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Jack Didn’t Know Just How Gifted He Was; Do You Know Your Gifts?

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Let me (the Reverend) introduce you to a man named Jack. Jack was a member of the congregation I served in rural, northwest Ohio. When I arrived in the community I had a fair number of books with me and there were no shelves in the pastor’s study. Someone asked Jack if he might be willing to build some bookshelves for me. Apparently, Jack could build anything.

One day I was working away in my study when out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone coming up the outside steps. It was Jack. He peered in the window but when he saw me he quickly turned around and bounded down the steps. So I opened the door and called out to him. He kept moving in the other direction while telling me that he would come back to work on the shelves when I wasn’t working. I told him to please come on in and work, that it wouldn’t bother me at all. He very reluctantly agreed after a lot of insistence from me.

Over the course of the next few weeks I got to know Jack as he worked on the shelves and I worked on my sermons. I sat there in awe at this man’s gifts. He cut things and they actually fit together. And before long this beautiful set of shelves appeared on my walls.

I was equally impressed by his humility. He wasn’t overly impressed with himself or his gifts. That’s why I think he was surprised when I said to him one day, “Jack, I am really amazed by your gifts.” His response: “Just don’t ever ask me to preach.”

That exchange with Jack happened fifteen years ago, but it was rattling around again in my head and heart recently. In the religious world, we talk a lot about our “calling” in life. It simply refers to the composite of gifts, passions, talents, inclinations, vision and life experiences. It is another way of describing our sense of purpose.

I wonder if you could clarify, expound, distill and explain your calling…your purpose. Could you? We are all uniquely designed with gifts, talents, experiences, passions and inclinations to fulfill a particular task in life. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

“Coming to life” means that we become joyful and satisfied human beings because we are living in our gifts and expressing our true selves. When we live deeply into our callings we feel most-fully alive. Because the truth of the matter is, this is truly what we were made for.

The celebrated theologian and author Frederick Buechner has one of the best definitions of our calling. He says it is, “…the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The beauty of discovering your purpose and calling is that it not only enriches your life, it is also a place that enriches the world.

May you discover that place. It is a beautiful place.

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

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