Knowing our spiritual gifts allows us to answer the question, “Of what concern is that to me?” As a spiritual director I frequently encounter people trying to discern God’s call—from young people testing their first vocation to retirees finally feeling free to devote themselves unreservedly to God’s work.
One guideline I offer is the saying, “Your spiritual gift occurs where your human passion and God’s desires for the world meet.” This counsel presents three criteria for discerning a spiritual gift: 1) it is a gift, not a skill or an innate talent; 2) it is a form of service for the good of God’s children; 3) it demonstrates that it is God who desires and accomplishes the work.
Paul notes, particularly as he writes to the church in Corinth, that in the Spirit a plethora of gifts exists. Unlike the dispute over the gift of speaking in tongues as the “primary” gift of confessing Christians, Paul lists many that the Spirit gives. And the diversity of gifts is rooted in the nature of God. The qualifying use of all the gifts is for the common good.
A scientifically gifted woman earned her M.D. when few women physicians practiced. Specializing in ophthalmology, she went on to enjoy both a thriving, lucrative practice and a prestigious university appointment. A deeply faithful person, in midlife she experienced an irresistible desire to serve God as a full-time pray-er in a cloistered religious community. The call to leave her successful career to pray confounded those who knew her. But the spiritual gift of faith enabled her to believe that God needed her as a pray-er for the well-being of all God’s children. Now, at eighty-six, she believes that her decision to leave her work of physical healing to devote her life to spiritual healing made sense only in the context of the belief that it was God at work in her.
Dear God, help me discern my spiritual gift(s). May I use them to the fullest. Amen.