Discovering our Spiritual Gifts

spiritual gifts3

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

There are three primary areas in the New Testament where a listing of Spiritual Gifts can be found: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

– Romans 12:6-8

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

– 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

– Ephesians 4:11-12

Divine Design

Everyone has a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Peter 4:10), and some may have more than one spiritual gift. No gift is more important than the other. All are needed, and if you have more than one gift, it is because those gifts are perfectly suited for your role within the Kingdom of God. The discovery of your spiritual gift(s) takes place gradually. It is a process. Our gifts are discovered through the process of our spiritual formation. Our spiritual gifts are not to be confused with spiritual fruits (Galatians 5:22-23). Spiritual fruits are our Christian character, but spiritual gifts are our Christian service. It’s important to remember that Christian service and spiritual gifts are not necessarily tied to an office or position within a church. Everyone has a spiritual gift, but not everyone is called to work for a church or ministry. Those positions are selected and appointed by humans, but our spiritual gifts are selected and appointed by God. Your personal ministry can be just as effective at your home, in your school, at your work, or in a park as it can be within a church building. It is also important to make sure our spiritual gifts are not confused with our natural talents and abilities. Those gifts may coincide with our spiritual gifts, but our spiritual gifts go beyond our natural skills and abilities. They are spiritual because they are supernatural. The are divinely designed and given to followers of Jesus to expand and edify His Church. The purpose of our spiritual gifts is to serve and glorify God. As J. Oswald Sanders said, “The possessor is only the instrument and not the receiver of the glory.” Therefore, we must be careful not to abuse or neglect our spiritual gifts. There are great leaders and great orators who have used their God-given gifts for selfish and worldly reasons. We can’t fall into that trap, though Satan will try to entangle us.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

– 1 Peter 4:11 NASB

Diverse Design

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NLT

As the body of Christ, we all have a vital role to play. We all need each other. Our gifts compliment one another. Our strengths cover one another’s weaknesses. Our gifts are different, but they’re all connected. Our arms can’t reach out without our brain functioning behind the scenes telling it what to do. Our legs can’t move without the muscles inside holding us up and allowing us to put one foot in front of the other. When we reach to grab hold of something, it’s because all our fingers are coming together to bear the weight of it. No part of our body is more important than the other. The body moves and operates because of everything working together. The value is in the unity. The value is in the diversity. The value is in the divine mystery of the design.

Just as we are one body with many parts, we are one spirit with many gifts. Our gifts make the most sense within the context of community. We find fulfillment when we find our place within the Kingdom. A solitary puzzle piece seems to serve no purpose until it’s connected with other varying shapes and colors. And that finished puzzle would be glaringly incomplete if not for that one single piece to bring it all together. God knows where to place us. We all have a purpose. He knows who we need by our side to compliment us. He knows who will challenge us, who will strengthen us, and who will encourage us. He brings all the pieces together at just the right time. Psalm 68:6 says He places the lonely in families. Ephesians 1:5 says He adopts us into His own family. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

Unwrapping our Spiritual Gifts

The word gift in the original Greek is “charisma” and “charisma” comes from the Greek word “charis” which means grace. This tells us that our spiritual gifts are a gift of grace. This tells us our spiritual gifts are given to us by God. We don’t choose our spiritual gifts; we receive them. We cannot earn them; they are freely given to us. They are unmerited and undeserved. Therefore, we have no basis on which to boast of ourselves. “If I must boast,” the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:30, “I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” Our spiritual gifts should reveal our weaknesses, because our weaknesses reveal God’s strength. Moses was slow of speech, but God gifted him to lead the children of Israel out of slavery. David was an adulterer, but through that affair, Solomon and all of his wisdom was born. Paul murdered Christians, but when God transformed His life, He gifted him to write over half the books of the New Testament. God works in our weakness, and God works through our weakness.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken.'”

