We’re nearly halfway into December, and I (Jennifer) wonder if you’re looking forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior, too. I remember lots of precious moments in my decades of Christmases, but I have favorites: the gifts wrapped in multiple layers. A big box emerged from the tree’s low, ornament-laden branches, and the fun began. At the heart of several wrapped boxes was a small, precious gift. Something that might be overlooked for its small size was given significance and greater excitement in the context of beautiful presentation and heightened expectation over several minutes of opening and opening and opening again.
Creative presentation and the extended opening process can be fun. It takes time to get to the best part, and the heart of the gift is the gift. When I thought about that, my mind wandered to another instance of something precious hidden deep inside. Matryoshka dolls. Nested inside an intricately painted wooden doll “shell” are several more until the smallest one is found at the heart of the last opened doll. It’s similar to the gift within a gift within a gift, isn’t it? I imagine a little girl eagerly opening each one to see where the smallest one would appear.
The gift-opening process and nested dolls grabbed my attention when I thought about December’s topic. I think that, at the heart of who we are, is God-given purpose that includes our entire being woven into a beautiful, partially-hidden opportunity. We’re more complex than the dolls, but not different in our many layers of gifts and talents or interests and passions. Our physical, emotional, and spiritual makeup plus our experiences are all part of the package. And we become the gift, if we choose. We can do that by offering ourselves as a gift God can use in the lives of others. The choice is rooted in our God-given purpose: to glorify God and love Him forever.
When I think of myself as a gift, ideas swirl through my mind. Jack of all trades, master of none. The “utility player” on the softball team. The “quick study” who can figure out or learn most assignments or tasks. The mind with a little knowledge on a variety of subjects (but never algebra or some sciences). Some of us have no single thing we do well with laser precision. (Does this resonate with you?) It’s possible to feel confusion about how we can serve others.
Some talents reside closer to the surface. When my friend needs line editing or proofing done, that seems natural. If my son needs a ride somewhere, the driving is nearly automatic. My education and experience in some areas make gifting myself a matter of decision (willingness). My skill set isn’t challenged as much as my heart to serve graciously. I cherish the “easy” tasks—the low-hanging fruit—I simply have to choose to engage my heart, especially when I’m unaware of the far-reaching effects hidden from view.
When I offer the “gift of me,” I have to assess what God has placed in me (talents and experience), what excites me (passion), and where I can be effective (circle of influence, resources, and time I have). I have to be completely honest with God, myself, and others because I have a heart to have influence and impact in a number of areas. I want to be everywhere and try anything. Then Paul reminds me:
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12 CSB
We each need to identify who we are in service to others. For me, that can be as basic as knowing my math limitations. It’s embracing my heart for toddlers and the reality of their dependence. I may want to serve my neighbor, but language and cultural barriers should be acknowledged. My passion, education, and experience have real limits. I have to honestly ask—what has God put in me?
Then there are times we ask what God is ready to pour into us. We’ve talked about “big asks” and times we decide to serve others in ways that require sacrifice, God-given strength, and endurance. When we gift ourselves for someone’s blessing this way because we’ve been led to it by the Spirit of God, we get to the heart of the gift, the central part of our heart and our purpose. The gift is more significant because it requires unique sacrifice. The gift is bigger than we can muster (we can’t take credit), and the effect is often more than we can even hope (we couldn’t make it happen alone). When we make our whole self available to God for his power and purposes, crazy-awesome things can happen! I think that’s the essence of loving God with your whole heart, mind, and strength.
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism). That, friends, is our soul purpose in this life and the next. Any gift each one of us gives can line up with that, but do the intentional heart, mind, and strength checks regularly. My purpose is not to proofread, but proofreading can serve in a significant, impactful way. The relationship with the author may be influential. The content of the proofread text may have far-reaching effects. My purpose is not to drive, but the time I choose to chauffeur may impact the life of my son or someone he encounters. The prayer I pray in uncertainty with faith in the One who hears it may be the opportunity God uses in my life and the one I pray for. Each of these gifts I give reside at different depths of who I am, but they are opportunities to serve and bless someone.
We all have a range of opportunities and things to offer. Will you lean in? Will you give the gift of you? I wonder what had God placed in you…
The gift of you (your talent, education, experience, and passion) is a blessing to you in order to be a blessing. How can you line up all of who you are and everything you’ve been equipped to do with your God-given purpose? What do you think? Comment below or at our Facebook Page.
Happy holy days from my heart to yours!