Sharpen your strengths
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
1 Corinthians 12:17-21
The past few weeks, we’ve been working through personality testing and spiritual gifts at Echo Bay Community Church. By now there are few surprises, I’ve done these a few times.
But the first few times I did them? I thought there must be some mistake.
Why would God give me an aptitude for leadership? Or wisdom or teaching?
As I grew into roles of leadership and teaching in high school, I started to appreciate the fact that God had gifted me differently.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:11
See, I think if I was more naturally a “girly girl,” I would have used those gifts in women’s ministry.
I think if I had talent in music or kids, I would have dove into them too.
But God made me just as I am, so I would keep pursuing the call. As the part of the body He made me to be.
Understanding that in high school was a game changer.
I began to see results! I grew in confidence and experience.
I started to lead Bible studies and even speak to groups (although not well, yet!)
I loved to bring people together and get us moving on things.
I took groups on road trips to music festivals. Planned dinners. Got creative with outreach events. Did massive giveaways with our club.
Found success (and challenge) by stepping into that leadership at a Christian club and in our church’s youth ministry.
And a whole lot more.
Other things, like planning concerts and a lock-in event for hundreds of students at high school (a bit of an ambitious project for a grade 12 student!) happened with much more mixed results! Both big wins and big flaws – and as a result, big lessons.
But my confidence was good. My experience was getting better. I could see myself failing forward instead of finding failure final.
I remember talking with my high school principal about the lock-in event.
I realized afterwards I had tried to do WAY too much on my own. Cleanup had to be better. I had needed to delegate better. And so I was disappointed with some of it. And when he said there were some issues with this event – given the logistics of hundreds of students… I totally agreed.
But he also talked about how impressive it was to pull off a huge event for that many students at my age. How he appreciated the value it added to the school and what had been accomplished.
And I didn’t realize it was impressive. I didn’t expect to hear that part.
I didn’t think it was anything special.
By that point, I was just like “well, it’s what I do.”
I wish so much I had more mentors during that time of my life.
There were a few times I tried to find one, or asked to be connected with someone to mentor me. But the same culture of mentorship didn’t exist back then. Now I find people really get the reality and need for being mentored.
There are a million ways I could have made less stupid mistakes. People that could have helped me grow in speaking or leading. But I’m grateful for the growth that came from doing these things, even when it was alone and I was unsure of the path forward.
The next few anecdotes are not all sequential. They’re how God worked in a period of 2-3 years to shape and refine what would happen next. And they paved the way to Bible college and discerning the next part of my call.
Shutting doors and changing schools
I’d stepped up in leadership at school and church. I was working part-time. Kept up the sports and theatre and whatever else that time of year brought. When a family member became very ill and lived with us, that put too much on my plate.
My grades took a nosedive. Half my classes went downhill: science and math.
While that was a painful experience, I learned a lot about relying on God and not my marks. About being more open about the situations happening in my life. Not trying to handle them all myself.
And now my career scope was narrower too. I’d never seriously thought I could do engineering or math or anything of the sort anyway. But now it definitively wasn’t going to happen.
After graduating Grade 12, we still had “Grade 13” before university. (This is the old way high school used to work. If you went to university, you did an extra year).
Most of my friends had fast-tracked, finishing a semester early.
So I thought “well, if God’s calling me to ministry… even if its a big “maybe”? I may as well head to public high school for a semester.” The one near my house wouldn’t take a new student for that semester.
However, I’d played rugby for another school not far away, and they were happy to take my transfer!
High / low
When our youth pastor had left before this, I had stepped in to help out more with youth leadership. I learned a lot in the interim and was grateful for the opportunity. Some people began to affirm that leadership.
But my failures weighed on me too. Especially one club at school I had worked hard on the past year But it just didn’t seem to get momentum.
There was a different supervisor in place than prior years. We were still adjusting to a new building. And while we pulled off some great events, I didn’t feel people were on board. The club was smaller and I thought it should be bigger.
I felt like I had squandered the opportunity and failed them in the process. It made me doubt if I was truly able to lead people. And I still wondered if it was my place at all.
Taking care of business
While I believe God speaks, I’m very skeptical in believing that things are truly His voice.
So when I attended an event and went forward for prayer…. I was a little suspicious of the message the speaker told me.
They had said to me “God wants you to know… it isn’t your fault.”
And I wanted to believe that. About the club not going well. About it not measuring up to what I thought it should be. About that not meaning I just wasn’t cut out for this.
But I also wondered… is that the sort of generic thing the guy just says to everyone he prays for?
And the way he said it… did he think there was some sort of abuse or trauma in my past? Because there isn’t.
I want to believe the Holy Spirit… but I don’t want to accept this if it’s not Him!
Don’t tap out
My mom asked if I knew what the speaker had meant by that. I said yeah, maybe… But the way he said it? I think the speaker had something else in mind. He probably thought I was dealing with something different.
Then my mom said something amazing.
See, we used to live in the country and we had well water. The water was fine.
But the pipes were old. Rust and chunks could come up sometimes. You never knew when your bath or dishwashing would be interrupted with a glob of something off-colour.
What my mom said then was:
The Holy Spirit is always right. God is never wrong. But he speaks through us to each other.
And we can be rusty taps.
We can add our own flavour or tone to things.
Chunks can come through that aren’t the goodness He intends. Because he uses us: imperfect people.
But his message is true. And if we test that against the Bible, good judgment, the community of God? We can accept what God says through people. What the Holy Spirit says.
And I knew what God had said here. I knew what he was talking about. (Even if that speaker guy didn’t).
That gave me confidence to carry on. To be open to where God would take this thing.
So one night I had picked up a magazine.
A men’s magazine, of all things. One my dad had brought home from church. (I kept this magazine ever since that night. It’s on my bookshelf downstairs right now).
One article was about discerning the call to ministry.
I had asked that question a thousand times in the past four years.
I had read books on discerning the will of God. Of how he speaks. Submitting to Him, the community of faith, of not running ahead of the Lord’s will.
I had prayed time and time again.
And as I read this article every word confirmed it: this is what you’re made for. You can’t do anything else. This is your call. And it burned in my heart.
The capstone, the top of all the soul work God had been building in my life.
There was no other way it could have happened. No other road.
And I was called to this.
I still had to work out that question about women in ministry. I still wasn’t sure if I was legitimately allowed to do this. But I’d seen enough of God’s hand that I knew the next step.
And now… I had to tell my parents.
10. The path of wisdom
11. Redeemed and resurrected
12. Three big lies
13. Courage to change
14. Adulting is hard…
15. And mentoring is harder
16. Bombs and truth bombs
17. Females and finances
18. Two hundred bad sermons
19. Evangelical, Pentecostal, Female, and Not Alone
20. Strong arms or feeble hands?
21. Strength to strength