Friday, February 10, 2012

Tis the gift to be... spiritual?

I had one of those dreams last night that shows me where I've failed... ie. another teaching dream, where I was standing in front of a class of 12-yos and making a complete hash of everything no matter how hard I tried. I was passionate about what I was trying to teach, but I wasn't getting through to them, or teaching them anything. Sometimes those dreams are just to make me feel like a failure and I wake up wanting to curl up in a hole and never come out again... but this one just made me thoughtful. I think this one was to remind me that I can't do everything, and nor should I try...

John has to look at a book about Spiritual Gifts for church (he hasn't had time to open it yet!) and of course I read through it while it was sitting on the table waiting for him. I'm always intrigued by the whole question of 'spiritual gifts' and figuring out where I fit into the bigger picture, as I am with learning more about myself in general. This one takes a narrower view of 'gifts' than some and it focuses in on the ones that are directly mentioned in the bible, leaving things like musicianship, creativity, craftsmanship etc. out of the picture entirely. It says that things like that are abilities and talents that anybody can have, not spiritual gifts, because you don't have to be a Christian to demonstrate them. I kind of take issue at that - the actual skills aren't the issue. It's how you USE them that counts. God put them into your spirit for a reason. The book says that they're just a vehicle to demonstrate whatever your actual spiritual gifts are. A musician with the gift of healing might leave their audiences feeling very comforted and soothed etc etc. or an Evangelist will fire people up with their words. And so on. I really don't know where that leaves me. Going back to the music ministries and picking up my music again has demonstrated to me clearly that music is one of the greatest joys of my life. God gave me a voice to be able to sing - I don't pretend it's anything special and it's nothing to be particularly proud of or to show off and boast about - but using it is pure joy, whether there's anybody listening to me or not.  Lately, I'm not even nervous to get up and sing solo in front of the congregation. I find that a surprising development because I used to be paralysed by stage fright. But I'm not worrying about their judging me, or whether I'm going to mess it up and embarrass myself.  I'm not singing to try to make them think I'm something wonderful, or to impress them etc etc., I'm singing for God. I considered dropping out of the choir and leaving the music ministry because I'm seriously over-committed and something is going to have to give sooner or later, but I really and truly do not want to do that. It would break my heart to have to leave music behind in my life yet again, whether it was voluntary or not. Music is welded into my soul, and to deny it is to deny a vitally important part of myself.

Anyway, back to teaching. Teaching IS a named spiritual gift. The difference between somebody who learned the skills of teaching (like me) and somebody who has a real gift for it is how their students react... and I definitely fall into the former category. And I'm okay with that. I wouldn't have been for a long time, because I wanted to teach from the time I was about five years old. But I didn't really want to TEACH. I wanted to nurture and encourage and spend time loving on the innocent before the world ruined them. And I wanted to protect children who were like me, and nurture them the way that my beloved teachers did me, to save them from the childhood I endured, and to let them know that somebody understood their position and really cared about them. Probably all very worthy ambitions, but none of them are directly related to TEACHING. That's one of the things that the teacher does, but it's not their job. I was trying to be something that I wasn't really meant to be, which is why it ended in total and utter disaster. I love learning, I love books, and I love knowledge in general - but I don't want to be in the position of authority of having to be 'the teacher' ever again. I'm too loving and gentle (okay, wishy-washy) to be a disciplinarian.I don't do 'authority' very well, and anybody in the same room with me for more than two minutes knows it!

My gifts lie in the practical realm, and I have a lot of trouble relating to the more airy-fairy biblical stuff like prophecy, tongues, interpretation, healing, and prayer in general. God has never demonstrated any of them concretely in my life, and a lot of the time I've never seen them demonstrated believably through anybody else. I've seen people who WANTED the gifts, and who honestly believed that they had them - but they didn't have any positive results to demonstrate from them. Anybody can babble, or make people be 'overcome by the holy spirit' by giving them a push! And it's easy to stand there and tell somebody what they want to hear when there's somebody who knows them whispering cues in your ear - but it's much rarer to hear directly from God and to KNOW what's needed. I tend to say 'seeing is believing'. On occasion, I've had deeply moving spiritual 'god times' - but they have been few and far between. It's not something that happens just because you want it to. I could sit here and pray myself blue in the face asking God to give me one of these gifts, but there hasn't been any sign of it in thirty years.  I believe that there ARE miracles - there have been miracles of healing in John's family that none of us expected until God gave them to us... I believe that God really does give some people the revelation of what they need to pray about and say - I've seen it myself and nobody was giving the guy any cues when it came my turn to have him lay hands on me, but he knew something important about me that I didn't even know myself. God just doesn't give those things directly to me. If I have trouble with all this, you might ask why am I so tied up in the God thing anyway? But it was inborn in me to love God and to trust God and to have faith in Him, whether I can see Him or not. In one way, I've moved way beyond simple faith - nothing in life is EVER simple. In another, it's as simple as they come. God loves us and He wants the best for us. I pray to God the Comforter more than God the Miracle-Maker. God is the one who is with us when we walk through the times of trouble. He is the invisible hand on our shoulder and the voice in our ear telling us that everything will be right in the end. That doesn't make everything that happens to us easy, or right, or even deserved... horrible things happen every day. Sometimes God gives us a miracle to take us out of them, but more often He's just holding our hand to lead us through. But He is always and absolutely there loving us from now until the end of time.

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