After 5 1/2 months, I’ve finally experienced a major bout of writer’s block. And to break this awkward, month-long silence, I’ve decided to try out something new. I’m calling it “Chex Mix”. I’ve got a bunch of different thoughts swirling in my head, some are hard and crunchy, some are long and salty, and some are probably more air than actual substance. But I’m hoping that through these blog posts I’ll be able to grasp both the specific individual ingredients mixing inside me, and the ideas of the blend as a whole, resulting in a delicious handful of the sanctification process.
January 8th. My last Sunday in Alaska was a bittersweet day. Eager to return to school after my three-week-long Christmas break, but also hesitant to leave my beloved church, family and, as I say here, my lovely home-state. So I sat through the Sunday morning service with my church, thinking these chocolate-y thoughts….
We had just started a sermon series on what the Church is called to be in the Bible, and that day’s sermon was about each member using its spiritual gift(s) for the benefit of the whole Body, based on Romans 12. As the preacher spoke (using His gifts to benefit the Body), God was using Scripture to plant seeds inside me that would only start blooming months later.
“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well…. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” Rom 12:6,8
Like many of the things God has taught me this year, the roots of the lesson passed by without a thought. Fast forward two months. Something my Youth Pastor said years ago, regarding spiritual gifts, began resurfacing in my mind. After completing a spiritual gift assessment as part of our youth leaders’ retreat, I asked him about some of my results.
“Jeremy, this says that I might have the spiritual gift of faith. How can that be? I’ve had some seasons of my life where I’ve wrestled with doubt on a major scale. Sometimes I still do…. How could someone who struggles with doubt be gifted with faith? Isn’t that a contradiction?”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget his response: “No, Jessi. That makes perfect sense. You see, people gifted in certain areas tend to think about those things more deeply than everyone else. For instance, I have not been gifted with faith; I take the Bible at its word, and just move on. Jesus resurrected from the dead, ok cool. But someone gifted with faith will take that truth and really chew on it, analyzing all its possibilities. “Is this really true? And if so, what does that mean in life?” That doubt could be the very proof that you’re gifted; the Truth of the Word is so important to you that you can’t help but really chew on it.”
Now, I recognize that this statement can be taken too far, but I think the principle is spot on: Often times you can a gift is seen in someone’s life by the presence of it’s “opposite”.
These past few weeks, I’ve been doing some serious thinking as I lay in bed. Evidently something about being parallel with the floor before you fall asleep and when you first wake up is conducive to deep thought. Thinking thoughts about all my leadership responsibilities…. “Jessi, do you realize how much this will take? The amount of prayer that needs to go into this, before and after? I want to do this right, and that means hours and hours of study…. I need to be developing a plan for what I want to happen through this… My heart isn’t in the right place; I need to be examining my motives, preparing my heart before I do anything…” All kinds of thoughts like this souping around inside me. And about half the time, I’ve found myself thinking: “You know what, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I must not be gifted in leadership like I thought I was. After all, why would all these responsibilities be so constantly present in my mind if I was a leader? Should it just be natural?”
And now we can pick Romans 12:8 back up again: “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” My Youth Pastor’s statement about spiritual gifts has come back to me…. What if all this thought/worry/stewing is actually confirmation that I’m gifted in leadership? God is allowing me to see these leading roles in the fullness of their flavors (whether or not I’m handling that perpective properly).
Maybe this is why Paul tells the Roman leaders that they need to “take the responsibility seriously”. A leader can respond to responsibility in one of two ways. You can let the intimidation of the task(s) make the decision for you, running from your giftings because, “It’s too hard”, or “I’m just not cut out for this”. Or, you can choose to take the responsibility seriously. All the prep-time involved, all the energy it requires, all the time, emotions, freedom and comfort you need to sacrifice… And you lay it down before God, asking Him to help you take the tasks He’s given you seriously. And then, you just buckle down and do your best. Be disciplined, work hard (and Sabbath hard). Take the responsibility seriously. Sure, you’ll be exhausted…. But what’s more satisfying than a job well done?