Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Can't Use My Spiritual Gift

Last Sunday our Sunday School class took a spiritual gifts test.  I had not taken one since college, when the test was done differently and for only a handful of gifts, so I decided to take it too.  When I tested before as a nursing student my highest score was for the gift of mercy.  That made lots of sense: I had a deep compassion for helping others and hurt when they hurt.  I wanted to reach out to those in need.
This time, however, I still scored high for mercy, but two other gifts dominated my scoresheet: One was hospitality.  I laughed to myself at that one- I'm always trying to cook and bake for people and find an excuse to get them in my house to be loved on.  The other one, however, scored even higher.  It was apostleship.  The definition of apostleship, taken out of, is:

 The mission for those with the gift of apostleship today is to plant new ministries and churches, go into places where the Gospel is not preached, reach across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments, raise up and develop leaders, call out and lead pastors and shepherds, and much more.  They often have many different gifts that allow them to fulfill their ministry.  These are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers.  They are influencers.  They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks.  Missionaries, church planters, certain Christian scholars and institutional leaders, and those leading multiple ministries or churches often have the gift of apostleship.  

When I read this, I threw a pity party.  All those old struggles with my past as a full-time missionary surfaced in one ugly moment.  "No, God!"  "That's not fair!"  "How can I have this spiritual gift when I can't USE IT?"
I'm a housewife.  I'm a homeschool mom.  The typical extent of my being out in the world is a weekly trip to Walmart for groceries, an occasional trip to the local museum with my kids, and a monthly date with my husband.  Oh, and lets not forget the summer camping trips and geocaching adventures I take the kids on when the weather is favorable.  So how on earth can the gift of apostleship be applied to THAT?
It's as if my gift is laying waste, going sour.  I've read articles and heard sermons about spiritual gifts, and how we are missing out on such a blessing when we don't exercise them and use them to expand God's kingdom and bring Him glory.  We're supposed to find open doors to walk into, needs to fill, opportunities to grow and exercise the special heart and passion God has laid on our hearts to use what He has equipped us with.  So if God isn't a God of mistakes, if He truly has gifted me with this, then why has He placed me where I am right now with no possible way to use it?
I know from talking to some of my sisters in Christ that some of you struggle with the same questions.  God is wiser than us, He knows the big picture, He sees what we don't, but how can we understand His heart in this?

Here are some conclusions I've come to:

1: He's God. I'm not.  Our Heavenly Father has thoughts and ways higher than ours.  Many events and concepts introduced in the Bible baffle the wisest Biblical scholars, because we physically can't comprehend the mind of God.  However, we can acknowledge that He can be trusted, and He has a plan.  We just don't get to see what's behind the next door and when He'll open it.  Yeah, for the type A woman, that really stinks.  But it teaches us faith.

2: I've realized that I may not be ready to exercise this gift yet.  God is molding me and chiseling away at my rough edges (and if you ask my husband and children, there are a lot of them).  Could it be I can't use one of the spiritual gifts He's given me because I need to mature more first?  Leading in church planting and missions work isn't a novice type of ministry.  Maybe God gave me the opportunity to exercise this gift in the past, but He's using this season of my life to prepare me for something that requires even more wisdom and spiritual maturity in the future.  I have a lot of years left in me...the possibilities are endless!

3: Exercising a spiritual gift shouldn't fulfill me or define my self-worth.  The Lord wants us to deny ourselves and follow Him.  He wants us to be humble servants to others, not serve in a way for us to feel like we are significant in His eyes and the eyes of the church.  If I had the spiritual gift of evangelism and led two people to the Lord every week, I shouldn't feel more valuable than if I was able to prepare food for a church social.  Our value isn't in our service, it's who we are in Christ.  He doesn't see our works and say "I'm more pleased with that child of mine who just planted a church than the other one over there who just changes diapers in the church nursery."  On the contrary, He sees our hearts that are saved by grace through faith and are genually seeking to follow Him.  We are equally precious in His sight.

4. I shouldn't define who I am by my gift.  Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that mentality.  Yes, we should desire to edify the body of Christ and be used in different ways depending on what God has given us the ability and passion to do, but my gift shouldn't be treated as my identity.  I am a child of God.  It's that identity that I should cling to.  That's all that matters.