– Jeremiah 10:23-24 NLT

Paul references this passage from Jeremiah when he is addressing the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians chapter 10. In this passage, Paul was speaking to the Corinthians about false teachers who were boasting about themselves. “Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are!” he writes. “They are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” (v.12). He goes on to say, “We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us…” (v. 13). We can’t compare our spiritual gifts to the gifts and abilities of others around us, because that’s where both pride and shame are born. Self-righteousness starts to creep in when we start to see ourselves as better than others around us because of the things we do or the gifts we have. We may see the areas where others fall short, but we’re too short-sighted to see the grander design that God has in mind. We may make sure others see and know what we’re doing in public, but we don’t see what they’re doing in private. We boast about our abilities and accomplishments because we want the attention and affirmation of other people. We want their praise and commendation, but as the apostle Paul says, that doesn’t count for much. In 2 Corinthians 10:18 he says, “When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.” We can’t pat ourselves on the back and puff our chests out, because human beings are not our standard of measurement. Our spiritual gifts and abilities are not based on our natural gifts and abilities, they are supernatural. They are divinely designed. They are gifts of God. We did not earn them, we do not deserve them, and we have no right to boast about them. We boast only in the one who gives them to us.

What is the opposite of being boastful? Being bashful. We can be full of pride, or we can be full of shame, and neither are helpful for advancing the work of the Kingdom. Our spiritual gifts are just that, they are gifts. And a gift is no good if we never unwrap it, take it out of the box, and put it to use. I can’t help but think that many of us are like children who are so fascinated by the box itself that we neglect the gift inside. The gift inside was one that our parents put forth a lot of time, effort, and money to be able to give us. There is a cost attached to the gift. A great price was paid for us to receive it. And we’re too busy playing with the box.

We have to step outside of our comfort zones. We have to stop playing the comparison game. We have to lay down our pride, and lay down our shame. We have to learn to recognize our gifts as God’s grace given to us. We have to learn to boast in our weakness. We have to learn to boast in Christ Jesus, our Lord, who paid the cost of our sins and covered our weakness through the power of His love on the cross at Calvary. May we embrace our gifts and live fully in the grace He has given. May we use the gifts He has given us to point to Him, and only to Him! May we use our gifts to glorify Him, and only Him! He alone is worthy. It is a gift of grace, lest any man should boast! (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Equipped to Serve

Spiritual gifts are used by God to grow and multiply His Church. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul writes to Timothy, “My dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” This is how the Gospel is spread. We make disciples to make disciples. The goal of discipleship is to make disciple-makers. Matthew 10:8 tells us we’ve received freely, so we ought to give freely. Our spiritual gifts were given freely to us, so we ought to give freely of our gifts. Paul was given a gift of teaching and shepherding, and he taught Timothy how to teach and shepherd. Paul’s gift did not die when he died, it lived on. It’s impact is still being felt in the Church today. We can’t hoard our gifts. We can’t hold on to them. We have to give them out. We have been equipped to serve. We serve by using our gifts to both expand the Church and edify the Church.

How do we Discover our Spiritual Gifts?

We discover our spiritual gifts through the gradual process of internal observation, external exploration, and spiritual confirmation.

Observation – Take a closer look within yourself. Ask yourself, have I received Christ? Am I walking with Him? Do I really want to discover and develop my spiritual gifts? If you really want to take that next step in your spiritual formation, you have to practice the spiritual disciplines, because that’s where God speaks and reveals Himself. That’s where He’ll reveal His purpose to you. In that place of silence and solitude. In that time of study and reflection. In that time of prayer and fasting. In that time of worship. In that time of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to make sure we’re putting those actions into practice in our daily lives so we can put ourselves in a position to hear from God. Then, look at the desires of your heart. What are you passionate about? What stirs your heart and drives you to action? Our feelings should not be the primary motivator for discovering our spiritual gifts, but if we are walking with God and following Him, then they can be a potential indicator of what our gift(s) may be.

Exploration – Expose yourself to Biblical teaching. Read books. Listen to sermons and podcasts. Attend Bible studies. Have conversations with other followers of Christ. Ask for guidance and clarification from your spiritual leaders and mentors. If there’s a gift you desire, ask God. Let your request be made known (Philippians 4:6, James 1:5). Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God’s plans are to prosper us, not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). If we ask for a gift and He doesn’t give it, it’s because He has a greater gift in store. We have to follow where He leads. When He says go, we go. When He says speak, we speak. When He says teach, we teach. When He says help, we help. We will never know what our spiritual gift is unless we try. We have to be willing to try. We have to take action and put forth effort in order to discover how God can and will use us.

