One of the fears I have as a forty-something person returning to school is whether I can really do this from an academic standpoint. As I read what others write, hear about all of the times they have already preached, or all of the Greek and Hebrew they already have, I feel more than a little daunted. Maybe I got the wrong message. Fortunately, it is in the midst of all of this doubt, that things and people are placed before me that remind me of how I got here ( which will be the subject of other posts), but for now, I write about Romans. I remember that I have always felt drawn to this path, and finally decided to let God lead. I remember that I felt driven to this change ,and that even so none of us can be all things - we must work as the faithful in community. While I surely do not know exeactly where the destination will be, I put my trust in God to use my gifts.
“For just as in a single human body, there are many limbs and organs, all with different functions, so we who are united with Christ, though many, form one body, and belong to one another as its limbs and organs. Let us use the different gifts allotted to each of us by God’s grace: the gift of preaching , for example let us use in proportion to our faith. The gift of administration, to administer; the gift of teaching to teach; the gift of counseling, to counsel. If you give to charity, give without grudging; if you are a leader, lead with enthusiasm; if you help others in distress, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:4-8.
It is sometimes hard to figure out why things did not go our way. My teenaged daughter was recently down in the mouth about why something came so easily to her friend, but was a real struggle for her. “Why can’t I be more like her?” As adults, we too know that we sometimes have our heart set on doing a particular thing, whether at work or in our commitments. We may believe very strongly in our own suitability, work very diligently to see it to fruition, only to hear that it is not to be- we have not been chosen, or sometimes even worse , this is not how others see us at all. “Why can’t I be more like her?”
Some years ago I searched long and hard to find the perfect gift to give a nephew. After a lot of thought, followed by traveling to the store, standing in line, to the excitement of wrapping the gift in anticipation of his opening it, I was indeed pleased with my gift. The time came at the party for the wrapping paper to be torn away. My nephew was also excited as the tearing began, until the secret was revealed. Speaking as young kids will, he exclaimed, “ But I wanted the blue one!” Our collective bubble was burst. It was not the gift he wanted. I was hurt- what was wrong with my gift?
Imagine how God must feel as we spend our time ever in search of what we want for our lives, rather than joyfully opening and using the gifts He has carefully selected for us. And how much time do we waste wondering “Why can’t I be more like her, or him?” We should each take the time to allow God to show us how we can best fulfill our purpose here. We are his instruments created for the work of his kingdom. So instead of wondering why you can’t sing, or teach or be handy, or _______________( fill in the blank), give thanks for your strengths and ability ( after all someone else wishes they had it). Say thank you to God by seeking to learn how you can serve best.
None of us is endowed with every gift, yet each us possesses gifts and talents bestowed upon us by God. With some of these skills, we find easily what they might be and set about happily to do them. However, some gifts only become apparent with time , or only come to light at the time they are needed. No matter how much I might wish that I could have the honor or joy of something that is my heart’s desire, my time is better spent discerning God’s call for me here. So it is for each of us.
In my mother’s opinion, you do not really enjoy her gift unless you use it. She frequently buys me clothing and within a week of the giving, the call will come, “ Did you wear it yet?” The suggested answer of course, is always “yes.” This is the second part of the message. Once you have opened the gift, wear it. Embrace it. Use it. You cannot wear it out for God intends it for you. Imagine His happiness as he sees you engaging the gifts He knows are especially meant for you.
Finally, as Paul says, remember that we are a body that should work together. If you have ever run in a three-legged race, you know that the secret to getting to the finish line is in not falling over. Unless you synchronize your running with the person to whom you are tied, the competing physical forces inevitably lead to loss of balance. It is not enough to realize your skill and then use it as though you are an island unto yourself. Just as working in isolation dooms the runners in a three legged race, so we here cannot succeed unless we work in tandem with each other. This requires patience, communication, effort, prayer, support, and sometimes, letting someone else lead the effort to get us started. Each of these skills is someone’s individual gift. Without all of them, the picture and our effort is not complete. Put your heart into working together with others. By so doing, you will be able to learn and to teach and the body as a whole will become stronger for it. This is how the gift comes full circle. Our work together is an offering, a gift to God. If we focus on these things, we and God will rejoice in the gift.