A couple of weeks ago, I was buying folders (and other stuff) at a local “stuff-mart” for a marriage class that I lead at our church. I had a ton of the folders in my basket and so I told the older man with a heavy accent who watched over the self-checkout lines that I would appreciate it if he would allow me to to count up all the folders and have him enter the number into the register instead of me having to swipe them one at a time. He agreed and I went on about my business. Once I counted them up, I told him that there were 110 folders. He asked “100?” and I responded “No, 110.” This seemingly unimportant interaction ended up having a profound effect on him and, in the end, myself as well.
While I was going through the payment process, the man asked me if I was a teacher. I told him that no, I wasn’t…but that these folders were for a class at my church. He continued to ask questions about what kind of class and what religion the church was. I answered, not really thinking much about it, until he said, “I ask because I notice some things: the whole time you were over there by yourself at checkout, you are smiling. Then, I watch you count the folders. There were lots of times that they stick together and you make sure to pull apart and get number right and then when I asked with wrong number, you correct it so that you pay more.” The man concluded with “Ok, so you are preacher then?” My immediate answer was no, that I just lead a class. He asked if I shared my religion with this class and I replied that yes, I did. His response was what stilled me “Do Christians not call that a preacher?” I smiled at him and said, “Yes, I suppose we do.” The conversation went on for a while, even though I was already late for an appointment, because it felt imperative to me that I not rush this interaction. Before I left, the man knew the name of my church, my name, and a little more about Jesus.
If you have made it this far through this rambling of mine, you are already asking “What is the point?” I guess I would have to say that I learned several:
The first point is that you never know who is observing you and drawing conclusions about you and those you represent by your words, actions, and body language. I had no idea that I was being studied. (I also had no idea that I was smiling alone like a crazy person…although I do hear from strangers often that my smile has improved their day.)
The second point is that you don’t always have the time or opportunity to “clean up” your response or behavior. Knowing that you represent more than just yourself can cause you to behave differently…for a while…or in certain circumstances. But what about the circumstances where you encounter people like this and your guard is down? If you are playing a role…performing for an audience…at some point, people are going to see through the facade. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have the change be on the inside and let it spill out to your behavior?
The first two points we’ve all heard before and they are not particularly insightful…valuable yes…new or insightful? Not really.
The last point was for me to take to heart: I have struggled for a long time with my own spiritual giftedness and calling. Culturally, (I live in the Bible Belt) it is a bit taboo to be a female with the gifting that I have: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophesy, and Exhortation. (Just typing these words has made my pulse rate and blood pressure shoot up! I wish that was an exaggeration…but it isn’t. In all honesty, I tried really hard to convince God that he had messed up and that he should give me more “feminine” gifts.) The truth is, I feel alive when I am interacting with people and problem-solving, encouraging, speaking truth, and helping to point them toward Jesus. It is life-giving for me and fills me with energy. So, the final point to myself is this: regardless of whether or not the people around you ever acknowledge what is going on in you…regardless of whether or not your title ever matches your function (some of you will say that this doesn’t matter…but it does! If I were a man, it would be absolutely acceptable for me to be called “preacher” and even get paid as such and experience the natural fulfillment that would accompany the position…but it has been ingrained in me to immediately say no to that and even feel shame and guilt over someone else drawing that conclusion. I shouldn’t think “but can’t you see that I am female?”) Regardless of whether or not I am “allowed” or supported, I am called by God to use this giftedness in the ways that he leads me…and I will be obedient.
This is the point of the musing where I flip the tables on you: What is your God-given giftedness? Are you using it? If using our gifts is how we show God to the world and our purpose on Earth is showing God to the world, it would stand to reason that we would use our gifts a lot…so…do you? If not, what is stopping you? (Don’t think that it is other people because there is a huge difference between title and function!) If you struggle with this, what changes could you make in order to be more available to God when he asks you to do something?
My prayer today is that we would love God by loving those he loves…that we would use our gifts and passions to honor him…that we would stop making excuses and start being obedient. I am also praying that those of us who are hindering others from using their gifts would see the ramifications of that and get out of the way. Much love friends,
***It’s been a while since I mused and this is pretty tender for me so please be gentle.***