Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

So here's a question that arose for me today. I'll try to recreate the chain of thought:

In today's sermon the preacher talked about the "evil eye", referring actually to envy (it was the parable of the workers who are pissed that they work all day and get the same wage as the workers who worked 1 hour - apparently they gave these people the "evil eye") (btw this is all hilarious to us b/c we always talk about the evil eye at home - usually one of the cats is giving it around here - but that's neither here nor there).

So ANYWAY he was talking about how he had the evil eye for the people with iphones until he got one. And I got to thinking about how my envy issue is about ordination. Specifically, it's about my friends who are sailing through their ordination processes with no problems whatsoever, after all my struggles and eventual giving up.

Now I realize LOTS of people have horrible times in the process. But for some reason, I don't feel in solidarity with them - I am more just jealous of people, however few they may be, who have no trouble with it. Primarily this is because the people I know who have an easy time of it are people who mostly didn't know they wanted to be ordained, or hadn't given it much thought, and just kind of fall into it. They trip and land in the ordination almost by accident, while I've been clawing for years for the privilege. They don't even realize what they have, and I couldn't want anything more.

And I found myself saying that what really gets me, when I'm horribly honest (and here comes a self-revelation that is probably among the reasons I'm not a good ordination candidate!), is that I feel like I'm gifted at the stuff that goes into the priesthood, and a lot of times, I see others who, if I may be crass, just don't seem as gifted at it getting straight through. Or maybe they're not interested, or maybe not as smart, or even not as spiritual, or whatever. You know, it's that nasty side that I have where I say hey, I'm better than they are!

Oh, don't judge me. You probably have felt that way about something you wanted too.

Anyway, so yes, I'm rather petty about it when I let myself be, which isn't often. But I heard myself say this, and I realized wait, one thing I think I believe is that God often works with the weakest and least among us because God wants to prove God's strength in their weakness. Makes sense, right? I mean, it's the point of the quote I keep at the top of this blog from Dr. John.

So then I thought wait, there are two schools of thought on this. There's the school that says that I am gifted and passionate about something and that's God telling me it's the thing I'm supposed to do. I call it the Liddell school of thought: God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure (Chariots of Fire). I want to be a priest because God made me that way.

But the other school is that God makes us exactly not gifted for the things we do because in our weakness God is strong. God wants to prove that it's her work and not of our own ability, so God lifts up those who seem like they wouldn't be good at the work, just to show us all that God can do anything with anyone.

There seem to be biblical and historical examples on both sides of the question. So I don't really know if one is right, or if they might just apply differently in different circumstances, to different people, depending what you need to learn in this life.

And I don't really know which applies to me, although I have a hunch it's the second one, because I know I get too proud of myself when I'm exercising my gifts (I can't help it - it brings me so much joy).

So what do you think? Are our spiritual giftings signs of our place in the kingdom? Or are they roadblocks to our true calling? Should we be looking at what we love and are good at when discerning vocation, or run in the opposite direction? Just how much of our own ability are we allowed to rely on - even relish - and what of it is God-given for God's purposes, and therefore not ours to own? Or is that a false dichotomy?

I really am confused about this now. I really don't understand how both of these could be true at the same time. But if it winds up being that I'm not supposed to do the things I'm good at and most love, then I'll be honest with you: that will make me sad. But I'll try to keep my evil eyes to myself. And I'll try to convert my jealousy to awe when I see God working in someone else's life in miraculous ways.

1 comment:

Muse-ical Mystagogue said...

Embrace your gifts. There will always be snot-faced prophet-types who will call you on your pride. Embrace them, too. :)

I'm glad you're here.