 If you don't know what your gift is, I encourage you to find out.  Maybe there are avenues for you to serve Christ that you never explored.  Maybe you'll realize God's preparing you for something or is equipping you to serve Him in an unique way.  Maybe, like me, you will become confused.  Use it as a motivator to seek His heart about it, and trust His plan.  The test I took is here:

I'd love to read your comments about any struggle you are having with your spiritual gift, or perhaps a frustration you have with understanding why God has placed you where you are in this season.   If you live nearby, come on over and we'll have a cup of coffee and talk about it.  Better yet, grab a cinnamon roll! Since my other gift is hospitality, you're guaranteed a warm welcome and won't leave hungry!

Friday, March 6, 2015

I wish I was adopted

Last week we celebrated two years with Anna Faith.  Even though she didn't fully understand what was going on that day as I made her a special cake, we ate lots of Chinese food with Chinese friends, and we dressed her up in a Chinese outfit, she did know that it was a special day for her.  She gushed with every compliment, the gifts given, and the excitement over having "fancy hair".
As her Gotcha Day was beginning, we sat down for our homeschool morning session.  My three boys sat themselves around our big table in the classroom and as a usual practice, the boys wanted to talk about what was on their minds before we got into our official school day mode.  They asked questions about Anna Faith's party that evening, as previously they had overheard me read someone's comment on Facebook saying "It's like Anna Faith has two birthdays every year to celebrate".  One of my sons looked at me with all sincerity, and said "I wish I was adopted".

My heart sank.

I paused, and took in the weight of his words.  How do you react when your son, who you love with your whole heart, blurts out what he's feeling deep down inside?  He knows that his sister was special, he celebrates her uniqueness and loves her deeply, but as a child longing for a special identity from others he wants what she has.

"No Buddy, you don't want to wish that."

He looked confused, as if to say "Yes I do!  I want attention, a special party, and a cool story.  I'm just an ordinary kid.  I don't want to be normal but be celebrated like her!"

" Anna Faith will never know about her first family.  She may have a sister or brother she will never meet, her birth mother and father will always be a mystery to her, and she will grow up with lots of questions and at times be sad about that.  You do not want to be adopted."

He dropped it and school resumed.

Sometimes the Christian community feeds into this. They get carried away with the growing popularity of adopting orphans. They put adopted children on a pedestal and lavish them with attention and praise.  Seriously, I get about twice as many "likes" on Facebook when I post a picture of my daughter versus an equally cute picture of one of my sons.  What if they knew that?  Many big-hearted people are placing more value on adopted children than biological ones.  Sure, their intentions are good.  They want to support that child and be there to affirm them, make them feel like they belong, and show them they love them just the way God made them for the purpose He created them to live out.   But what about the "normal" biological kids?

We in the Christian community make out adopted kids to be rock stars.  We parade their pictures like they are celebrities, share the sad story over and over about how they were rescued from a terrible life and future and how we are so glad God called their parents to save them.

But we parents are not their Savior.  Jesus is.

I have to walk a fine line when I talk about adoption.  Kris and I have such a deep love for orphans.  We have sat in orphanages and held these neglected, forgotten ones.  We have prayed and cried tears of intercession for them.  If anyone has a heart of compassion for the fatherless of the world, it's us.  Orphan care is a passion God has placed on our hearts. However, we are not our daughters' saviors.  We are not heroes.  They are not the only ones "lucky" enough or "blessed" enough to be in our family.  Our adopted children aren't to be put on a pedestal and honored above other children as the "saved ones".  Our first and soon to be second daughters are normal little girls.  They are loved as much as our sons, no more, no less.  Why does the Christian community need to elevate their value just because they are adopted?  We adoptive families want to be normal families serving an amazing Savior.  He is to be exalted, not our adopted children!  It is as if the created is worshiped more than the Creator!

So please, dear Christian brothers and sisters, don't overlook those biological sons and daughters and ignore them because they aren't adopted.  Don't forget about the unique make-up of every child in every family.  Every child has a purpose, whether he was born into a loving family who bore him or he was grafted into a family who chose him.  And don't elevate adoptive parents either.  Every person who serves Christ has a purpose and special calling.  We must see every act of obedience to God and His plan as a reason to praise Him and give Him glory.  If a family member goes on a missions trip, praise God!  If your friend's husband gets called as a minister in a church, praise God.  If your sister announces she has been called to help those in need, praise God!  If someone shares with you that they just shared their faith with someone, praise God!  And if one you know follows God's call to adopt, praise God too.

But when that child comes home, celebrate him as a part of that family.  Give God the glory for what He has done, and allow that beautiful, adopted child to be "normal" too.