Confirmation – When you’re on the right track, God will confirm it. Look for the signs. Listen for the affirmation. Maybe it comes in the form of positive feedback from a trusted spiritual leader. Maybe it comes in the form of a word spoken or an action taken at just the right time. Maybe you’ll see you’ll see the full circle picture of the work God is doing, or maybe you’ll just feel it in your spirit. But when God confirms it to you, you’ll know. Look for it. Listen for it. He’ll show you. He’ll make it clear.

Canvas & Clay: A Study of Spiritual Formation

If I had a coloring book in one hand and a blank canvas in the other, and I asked you to choose which one you wanted – which would you choose?

If you asked for a coloring book, and I handed you a blank canvas – how would you feel?

I don’t know about you, but blank canvases make me nervous. They give me anxiety. There are so many options, and so much room for error. Coloring books are easy. It requires no thought. The lines are already drawn, and you just have to fill it in with colors. With a blank canvas, you’re starting from scratch. Every decision is up to you, and every mistake is your own making.

Have you ever felt like you asked God for a coloring book, and instead He handed you a blank canvas? Lysa Terkeurst talks about this in her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. She describes the end of her marriage as feeling like all the perfectly drawn pages of her coloring book had been erased. She writes, “I opened the coloring book and someone had erased all the beautiful drawn lines. There was nothing but white pages. Empty spaces. Endless possibilities of fear and failure. Metaphorically speaking, my life was now a blank canvas.”

Why do blank canvases fill us with so much fear and anxiety?

I think we are anxious and afraid in these moments of our lives because we are under the impression that we are the artist, and therefore we we are in control of the outcome. We take the weight of that fear of failure on ourselves. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision – drawing the wrong line here, or putting the wrong color there. We’re afraid our bad decisions will mess up the whole painting. But that’s not our burden to bear. Will we make bad decisions in life? Yes, absolutely. But we’re not the artist. We are the canvas. We’re the paintbrush. We’re the color on the pallette. We are the method God is using to paint His masterpiece. And He knows exactly what He’s doing. He takes ALL things and works them together for good – as any masterful artist can and will. Broken pieces? He can use them. A wrong color here, a jagged line there – He’ll smooth out the edges. He’ll add light to the shadows. He’ll blend it together. He’ll make it beautiful. We might not be able to see the finished product yet, and it may get messy in the middle, but we can trust the process. We can trust Him because He knows what He’s doing. God is a creator. It’s what He does. It’s who He is. It’s the first characteristic we see of Him in Scripture. “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth…” The earth was void and formless. It was a blank canvas, and God spoke creation into being.

When God walked this earth in human flesh, He took the role of a carpenter – yet again, a creator. An artist. A skilled craftsman. Where once He took nothing and made something, now He took something and made something different. Where once He created, now He formed. He took that tree He had spoken into existence, and with His hands and a few tools He transformed it into a table or a chair. He took the splintered pieces of wood and smoothed out the edges. He cut it here, and added a nail or two there, until it started to take shape and become something useful and purposeful.

What is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual formation is the process of being formed into the image of Jesus. According to Christianity Today, “To be formed spiritually means to engage in specific practices and disciplines with one clear goal: to draw nearer to God in Christ and so focus less and less on self.” In Isaiah 43:1 the Prophet Isaiah writes, “But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says…” The opening words of this verse are ones we would normally skim over and not give much second thought to, but it speaks a lot of truth in a few simple words. It tells us that formation is different than creation. It tells us that Jacob was created, but Israel was formed.

Creation happens instantaneously. At the moment of conception, life is created. But the formation of that life that takes place over nine months of growth and development in the womb. When we come to Jesus, we become new creations, but that process of becoming like Jesus – that’s a hard fought battle of strength and determination. That’s a wrestling match, and that’s what spiritual formation looks like. In the Old Testament, Israel was the new name Jacob received after his wrestling match with God. Jacob was the name he was given at birth. One name was given to him in a moment, the other was given to him after an all night battle.

