Trusting the Process To Using Your Gifts & Talents
The road to using your gifts and talents in your everyday life can seem long and winding, can't it? Maybe you know your spiritual gifts, but you haven't found a place to use them regularly. Or, maybe you don't even know what they are.
Everybody starts somewhere...
I've been reflecting on spiritual gifts and talents because I think I've come full circle. It only took me 48 years. No biggie.
For some reason, I feel like I've hit that place of opportunities to use my gifts with a balance on not allowing them to define me and being faithful to God in the process. But it hasn't always been that way for me - and I'm guess it hasn't been that way for you either.
I tell my clients that every journey begins with a single step and finding and using our gifts and talents is no different. No matter where you are on your journey, it starts with a baby step.
What does a first step look like?
My first steps were just that - first steps. I became a Christian in college and never really discovered my spiritual gifts and talents until I became an official adult. I got a job. I found a church. And then I heard about these things called spiritual gifts and a "test".
I took the test for fun and discovered I had the gifts of teaching, wisdom, and administration. Ick! This shy and insecure twenty something had spent years avoiding teaching and had no intention of falling into it now.
So, I did what you would do. I ignored my gifts. I knew I wanted to get connected in my new church so I signed up to serve in the Toddlers Sunday School room twice a month. I became the Toddler Gym teacher on Sunday mornings walking the kiddos down to the gym to ride around on bikes and play with beach balls. This was definitely not my calling but it was my first step into serving faithfully.
The following year - knowing the toddlers were not my calling - I decided to sign up for AWANA. There were games and some crafts - how hard could this really be? I was a Sparky leader and had kindergarten boys and one girl. When they stopped bouncing off the walls, they would read me their verses. No one died. We all lived. It was a good year.
Still ignoring my gifts, my third year was filled with adventure. My roommate signed up to be a youth leader and in the spirit of competition - I couldn't let her have all the fun. I signed up too and was in way over my head. I didn't even like my own teenage years. Thanks to my friend Pat, I stuck it out - grew to love it - and youth ministry became my home until I moved to Minnesota.
It only takes one tap on the shoulder
Our youth pastor became the adult pastor at our church which ushered in a new era in youth ministry and the catalyst to a refocusing of sorts on my gifts. Lance, who had been a youth leader with me, was hired to be our new youth pastor. I loved working with Lance until the day that everything changed.
Lance was going out of town for a weekend and needed someone to teach the youth Sunday School class. Would I be willing to teach? I looked behind me to see who he was talking to. He was talking to me and I said yes as long as there was no one else who could do the job. Apparently, there was no one else. I headed home to study and prepare and practice.
My big day came. With butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I got up on the youth room stage (it was 2 steps up) and taught my lesson. Here's my secret. It wasn't bad. And I LOVED it!
Finding your sweet spot
After that Sunday, I was given more opportunities to teach. The more I taught, the more I wanted to do it even more. I felt deep down that I was made for this and needed to find a career that allowed me to teach for a living.
I registered for seminary and moved to Minnesota so I could start using these gifts full time. After graduating, I was sure the perfect dream job would open up. I would be teaching all the time. But then it didn't. After seminary, I still worked my 9-5 import/export job. Doors were not opening. I was frustrated. I used my gifts by night as I led women's bible study at our church.
Eventually, a job at our church opened up and I was hired to oversee our small group ministry. I loved working in ministry but soon discovered that no job has you using your gifts and talents 24/7. In every job, there are things you love to do and things that you must do to be successful. When I could, I used my gifts. And when I wasn't able - I sought to be faithful in each moment to the job God had me in.
Understanding God's Plan
As I look back now, I know I had misunderstood God's plan. During the church job phase of my life, I had begun to make my gifts and talents about me. While I knew I was serving God with them, I also wanted them to give me purpose and fulfillment. My gifts and talents became about me and when I could use more of my gifts and get better.
There were moments when I used all of my gifts - even that administration one at my job. But I never let go of the dream to speak and teach full time. In all honesty, the early years of teaching were okay. But I wasn't great at it yet. I needed life experience and teaching experience to get better. I used to speak about 300 mph and rush through my points. Maturity and practice has made me a better speaker - but I still have more development to do. And what I've realized is that I would never have been ready to speak full time back then. God needed to grow me. God needs to grow us as He uses our gifts.
After 10 years, I began to burn out at my dream job. I felt there was more that was out there and I needed a change. After getting certified as a life coach, I left my job and started my own business hoping to use my gifts everyday. I felt God tapping me on the shoulder and I chose to be obedient.
In my mind's eye, since I was stepping out in faith (not having another job to go) I knew this would be my moment. I would quit my job and speaking gigs would come flying in.
Instead, I quietly started my coaching business and started with a few women who wanted to learn how to align their faith and life. I was able to teach women in my home, while I began teaching at my church. And in the process, I learned that the blessing of my gifts was not about me or a career but about God and people.
Our gifts are given to us to serve God and others. As Paul says,
I took the long route, but I was beginning to realize my gifts were not about me. God was speaking to me about true ministry. The best place you and I can have an impact is sitting across the table from someone we already know.
God uses my gifts everyday in my new business ventures. I get to teach and share wisdom and lead and strategize all in my own home. But I also still have those must do things that I'm not great at but they come with my current job of business owner.
And I wonder as I close, how your gifts and journey has gone? For some us, we don't even like the gifts we've been given and prefer to tuck them in our back pocket. For others, maybe like me - you're waiting for a place and time to use them more regularly.
Trust the Process
There's no easy answer and each of our journeys are unique. But I've learned a few things along the way...
It's never too late to start using your gifts
Our gifts are given by God and used to serve God and others
When it comes to discovering your gifts, be courageous in trying something new.
Serve faithfully where you are today as you wait on God to open new doors
Your greatest ministry will be with people you already know
Your gifts and talents won't always be your job - they'll be your mission
I'm thankful for my spiritual gifts journey - mostly because I've needed the time to learn and to grow. I needed the faith to trust that I was not defined by my gifts and my abilities. I needed the maturity to appreciate the rhythms of serving God because I loved Him and His people.
Along the way from job transitions to striving to be used - I learned that God opens the best doors for ministry. All I needed was the courage to trust that He would not waste the gifts He's given me and use them for His kingdom. In the end, I've discovered that I can use whatever He's given me and find purpose in serving Him every day.
Are you interested in learning more your gifts, your talents and your values? My brand new mini-coaching package - Discover You may be the perfect baby step to get started.