Gifts that Differ

I woke up on November 13 excited for the day ahead. Yes, it was Friday. The weekend, full of free time and possibilities, was approaching. Mostly, I was excited because my favorite band, One Direction, was releasing their new album, Made in the A.M., and I was finally going to listen to it in its entirety. It was new music, another gift from four of my favorite people before their hiatus next year, that caused me to actually enjoy waking up that day.

When I went to bed that night, my excitement for something small and harmless had been replaced by concern and hurt from world events. France, Beirut, Japan, Lebanon, Baghdad, Mexico. Terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Death and destruction. Physical and emotional wounds around the world.

If you look at my Facebook page, you’ll see a French flag laying over my profile picture. It’s not because I’m aware of the Paris attacks and none other, although I do truly hate that the attacks in France are getting far more attention than elsewhere, but that’s not France’s fault or the victims’ faults. It’s not because I care more about France than any of the other countries hurt last Friday. For me, it’s a symbol. A tiny, week-long symbol of love and support for my fellow human beings who are in great need of love and support.

A friend of mine answered the backlash about the overwhelming response to the Paris attacks instead of all the recent tragedies. She said very honestly and eloquently that she did feel bad for everyone and that she was praying for everyone, but the incidents in France affected her more than the others. She had just gotten home in the past few weeks from Paris. It’s nothing against Japan or Lebanon or anywhere else. It’s not about race or culture or anything like that. Her heart just has more of a connection with Paris.

And that’s okay.

I don’t know if God’s trying to tell me something or use me to tell someone else, but there have been three distinct times in less than a week that God has shown me this: We are called to care. We are always, without a doubt, called to love and care for others. But we won’t always play large, active roles in every cause and every case.

I’m one of the youth ministers at Abstract, and I love it. I love teenagers, and I enjoy teaching them and listening to them and hanging out with them. I like investing in them and encouraging them. I’ve known since I was a teenager myself that I want to work with youth. I feel called to do it.

My family used to be heavily involved in a nursing home ministry. We would attend church services there and help at other events. It was nice and sweet and most of the people were kind, and it’s a great, necessary ministry, but it’s certainly not my calling. I don’t have a huge drive or passion for it. I don’t mind helping out with it at all, but I can’t imagine myself constantly doing so or leading in that sort of ministry. That’s not for me.

But aren’t both ministries important? Aren’t they both helpful to individuals and the entire community? Aren’t both groups of people loved immeasurably by the Father?

Our first instinct is to help as many different causes as we can. The homeless need help, domestic violence victims need help, starving children need help, veterans need help, cancer patients need help, and so do many other sorts of people. So we want to help them, all of them, but when we try to do it all, we spread ourselves too thin. What starts as a labor of love turns into simply more labor.

We want to be God’s hands and feet in this world. We want to be the salt of the Earth. What we don’t often realize is that we can be those very same things if we focus our gifts, time, and energy on a few things instead of everything.

Romans 12:4-8 (NRSV) says, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”

My callings – writer, youth minister – are mine because they fit with who I am. I’m good with words, and I’m not too bad with grammar and punctuation, so I write. I feel the need to tell people who are going through difficult times what God can do for them, and I like encouraging new believers and helping those who are just starting to grow in their faith, and I understand young people, so I teach teenagers.

Maybe you’re good at cooking, so you volunteer at soup kitchens. Or you like organizing, so you plan outreaches or clothing drives. Or you have a loved one who served in a war, so you visit veterans. Whatever you’re good at, I can assure you that there’s someone out there who needs it. And while we should pray and help those who need it, regardless of what our callings are, we shouldn’t get so caught up in doing everything that we forget what God told us specifically to be doing. It’s not to say that we can’t help or pray or donate to worthy causes. It’s just to say that we shouldn’t take on so much that we lose sight of God or neglect Him.

So I want to encourage you all to do two things. First, find what God wants you to do, and pursue it with all your heart. You can do others things too, but don’t abandon what role the Creator wants you to play. Second, pray for everyone. As I see it, the world’s in a pretty fragile state, and even if we can’t go to the edge of it all and make it right, we can talk to the One who can.

By Carrie Prevette

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