How Our Gifts Can Flourish

by Mark Votava

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I used to think that I had no gifts to offer anyone.  I was depressed, isolated and beaten down by life.  My confidence was gone and my self-esteem suffered.  I became detached and unaware of my true self.  The self that was authentic, full of love, wisdom, kindness, grace and serenity.

After many years I began to think about community more.  What could this look like?  How could I root myself in a place seeing this place as my parish, the place where I share life with others and practice a spirituality of love in everyday life.  The church as I had known it offered very little to me as far as encouraging me on an authentic, vulnerable path.

So I do not believe in the systems that we call “church” anymore that do not support a person’s life of authenticity.  I have become so disillusioned about everything.  The love of God is so beautiful to me, but the church systems that we have created do not manifest that love very much.  Often times our church systems create a rigid life of conformity, judgment and oppressive hierarchies which make almost no room for community among us.

How can anyone find their giftedness in all of this?  How can we manifest community in all of this?  How can we find a rootedness in all of this?  How can we find some peace in all of this?

It seems my various gifts as I live rooted in my local community have not been seen and valued by what we call the “church” as we know it.  This has made me angry in the past, but I am over it.  I don’t care what others think anymore.  I am learning to take responsibility for my own feelings.

What we have labeled as “church” in North America no longer makes sense to me.  It seems not to recognize the gifts we all bring to each other’s lives as neighbors.  When the church has more focus on mobility, wealth and buildings it becomes lame in my opinion and losses all meaning to me.  I want to have a rooted faith in my local community where I can live in simplicity, love and humility as I share life together with others in everyday life.

I don’t want to “go to church” in a building that boxes me up and secludes me from society.  I want to be the church in a place together with others where I experience community, love, grace, compassion, honesty, vulnerability, friendship and hospitality.  This is where our gifts can flourish!

  •  All of us have gifts to contribute

All of us have gifts to contribute to our locality.  There are many ways to contribute our lives to the lives of others in the place that we inhabit together.  All of us have relational gifts that contribute to the local fabric of social care in the parish.

  •  Using our gifts for the common good

Brian D. McLaren says, “We should use our gifts for the common good…” 

  •  Our gifts live within us all

Our gifts are manifested in our humanity naturally through relational integration.  Our gifts live within us all.  We have gifts of love, gifts of grace, gifts of humility, gifts of authenticity, gifts of listening, gifts of compassion, gifts of presence, gifts of honesty, gifts of vulnerability, gifts of empathy, gifts of friendship, gifts of reconciliation, gifts of forgiveness, gifts of nonviolence, gifts of sensuousness, gifts of celebration, gifts of joy, gifts of seeing beauty, gifts of kindness, gifts of gentleness, gifts of peace, gifts of patience, gifts of learning from others and gifts of passion.

  •  Relational engagement with others in everyday life

Gifts don’t necessarily have to do with skills that we do; but are more about the things we manifest within us through relational engagement with others in everyday life.  We have a multitude of gifts living within us all; but they cannot develop without an integration of taking ownership, investing and responsibility in a place.  These gifts are place-based and flourish within the parish imagination for the common good.

What gifts do you have that sometimes go ignored?