, a fiery prophet, whose passion for social justice awakened the consciences of countless people in our midst.

I could go on, but I’m sure you hear me.

I write these words because I long for you to actualize your own gifts, sing your own song, find your sweet spot, and let your unique createdness shine a light in our world.

Namaste! God bless you! As-salamu alaykum! Mitakuye oyasin! May the Force be with you! Keep on truckin’!

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