Would you rather be an ear or a hand?
That’s the title of the talk I did at Galilee Church yesterday. We are studying Spiritual Gifts this semester, and my job was to cover the seven gifts that the Apostle Paul outlines in Romans 12. Paul makes a case for the fact that we all have different gifts, and that these things should all be honored and celebrated since “just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body.”
Laura, the gal who runs the Instagram account for our study, came up with a fabulous graphic:
Because seriously. Who better than Mr. Potato Head (or, in this case, Ms. “Wonder Woman” Potato Head) to ask whether you need an ear or a hand? Clearly, this is a gal who values all of her body parts.
As I prepared to teach, I remembered a game that our family used to play on car trips, or at other times when we wanted to talk about deep and life-shaping things. It’s called “Would You Rather?” and, basically, it’s a conversation starter where anything goes: Would you rather be somewhat annoying or totally dull? Would you rather have good hair or good legs? Would you rather (and this is the question that actually got our family game started) suck an old man’s toes, or have an old man suck your toes?
(Yeah. I’m not proud of that one.)
(But I did write a blog about it, a couple years back. Click here here if you want.)
As I mulled the Romans 12 list (prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy), and considered some of the other passages we’ll study (like 1 Corinthians 12, which talks about gifts like healing, or having a word of knowledge, or speaking in tongues), I realized that I sometimes approach God’s gifts the way I do vegetables: I like broccoli, but I’d rather pass on the beets. I was fine if God wanted to give me the spiritual gift of teaching, encouragement, or even hospitality (because apparently if it’s a spiritual gift and not a Martha Stewart thing, the linens don’t all have to match). But when it came to the more mystical stuff – stuff like the gift of interpretation (which is where somebody speaks in tongues and you understand what they are saying, and you translate for everyone) I balked. To me, that was way out on a limb. Way too much margin for error.
I mean, I barely made it through French.
But then, as I worked on the teaching, I kept coming around to something Paul said: All these (that is, all of the gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Ahhh. There was the rub. Did I think it was up to me to tell God which gifts I would “rather” have? Or was I willing to let him do the picking?
Like pretty much everything in this Christian life that I don’t always understand, I knew there was only one answer. I had to put myself in God’s hands. I had to let him decide how to “grace” me, even if he nudged me out onto a limb. Because honestly? He knows how I am formed (Psalm 139), and he’s got a plan for the part I should play in the body of Christ.
And that’s actually the crazy part. The spiritual gifts aren’t even about me. They are meant for the body of Christ. They are meant to build others up – to strengthen the church, to meet people’s needs, to point folks to Christ – and to bring glory to God. Who cares if God makes me an ear or a hand? It’s not about me!
Phew. Okay. That’s enough deep thought for today. It’s Friday. It’s time for me to start asking myself: Would you rather have pizza or wine? (Um…I’ll take both.)
But if Spiritual Gifts is a topic that interests you and you want to follow along with our study, you can watch the videos here (scroll all the way down to the bottom; I think my friend Lisa’s captivating message on 1 Peter 4 is up there this week).
And if you find yourself where I was, not really sure if you’d rather let God gift you or not, can I just encourage you with this one little prayer? It’s something I’ve prayed any number of times, as I’ve sensed God prompting me to do something that didn’t come naturally, or that I did not understand. It’s a good one, and it’s one that I know God will answer:
Lord, make me willing.
I want to receive all that you have; I want to follow you with all of my heart. But I am going to need help.
So please show me your truth. Open my heart.
Make me willing to go where you lead.