I was sitting in the office of my advisor at Garrett Theological Seminary. It was my last appointment on the last day of my final week in seminary. And it was a time of endings and new beginnings except that my new beginning was still unknown.
The year was 1970 and I was one of only two women preparing to graduate from seminary that year. My graduation was controversial at the very least and questionable constantly. I was a married woman with three children. Surely my life was more appropriately spent being a wife and mother than engaged in ministry which was a very full-time occupation.
But God had brought me into ministry and I had passed all my course work.
The only remaining activity was a closing visit with my advisor and any shared wisdom he had to offer. We had spent very little time together but I knew him to be a quiet, thoughtful person who was a local psychiatrist whom the seminary had hired to make sure we were emotionally healthy before we went into our first job as ordained ministers.
The Assessment of My Skills
After we accomplished the necessary steps to take before graduation, we sat in silence and shared discomfort. Our only relationship had been a monthly meeting to “discuss cases” of students I was working with. He had very little to say about either my skills or my behavior. I knew I was entering the ministry as an unwanted student because I had entered the ministry at a time when women did Sunday School, not ministry.
Finally, he stood up, cleared his throat, looked directly at me and pronounced his assessment of my skills for ministry. His words were direct, short and unemotional.
“You have the “gift” NOW USE IT!” He turned around, walked to the door and left the room.
I sat in silence. Stunned, surprised, I replayed those words in my heart and spirit. “You have the gift, now use it”. A two second pronouncement of my fitness for ministry. I had “passed” the final interview and could prepare for the graduation ceremony. Any thoughts or hopes for a welcoming message disappeared immediately. Apparently, I was now heading for a career in ministry. I had been accepted but the words were a preview of the reality that was to come.
Words of Truth
Now that I have completed fifty-three years of ministry, I have come to deeply appreciate the truth and the powerful value of those words: “You have the gift, now use it”. They turned out to be words of absolute truth.
The gift I carried was simple and direct. I could listen and deeply value every person who came to talk with me. Their words…their concerns…their pain…their confusion always resonated with the gift I had received. I could listen and be present without having to heal their pain or reconstruct their future.
The work of healing belongs to God. My job was to listen and to value each person who came to see me. My trust in God as healer was absolute and permanent.
My world had become a place to recognize and share God’s presence with us.
When we recognize the reality of that gift, we can make God a partner in our life’s work of growth and change. And that’s when we begin to understand and use the gifts God has given to each of us.
“YOU HAVE THE GIFT. NOW USE IT”.
For Reflection (either individually or with a group)
Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Take these questions for a walk in the woods or in your neighborhood, for a swim or a run or for a hot soak in the tub. Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee.
- Have you been given a gift from God? If so, what is the gift?
- If you don’t think you have a God-given gift, what do friends and family think are your gifts?
- How have you used your gift to support God’s healing power?
- Are there any additional creative ways you might use your gift to be a blessing to others?
Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.