Ever since I went to that workshop a weekend or two ago I've been thinking more and more about where I put my energy. Especially these last few days when I've spent so many hours writing. It's only been four days, but I'm already wondering if this is a way to create a habit, if, when Phillip goes downstairs for his nightly hour or so of homework, that will be my time to write. I'm excited thinking about it, because that's definitely an area where I know I went to expend energy, and where I know I'm not doing enough.
But there are other places that don't feel that way. Or only sometimes feel that way. I think back to that workshop and try to figure out if those are places where I feel 'gifted'. And it's not that I don't want to do anything I'm not gifted in, obviously, but sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like I HAVE to do something because it's a GOOD THING TO DO even when I DON'T WANNA. The example the priest at the workshop used was volunteering at a soup kitchen, which he dreaded and hated. Was it a bad thing to do? No. Was it something he should never do? No, of course not. But did he need to feel guilty about not wanting to work in a soup kitchen when he was obviously gifted in other areas and found joy volunteering and serving in other ways? NO.
So I have a few soup kitchens in my life. None of them are as... worthy as a soup kitchen, I should say. But I have a few Good and Fun For Other People things going on that I don't always feel Good or Fun about. But sometimes I do? So it's confusing? I guess my three years on the church committee is a good example of this. Was it a good thing to do? Sure. Was it the best place for me? Was it the best use of my time? Doubtful.
Anyway, I've been thinking about these things and today I was feeling sort of down about one of them. I was comparing myself to everyone else and thinking: gee Self, you sort of suck at this. Maybe you should step down. Maybe that would be a GOOD THING. Maybe it's OKAY to suck! OWN THE SUCKITUDE!
Right? Totally okay things to say to yourself. But I swear, not a minute after I decided I would put in my resignation, I got an email FULL of affirmation. FULL of encouragement. FULL of gratitude that I was involved. So I ask you, good friends in the Internet, what the heck am I supposed to do with THAT?!
Well, of COURSE I did a complete 180 and am now totally and complete re-energized in this particular department. Nothing like a little flattery, eh?
AND THEN (and this is the OTHER thing I've been thinking about re: gifts) I was all, "OBVIOUSLY The Person Who Sent Me The Email has the gift of Encouragement!" I've been sort of annoying with the Gift Labeling lately. As I sat through the workshop I wasn't only tallying up my gifts* but all of my friends'. I'm such a dork.
Like, I was thinking about this one friend of mine who always knows what to DO. I mean, physical tangible things to DO. (This would be, for the uninitiated, the gift of service.) When both of my babies were teeny tiny she would come over and suddenly all my dishes were washed. I wouldn't even notice her doing it. Or when we get our kids together to play, she always picks up the toys and cleans up the lunch dishes. I don't do this at her house. I HATE admitting that, but I don't. And it's not because I don't WANT to, I just don't even THINK about it. I suppose that could mean that I don't want to, because if I wanted to I'd be thinking about it, but I liked the way the priest put it. He doesn't have the gift of hospitality. He doesn't walk into coffee hour and notice who is sitting by themselves. It's not even on his radar. And that's how I am with other people's dishes. NOT ON MY RADAR.
But it's totally on my friend's radar. And I have another friend who, I've noticed, always says the right thing in a crucial moment. WITHOUT FAIL. I don't know what gift that is - wisdom? knowledge? - but SERIOUSLY. I know this because I'm the one sitting there all "Uhhhhmmmm" and she's asking, like, INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS and singling out the IMPORTANT ELEMENTS. Whatever gift that is, I DO NOT HAVE IT.
I know this isn't any great revelation or news to anyone, but the idea that I don't have to be good at everything, that I don't have to LIKE everything - that knowledge has been freeing in a new way lately. In the last couple weeks I've been giving myself more grace than usual. Which is, I'll just say it: MIRACULOUS. Instead of being jealous and/or coming down with a total inferiority complex next to the friend who always knows what to say, I've been able to remind myself that THAT IS HER GIFT. And IT IS NOT MINE. I'm the friend who, when another friend was informed of an unthinkable family tragedy, sat her butt down in front of the computer and found the fastest cheapest plane ticket out of Seattle. That's the kind of thing I can do.
I do it with you guys too. Some of you leave the most encouraging comments or send the most affirming emails. I suspect things about you based on your own blogs. And I've met some of you in person, and I know you have the gifts of craftsmanship and hospitality and faith and teaching and pastoring. It's so much FUN, this gift deciphering.
Aaaand, I think that's enough procrastinating for one evening. I'll be lucky if I make my daily quota today. LE SIGH.
*when I use the word "gifts" I'm using it in the context of "spiritual gifts" or, in the Catholic tradition, "charisms". I'm not referring to the "fruits of the Holy Spirit" found in Galatians, but an unspecified number of spiritual gifts (again, according to the Catholic tradition) that show up primarily in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. (And yes, I totally just looked in the book for that information. SUE ME.)