The cow was one of the worst gifts I ever got. In a departure from his usual Scrooge-like behavior, my boss at the time decided to give his staff Christmas gifts of little Cow Parade statuettes that depicted characters from the Wizard of Oz. One of the assistants got a Glinda the Good cow, one of the other lawyer-ettes got Dorothy. I got the Wicked Witch of the West. Rather than hang my warty, green face in shame, I cleared off a special shelf to display my cow. After all, as my friend, Dave, commented, it’s not like most of us made out well in this exchange. Would I rather have gotten the character without the heart or brain? It got me thinking, do we really appreciate the gifts we have been given, even when we think they are unwanted? Or, do we spend our time fighting against them, wishing we had everyone else’s gifts?
I have news for you. We can’t all get Glinda the Good. While at first glance, this story may not seem to have much to do with stewardship, bear with me. As Catholics, we are constantly called to make use of our spiritual gifts. These are graces from the Holy Spirit that we should use to build up the Kingdom of God. For years, I wandered around in a spiritual gift discernment fog, wondering what this meant. There is no exhaustive list of gifts that we can consult, but I Corinthians 12:7–11 does lists nine gifts of the Spirit, often referred to as “charisms”: Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits and the gift of tongues. Not much guidance. The routine mantra of “time, talent, and treasure” is bandied about a lot; but, I generally have no time, little treasure and nonspecific talents (see “charisms”). Despite my best efforts, I am not handy, I do not sing or play an instrument, I do not cook, knit, sew, or even crochet.
What to do? Luckily, I am not alone. Right on the front of its website, my parish has an online spiritual gifts inventory questionnaire you can take, based on the Spiritual Gifts Inventory developed by Michael Anne Haywood. Answer 115 question and Voila!- You have a list of your Spirit-given gifts, along with a brief explanation, meditation passage from scripture and a list of parish ministries that might be suited to your talents. Someone will even call you to discuss your gifts. Well, that seems almost too easy.
How did I do? The test is very diplomatic. Rather than saying you are awesome at some things and horrible at others, there are four categories: “You are either doing this or you should be,” “You could easily do this if you want to,” “You would probably have to work hard to do this gracefully” (my favorite), and “You would probably not enjoy doing this.” I only had one gift listed in this last category: Musician. I bet the Wicked Witch never had to take piano lessons.
In the lead category of “You are or should be doing this,” I got: Administration, faith, knowledge, and trust. I actually don’t consider myself a very trusting person so that was a surprise. I think that, despite her obvious faults, the Wicked Witch was an excellent administrator. The way those guards marched? Those flying monkey uniforms? Please. Maybe my boss was on to something.
Under “You could easily do this if you wanted to,” I had many, many more options: Apostleship (?), discernment (OK), evangelization (meh), encouragement (me?), generosity (no, thanks), hospitality (too lazy), intercession (hmmm), servant leader (Did I mention I am really good at delegating?), prophet (!), service (ha!), teacher (no way), and wisdom (intriguing).
On the other end of the spectrum, in the category of “You would probably have to work hard to do this gracefully” are the following: Caregiving, craftsmanship, healing, mercy, missionary, and communication. Wow. I think most of those qualities would be necessary for motherhood. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not – Oh, wait. I am a mom. Sorry kids.
The Spiritual Gifts Inventory really helped me see that I do have some talents. Now I just need to figure out the best way to use them, which is where stewardship comes in. I need to focus on what I can do, not what I wish I could do. The results also gave me an idea of areas in which I can realistically stretch myself. I will never be the person who can belt out the Ave Maria, but I bet I could organize the heck out of a service that included the Ave Maria. I would try to remember to keep the poppies out of the altar arrangements, though.
As we re-organize out our gift closets this January, let’s remember to look inside as well. What are you waiting for? Don’t make me send my flying monkeys out after you. Get your Spiritual Gift Inventory in order today!
Love to you and your little dog, too,