I’ve been thinking a lot about gifting lately.
Gifting. That’s a very church-y, pastor-y word to say, isn’t it? Gifting. What are the gifts that God has given you? How are you made to be and live and work and play and function that are uniquely you? What do you bring to the table that is particular and yours?
This is often meant to be an inspiring, encouraging idea for us as followers of Christ, but if I’m really honest, it can be an intimidating concept for me.
What do I have to offer that is particularly me? What is there that is just Jana?
My family and I have been watching the US Olympic Trials off and on, and the other night we watched Michael Phelps swim. And dominate. As always. The 2016 Olympics will be Phelps’ fifth Olympics. Fifth. These things only happen every four years, guys. And he’s my age. I watched this incredibly talented swimmer race through the pool, and I said to my husband, “Can you imagine being that good at anything?”
If I’m honest, I often feel pretty mediocre at a lot of things. I have talents, sure. There are areas at which I can excel. But I’m no Michael Phelps at anything. I’m a good singer, but I’ll never be Mariah Carey or Renee Fleming. I’m a decent piano player, but I’m nothing compared to Chopin or Liszt. I’m a good student, and I love to learn and read and write and think through problems, but I’m not out there making huge discoveries or becoming a coding genius or changing the world with my writing. So, in the face of all this greatness, what do I have to offer?
Now - I don’t say any of this so that all of you reading will shower me with compliments or send me emails telling me how great I am. But lately, I’ve been hearing God speak into these moments of weakness. I had a great conversation with my coach for this church planting journey, as I was sharing with him some of the dreams and conversations I’d been having surrounding something I was thinking of doing in my neighbourhood (I’ll save those details for another post). And I kept saying, “This would be so cool, but it just feels too early. It’s too soon to really do anything. I should just be and learn and listen for awhile longer before I start to do things.”
And he looked at me and said, “But this is who you are. Why wouldn’t you do it?”
That conversation brought me back to another conversation, with someone who had been encouraging me to go through the (rather extensive) church planting assessment process my denomination has for those of us who are considering starting a new community of faith somewhere. We were looking at a list of my strengths and spiritual gifts, and he said, “You know, some of these gifts are a little different than what we sometimes look for in a church planter, but they’re sure not going to hurt you. They’ll just lead you into a uniquely Jana way of doing things.”
And that phrase was so encouraging to me. A uniquely Jana way of doing things.
When I arrived in Canada, I was denied entrance to Canada as a member of the clergy. I had brought all the proof of my ordination and my seminary degree and my credentials, but they told me my job description didn’t fit the work of a pastor in Canada. I tried to explain what I was doing and why I was coming to Canada and how I was going to be pastoring in this context, but they didn’t buy it. I had to apply for a work visa, because, as they understood it, my work wasn’t as a pastor, it was as a religious administrator (or something like that). So I had to pursue another, non-clergy avenue to get into the country legally. (Don’t worry - I have a visa, and my family and I are here legally and in good standing!)
The Canadian immigration office had a particular picture of what a pastor is and does, and I wasn’t it.
But you know what? God doesn’t want me to fit into some preconceived picture of what a pastor or a church planter looks like. God doesn’t have hard and fast rules about who he calls to do His work. That’s not what He’s asking me - or you - to do or be. God calls us to do his work, and he wants us to bring…us. Ourselves. Who we are. He made us and formed us and created us to be and live and work and play and function in our own particular ways - and the way he created us is the way He wants to use us.
And that thought is encouraging me today. I don’t have to be Michael Phelps or Mariah Carey or what the Canadian immigration office thinks of as a pastor - or anyone else for that matter. I just have to be Jana. And offer all of who I am to God as I pursue this calling.
And that’s true for you, too. Find the uniquely you way to do what you do. I hope that encourages you today, too, friends.