How Does God Want Me To Use My Gifts?
As a high school student, I competed in extemporaneous speaking on our speech team. Most of my classmates were intimidated by ‘extemp’! On the day of a competition, participants had one hour to prepare an original speech based on 3 possible prompt questions. While it was not always easy, I learned to thrive under pressure, and I worked hard to hone the skill of crafting a 5-7 minute impromptu speech. There was no way to be fully prepared, except to show up and do my best!
Over the years, I’ve taught math to high school students, facilitated retreats as a university campus minister, and given dozens of presentations in front of audiences of all sizes. While I didn’t win a single competition for extemporaneous speaking, it is a skill that I continue to use!
We all have gifts! Some of those gifts are inborn talents like a particular aptitude for music, sports, or mathematics. Other skills are learned over the course of a career like accounting or responding to a medical emergency. Some people have the unique ability to provide encouragement, mentoring, or deep listening.
All of who we are – with our gifts, skills, passions, and personality – is God’s gift to us! God’s presence is made known in the world when we use the raw material that God has given us to respond to a particular need.
Recognizing our gifts and responding to a need:
As we recognize and develop our unique talents, we become more fully and completely the person who God intends us to be. This aptitude for public speaking is more than a skill for me. When I stop and pay attention, it often feels like I am cooperating with God’s grace.
As I reflected on the ways I’ve been invited to respond to a particular need through my public speaking, there are 4 things that I have noticed:
1)The need appears when I least expect it. I do a fair amount of speaking for my job, but I’m often surprised at how opportunities find me, even when I least expect it. It’s as if God is saying, “Beth, I need you for this one.”
I work for Catholic Relief Services, the church’s international emergency response and development agency. Last year, a local television reporter contacted our public relations team, and asked if they could interview someone in Chicago about CRS’ support for the people of Ukraine. Responding to media interviews is not my usual job! (And like my extemporaneous speaking days, I literally had an hour to prepare for a 5-minute interview!) It quickly became evident that I was the right person, in the right place, at the right time.
2) We have confidence in our gifts. Confidence is our ability to have complete trust and to step in without hesitation, not in a boastful way, but by humbly accepting that we have the skills that are needed for the task at hand.
A few weeks ago, in the middle of daily Mass, the priest suddenly fell ill. Everyone stood in stunned silence, as he excused himself and walked away from the altar. Once the sacristan made sure he was okay, she motioned for me to do something! I approached the altar and led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer before distributing holy communion. I’m a regular Eucharistic Minister, so it felt like the most natural thing for me to do. Afterwards, a friend who was at Mass that morning said to me, “I don’t know that I would have the courage to do that!”
3) People take notice. We all appreciate when other people take notice of our gifts, but taking notice is not about achieving a level of fame or amassing thousands of online clicks. How are other people being moved into action by our gifts? How are we creating space for others to learn, grow, and celebrate alongside us?
I was recently facilitating a webinar, and our main guest speaker canceled at the very last minute. It was the most stressful and nerve-wracking experience! I did my best to pivot the conversation, and I managed to maintain my composure, even while my heart was pounding out of my chest. One of my colleagues later commented, “I learn so much from watching your grace under pressure!”
4) Our gifts are affirmed in prayer. Prayer is the foundation to any response, whether we are responding to a need spontaneously in the moment, or spending days, weeks, or even years discerning a particular call.
I moved into a new position at work last year, and I spent a good portion of my summer retreat praying about the changes happening in our department. My spiritual director encouraged me to write my ideal job description. I literally took out markers and crayons, and drew images of myself teaching, preaching, leading, and facilitating workshops – all the things I love to do! As I sat with these images in prayer, I heard God whisper, “Beth, the world needs your voice.”
I know this now in the core of my being. God wants me to continue using my voice, and I see how God uses my public speaking to respond to a wide array of needs. Where is God using your gifts to respond to the needs of the world?
1)Read and reflect on these scripture passages that speak about gifts:
2) There are a number of Spiritual Gift inventories that you can find online or in books, some are Catholic and others are not. These self-assessments can help you apply the spiritual gifts to your own life.
One highly respected example, the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, is included as part of the Called & Gifted Program offered by St. Catherine of Siena Institute.
3) Follow these simple steps for noticing and discerning your gifts:
-Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Ask God to show you the gifts that God has given to you.
-Pay attention throughout your day. What are those things that come naturally to you? What are those moments that bring out the best in you, even when there are challenges?
-Listen for affirmation. Often, we recognize our gifts, because someone else points them out to us. When you hear someone say “thank you” to you, what gift is at work at that moment?
-Put your gifts to use! Once you begin to identify a gift, become more intentional about putting that gift to use. Gifts from God bear fruit for others. Pay attention to how others respond to your gifts.
-Bring all of this into prayer at the end of the day. Use the daily examen as a way to discern and thank God for the gifts in your life!
Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash
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