This should be my last post on the topic of searching for one’s self. Of course, in relation to all of the self-help books, recordings, and seminars, and what seems to me as the obvious struggle to discover who we are and what we’re supposed to be doing, these posts are really just a drop in the bucket. (And you never know when it’ll resurface here.)
Think back to the post 2, where we talked about three traps that we fall into when it comes discovering and becoming who we are meant to be. We talked about how we get stuck by, (1) what we think we should be on account of the input we are constantly receiving, (3) what others think we should be, and (3) what we want others to think about us, true or not.
There’s one other perspective that we haven’t talked about yet that may have come to mind when you read this list. It’s the topic of this post, and you might be surprised by what gets unpacked here.
When we are being careful not to fall into the traps we talked about before, we have to be careful to consider what God wants us to be. This is our goal, really, but the gulf between the natural/earthly and the heavenly/divine is one of the primary causes of our struggle. We try to hear what God has for us, but there seems to be either too much distance for the message to travel, or it comes in so scrambled that we can’t translate it into something understandable.
Ephesians 2:10 says that God “creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (The Message). How can we decode what God has planned for our lives? Many of us know we are to be like Jesus and get about the Father’s business (see Luke 2:49), but how do we find out what that is for us?
How you are uniquely gifted
Most people jump right to spiritual gifts when you start down this road. Over the past decade there have been a lot of books written about what spiritual gifts are, which ones you might have, and what they mean for what you are to be doing. If you haven’t read any of these books, I suggest you get into them. They will get your jumpstarted on your way.
You can also find many different websites with spiritual gifts tests. If you go this route, I suggest sampling 3 to 5 different sites. You can then take the results and find the common gifts among them, working out 2 or 3 primary gifts. Also, take note of which gifts appear only once or twice. These may be dormant, untested or undeveloped spiritual gifts that are ready to jump out if given the opportunity.
What you have uniquely experienced
But we are given much more than what falls into the realm of “spiritual gifts” in our lives. Our experiences are something that are unique to each of us. Over the course of our lives, we are shaped by every situation, choice and relationship in our lives. Some things we bring upon ourselves, some are the result of living in a fallen world, and others are given by God. We can take heart that though God would not harm us, He will take harm that has been done to us and use it for good. From that perspective, we can say that we are uniquely “given” all that happens to us.
We are also given a heart to do, be, or change some thing. A great resource to help you understand this principle is a book entitled, Holy Discontent: Fueling the Fire That Ignites Personal Vision by Bill Hybels. It’s not a long book, but it will help you uncover what is going in your heart, even now. Another great resource is the book S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Lifeby Erik Rees.
Our gifts and our passions help us discover our unique blueprint. But many of us stop there, often missing out on what is often right in front of us.
Where you are uniquely placed
I love to see people find out their spiritual gifts, to figure out a piece of the puzzle of who they are and what they can do for God. Too often in those cases, I’ve seen that excitement turn into despair when the opportunity to use that gifts isn’t available to them. All of the energy they were willing to put into the Kingdom is suddenly sucked out of them.
The truth of the matter is that when 90% of churches are under 200 on a Sunday morning, there will be a lot of gifts that don’t seem to fit in. Resources that are often needed, both in manpower and in finances, are already stretched so thin that if weren’t for God’s grace… So what are people to do?
All too often we do nothing. We give up; on our gifts, on our calling, on making a difference. We’re in danger of saying, “If I can’t do this, I won’t do anything.” If actions speak louder than words, than we’ve said it loud and clear.
This is a huge danger when you start talking about spiritual gifts. People finally understand that God made them unique. The Church needs what they have. Why can’t they do it? And if this is the track of fulfillment in my life, why travel down any other?
The problem is that those churches in the 90% category are starving for workers. When efforts are taken to help explain to God’s people that He needs them and has something for them, they often end up deciding that if something is not their spiritual gift, they won’t do it. So churches continue to struggle. People continue to feel useless and unimportant. Finally, members leave looking for something their church doesn’t have because no one will step up to the plate.
Yeah, I know, here’s another disgruntled pastor letting loose. It’s hard not to feel that way when you see it all around you. But I have to think that God uniquely places people in a church, not only to fulfill their need, but to fulfill the needs of the church.
I’m getting near my limit with this post, so I’m going to touch on this separately in days to come. To help close off this post, let me relay a story to you from our DVD home group, “Living a Life on Loan” by Rick Rusaw. Rick relates a time when he was sitting with a mentor and was asked what he wanted to do with his life. He went to spout off all sorts of dreams and goals that he had for the future. The mentor said that those were all great things to hope for. Then he said, “Be of value where you are. Don’t worry about being of value where you’re not.”
God put us in a unique place to be and to do what He has planned for us. As you search to find out who you really are, be careful to take a look at every angle. You might be surprised what is waiting for you.