Recently, my community held a retreat to explore our spiritual gifts. We mostly examined our strong points, those areas where God is especially equipping us for works of mercy and justice, love. For example, we were encouraged to learn that every person who attended the retreat had the missionary gift (as described by Natural Church Development). As it turns out, our core community is made up of people who are gifted by God to show love to those who are very different from ourselves, to reach across the cultural and social barriers that often keep us divided. As a new community seeking to make a positive impact in a diverse city region, this is indeed a gift!
As helpful as it is to look at these areas of strength, there is another side to spiritual gifts. If we are especially equipped, empowered and called in certain areas, it follows that there are other areas where we are not. At this point in my life, I am finding myself drawn to examine the ways that I am not strong, not gifted. In some ways, my areas of non-giftedness and non-calling are even more illuminating.
I have always liked the Quaker phrase, Way opens. It means that we may not always understand how God is working in our lives, but if we trust him, he opens up paths, opportunities and relationships that will allow us to grow deeper in love and service. It holds the promise that there will always be an open door for me to walk through.
In my own experience, though, I have found that the opposite can be just as true: Way closes. Many of the most important decisions of my life have been made not out of a sense of way opening, but instead in the context of doors being slammed in my face. Sometimes, I discover God’s plan for me in the midst of failure, rejection and pain. Sometimes a lot of doors have to close before I am willing to walk through the one that the Spirit has appointed for me.
There is beauty in my human weakness, though it seems so ugly to my self-will. Limitations help to focus my attention. By discovering where I am not called, not gifted, our faithful options narrow. Way opens when I am ready to acknowledge all the closed ways and welcome them as a gift, too.
- Have you explored what your spiritual gifts might be? Are there areas where you do not feel gifted?
- How do your gifts – and lack of gifts – help to focus your time and energy?
- Can you remember a time when way closed for you? How did you respond?