Thursday, July 19, 2012

All good gifts around us

Romans 12:1-8 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
It’s fairly natural as a parent to wonder what your kids might be good at doing when they get older. Even those of us who aren’t on the hunt for some super-freakish, Mozartesque, prodigy grade talent are always aware when a little one’s personality begins to develop and they start to show a proclivity for something.

Jack used to be super in to marching band CDs, picked up melodies quickly and enjoyed singing and dancing along. He also has been a technological wizard, fascinated by computers, cameras and anything with a screen. There was a time he loved to help Kristie in the kitchen, and once — unprovoked — got all the dry ingredients for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies out of the cabinets and onto the counter. This was before he was speaking discernible sentences with regularity. I’m sure I’m missing a few other things along the way.

Max’s talents seem to be more based on his ability to endure physical pain and specifically repeated head trauma. He also has always been a great talker, though that’s more of a skill than a trait. The poor kid can’t carry a tune to save his life, which is why him trying to sing the alphabet song in the van usually devolves into a shouting match with Jack. So while with Jack I’ve already crafted an incredibly robust hypothetical resume, Max’s future careers have been narrowed down to stuntman and crash test pilot.

Obviously this is mostly conjecture and we’re really just playing a game of parental “What If?” Even if I have sensed an area where one of the kids might some day excel, I’ve tried to be extra careful to not force anything, reasoning it’s best to let a natural talent develop organically. While I don’t recall my parents ever forcing anything on me (although my dad was pretty convinced I should get a real summer job instead of just umpiring nights and weekends), I must have heard enough horror stories along the way of kids being pushed so hard to pursue a passion they eventually rejected what they once loved that I committed myself to never being “that dad.” So far, so good, but the kids aren’t that old yet. I have plenty of time to make a mess of things.

Absent from all these “what if” questions, and even my own late teens/early 20s soul searching about what career path I should follow, is any examination of spiritual gifts. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever, outside of a formal youth group or church exercise, considered what my spiritual gifts might be. I certainly have never pondered the same question as it relates to the kids. About as close as I might have gotten is hoping Jack develops more empathy and being appreciative the same quality seems to be more naturally occurring in Max.

And so while I would love for this passage to be something I could appropriate as a direct lesson from father to sons, the truth is I could do well to take it as it was intended and apply it to myself directly. At least the lead in to the second portion (“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment”) is something I feel comfortable saying I try to live up to and hope to demand the same of my kids.

But that’s the beauty of the Bible and getting into it regularly — consistently finding different ways to think about yourself, your faith, your approach to life and what exactly God might be trying to tell you. At least that’s how it works for me, and I’m incredibly glad it does.

A prayer for July 19:

Lord, I thank you for opening my eyes to your word and my heart to your call. I yearn to be holy and pleasing to you, though I know I am ever failing. Please help me to discern my spiritual gifts and use them for your glory, and also help me encourage my children to search and know the individual ways you have blessed them. I am so very excited to watch them grow into the people you have called them to be, and I am ever thankful for that opportunity. Amen.

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