In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells us that each person has at least one spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:7), and that every gift is valuable and equally important to the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:21-30).
In our humanness we may find this hard to accept. I have always admired (and if the truth be told, sometimes envied) those who have one spiritual gift that stands out and defines their Christian journey of sanctification and service. These people are the long distance runners of the church. Folks like the church musicians who sing on the choir or play the organ for a lifetime; the dedicated teachers who serve in the Sunday School for years and years, praying for and inspiring their students; or the talented workers who can paint, build or fix almost anything around the church building.
I guess I’m more of a sprinter. In my years as a Christian and active church member I’ve done all sorts of jobs, big and small. I’ve served on the church council and cooked soup for Lenten dinners; I’ve led Sunday School classes for children and retreats for adults; I’ve been an altar guild member and a newsletter editor. I do a task for a while and then my gift cluster or my life circumstances seem to morph and change and I feel compelled to move onto something else. Yet there is a part of me that wants to find my one true vocation and stick to it.
Recently I was bemoaning this to my husband. “Why can’t I find that special gift that God wants me to use?” I asked. Terry thought about that for a while and finally said, “Honey, maybe you should think of yourself as a utility player.” Not being a big sports fan, I had to look into what a utility player is. Here’s what I found out. Utility players are seldom stars, but they are competent at a number of things. They can fill into different areas as needed and do just fine. Utility players may not be well known to the fans, but they can be extremely valuable to the coach. They help keep the team going, especially when a key player is injured or unable to play.
Since then, I’ve felt better about my role. Saint Paul was right; we need long distance runners but we also need sprinters. We need amazing batters and pitchers and we need competent utility players. A free and living congregation needs us all.
“But in fact, God has arranged 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?” 1 Cor. 12: 1
Originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador.