This weekend just gone, we had our Women’s Retreat. The intentional pause it creates gave way to meaty conversations – the sort that generally can’t be contained to a regular Sunday morning. It was also an opportunity for a bunch of quality teaching and some general down time to reflect and think. It’s a time when we grow stronger as a community and as individuals within this community.
It was Saturday night when we settled in for a session of teaching when Floss dropped a familiar line. Well, all too familiar to me.
From the one time I tried out Sunday School, right up to a few weeks ago, I’d heard it declared. It was always delivered with sincerity, conviction, as a truth and with encouragement. I knew my response to it was always a little off, though. I wanted to meet the declaration head on, with the belief, satisfaction and wonder it intends to provoke. I felt myself mentally resign, but sat, knowing it’d function as a nugget of encouragement that someone needed to hear. After all, it was a legit thing, it said so in the Bible. To me, it sounded cosy and sweet, but no one was a winner.’
‘Each one of you are speciaI’.
I quickly re-digested my thoughts. “If each and every one of us is unique, important, adorned with God-given gifts and is ‘special’, doesn’t this also imply ‘the same?’ How does ‘special’ hold its weight when it’s spread thin among all of us?”
To say that quality was represented in the women surrounding me was an understatement. I recalled earlier when I’d observed women who were quick thinking and articulate, women who could play instruments and sing, women who were bold with prayer, and women who were brilliant teachers. And that was just the morning. I fancied their gifts.
Floss continued. She fleshed it out. She spoke about what it was to be ‘special’ in terms of our gifting. She also gave us a box. The idea that the gifts God has for each one of us making us ‘special’ hangs on the fact that that they ‘belong’ to us. They were strategically ordained and given to us, by God, from the beginning. The gifts were placed in our laps and we had a choice: to observe the box, observe others’ boxes, comment on the box, and put it aside, or open the box, discover its contents, learn how the contents function and then use what’s inside.
It was later I Googled some definitions. It offered two for ‘special’: 1. better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual. 2. belonging specifically to a particular person or place. ‘Better’ and ‘belonging’. Both filed under the same definition.
The first definition is where I placed ‘special’. It was great, it was better, and it was different. It stood out. To be told that I was special meant that I was achieving much, standing taller and my gifts were something to behold. To be told this as a collective didn’t make sense.
The second, reconfigured my brain completely. For something to belong specifically, it’s got to be given specifically. Once it’s received and owned, it’s special because of it’s specificity.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
God distributes all of these gifts and He ordains, specifically and individually. By His Spirit He provides the opportunity and time to discover, understand and activate them, for His purposes, which thankfully are good. I love that in it all, as individuals, we can enjoy all the benefits of this distribution as we live and interact in that ‘collective’. It’s spread thick, because He made us, specifically special.