When Jim and I celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony last October, we received so many wonderful gifts. We left them all, unopened, at my parent’s house until November, when we returned to visit my sister and brother-in-law and their three young children.
My niece and nephews arrived a few days before we did and were awestruck at the pile of gifts at Grandma and Grandpa’s. They were impressed to learn that these belonged to Aunt Alison and Uncle Jim and eagerly obliged when we enlisted their help to (carefully) unwrap them.
While Jim and I were quite happy to receive the useful appliances and lovely décor that our friends had picked out just for us, our niece and nephews were unimpressed, and even a bit disappointed that the pressure cooker, crystal vase and induction stove-top held zero prospect for their afternoon playtime.
What a pity. All these gifts, and their aunt and uncle hadn’t received a single toy.
They would have preferred Thomas the Tank Engine or stuffed animals, but for Jim and I the gifts we received were perfect, just what two people starting a household together needed.
Corinthians tells us that God gives us just what we need, but they are not the same for everyone: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts by the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”
One of my favorite things about working in a parish is witnessing the reality of what St. Paul wrote the Corinthians. People put their God-given gifts and talents at the service of building up the Body of Christ in so many different ways — some are teachers, some are especially gifted with hospitality; some have more obscure but critical talents such as crafting schedules or obtaining donations and sponsorships.
So how does one discover their God-given gifts?
Prayer is a good way to begin. I’m amazed that often simply asking God what to do produces a phone call, email or bulletin announcement with an appeal that is perfectly suited for me. Another way to unwrap one’s gifts is to consider how hobbies and interests could be used at the service of the Body of Christ.
I’ve seen this unfold in so many interesting ways: A Scouting leader who led a class on Catholicism for the Boy Scouts in town. Accountants who volunteer to assist with budgeting and income taxes. A teen who channeled her love of fashion into re-constructing used formal dresses into new ones for girls in need of prom dresses. There is no limit to the ways that one’s gifts can be used in service to others.
My niece and nephews looked at our wedding gifts with confusion, but they were perfect for Jim and I. In the same way, we’ll find so many ways to serve the Body of Christ when we look at what we, not our neighbors, have been given and discern how our gifts can give glory to God.