Pathways through Lent

Measuring Out our Gifts

Psalm 84:1-6
Isaiah 63:7-9
Ephesians 4:11-16
Matthew 21:12-16

Lent is a time for self-reflection, but that reflection can easily slide into measuring ourselves against others. So what if I always make sure I have cash to buy Street Sense from vendors near my office? Unlike others, I have not advocated for homeless rights in D.C., served food to the homeless every Saturday morning, or volunteered at an international orphanage. How can staying up late listening to friends who need a shoulder compare to joining the Peace Corp, digging wells in Africa, or working part-time at a non-profit? Suddenly, self-reflection has us feeling that we are not doing enough to save the world as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mother Theresa, or Joan of Arc would.

Perhaps, like me, such thoughts leave you feeling that the gifts you have to offer God and your community are simply not enough. Perhaps, like me, you suddenly start configuring your calendar to try and squeeze in more volunteering or other activities, as other “good people do.” I imagine I’m not alone in such thinking because we are in D.C.. Here there is a rat race to be excellent in your career, to be with an excellent partner, to be an exceptional parent, and, perhaps sometimes, to be an exemplary member of the church.

And yet, the dirty secret is that pushing ourselves relentlessly towards this unachievable perfection does the opposite of bringing us closer to God. A God who gave us the gifts we offer others. A God who decided upon a universe where people have different strengths and weaknesses so that together as a community, not as individuals, we create a whole. I hope you’ll join me this Lent in honoring the unique gifts we each have to share, and in reminding ourselves that God cares that we try, not that we’re perfect.

– Kathryn Pharr

April 8 - Gifts

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3 thoughts on “Measuring Out our Gifts”

  1. This hits upon something I’ve noted, namely, the lure of evident achievement: We want our actions or abilities to be noticed. It’s natural, but it can lead to a skewed perspective of what we ought to do with our lives.

  2. Very good. I think the description of life in D.C. hits the mark especially well. The true invitation from the Holy Spirit is to do something right now, where you are. Talk to the person next to you on the bus, help your spouse with the grocery bag, dampen down resentment toward a colleague. Being open to these invitations helps all the rest of the stuff take care of itself . .

  3. You hit the nail on the head, Kathryn! There’s that part of my psyche that wants to chalk up my latest volunteer activity alongside my latest professional achievement as though the kingdom of heaven were a reward for much busywork. The works of God in us are best seen when we get the focus off our achievements and onto the real good God has given us to do in our world.

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