All of us are gifted by God to build up his kingdom. “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (1 Pt 4:10) Take an honest assessment of your gifts. What are your natural talents and interests? What puts a sparkle in your eyes? Sometimes we suffer a mismatch. We fell into or were pressured into serving in an area for which we just don’t have the gifts. (That would be me on the finance committee.)
The source of that sparkle in your eyes is the divine life within you. The deepest desires of your heart are what God wants for you; after all, he fashioned you to have those desires. Are you really a catechist, passionate about forming young people in the faith? Do you have an artistic sense for creating a prayerful environment? Do you have the gift of hospitality? Would you love to cook for events like funeral luncheons? What are your real gifts and what needs do the parish or the wider community have for those gifts? We serve the Lord joyfully when our gifts and the needs of the church and the world are a closer match.
Overuse of gifts is often a factor in ministerial burnout. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, we keep using our same muscles (gifts) over and over again in a repetitive motion, without resting or allowing time for replenishment. We end up sore and dissatisfied, and in dire need of a sabbatical. Take one!
Yes, your women’s group will continue just fine without you. Your leaving may, in fact, open an opportunity for someone else to respond with her own gifts. Jesus told his disciples: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” (Mk 6:30-31) Perhaps it’s time to heed that message.
Is the Lord nudging you back home at this point on the journey? Is your family overloaded with commitments? Is your home lacking peace and order? Could your marriage use an infusion of quality time? Does your extended family have immediate needs: aging parents, siblings with health or financial problems, members drifting apart? Often our real ministry is close to home, and we neglect the opportunity for service that God has placed right in front of us. Mother Teresa said, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
How is your prayer life? Do you have quality time with the Lord every day? Are you in touch with God’s Word through Scripture study or lectio divina? Do you do regular spiritual reading? I suggest Fr. Ronald Rolheiser’s “The Holy Longing” as a good pick for people just starting to do spiritual reading.
Is there a need for reconciliation in your life and have you availed yourself of the sacrament in the last six months? Have you scheduled your yearly retreat? Do you meet regularly with a spiritual director?
In the life of Jesus we see a wonderful balance of the “inner” life (prayer, solitude, alone time), and the “outer” life (preaching, teaching, healing). Our ministries flow best from deep prayer and reflection. In turn, our experiences of service nourish our prayer and reflection, resulting in what Meister Eckhart (13th century mystic of our tradition) called “a going out, and a going in.”
Your hope is that your kids are picking up on your commitment of service to the parish. Are they also “catching” the need for prayer, spiritual reading, solitude and service to those closest to them? Take your current dilemma to prayer and God will show you a clear path. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17)
(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats, and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke,” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)