To create means “to bring into existence.” When Jacob was born, he came into existence holding on to the heel of his twin brother, Esau. At that time, and in that culture, birth order was important, because it ultimately determined who received the blessing and inheritance of the father. Jacob’s name literally means “deciever” or “supplanter” because he came into the world trying to ussurp the role of the firstborn son. From the moment he was born, Jacob was trying to take what was not his to receive. And as he grew older, he continued to live up to the name that was given to him. Later in life, Jacob tricked and deceived Esau in a moment of weakness to rob him of his birthright. When their father was blinded in old age and on his death bed, Jacob deceived his own father in order to receive the blessing that was intended for Esau.

But in Genesis 32, Jacob found himself nearing an imminent encounter with his brother, and he was afraid that his past would catch up with him. He was afraid that the vengence of Esau would overtake him, his family, and all of his possessions. He sent messengers ahead of him to greet his brother with a gift of peace. He sent his family ahead of him across the stream. And there he waited, all alone. And that night a man came and wrestled him. The man wresteld him until daybreak. When the man could not overtake Jacob, He reached out and touched His hip so it wrenched out of socket. Jacob refused to relent. Even as daybreak broke, he declared, “I will not let go unless you bless me.” Then the man asked a question, “What’s your name?” When Jacob answered this question, He wasn’t just telling his name, he was making a confession. “I am Jacob. I am a deceiver.” And the man replied, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28 NASB). Afterward, Jacob named the place Peniel because he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved” (Genesis 32:30 NASB).

For the first time, Jacob received a blessing that was freely and conciously given to him. It was the first time he asked for a blessing rather than stealing one. He proved he was willing to fight for it. He proved he was willing to suffer for it and sacrifice for it. His battle was a battle to right the wrongs of his past, and he came out victorious, but not without scars. He left with a limp to keep Him humble and remind Him that the victory came only because of God’s mercy and grace. Lies and deception had been the joint and marrow of Jacob’s story, but now he was given a second chance and a new name.

He received this new name through wrestling. The definition of “wrestled” in this passage is “to grapple” or “get dusty” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Definition). This was not a boxing match where they were standing on two feet and throwing punches. This was a wrestling match where they were on the ground, rolling around in the dirt, stirring up dust. As I reflected on this, I was reminded of the creation of Adam in the very beginning of scripture. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (NASB).

We are formed from the dust of the ground. We are formed through wrestling with God in the dust of this earth. We are formed when the breath of God touches the dust of this earth. Did you know that the word “Spirit” comes from the word “pneuma” which literally means “breath”? Did you know that in Hebrew, the name of God which we know as Yahweh cannot even be pronounced, but when attempted, simply sounds like the exhaling of a breath? That is how Holy His Spirit is, and our spiritual formation happens when His Holiness meets our humanity.

Think about this…. Adam was the son of God, created by God and breathed into existence by God. His name means “man” or “earth” and that is exactly what his name represents – the fall of man, this sinful world that we are born into. Jesus is also the son of God, His only begotten son. The word begotten means born. Jesus was not simply created and breathed into existence – He was knit together in His mother’s womb. He was formed, and His name means “God with us.” He is our salvation from the sins of this world. He is our deliverance, our redeemer. It is through Him that we receive the hope of eternal life. It is through Him that we are able to be made new and receive new names.

When God created the heavens and the earth, the word “created” used in the Genesis account means, “to cut” (Strong’s Definition). This is an interesting definition, but it makes so much sense when you think about it. Think about a chisel in the hand of a sculptor, cutting away the stone and bringing life to the beauty hidden within. The famous sculptor, Michaelangelo, is quoted as once saying, “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free.” God spoke creation into being. His Word is His chisel, and His desire is to set us free. His words literally cut through the darkness and bring light into the world. That’s how He creates. That’s how we are created – when His Word cuts through our darkness and chisels away at our hardened hearts. Hebrews 4:12 tells us His word is powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting between the soul and spirit, exposing our innermost thoughts. John 1:1-5 tells us the Word existed in the beginning and gave life to everything that was created. Our creation story is our testimony. What is your story? How did you become a new creation? (For a powerful demonstration of this, watch “God’s Chisel” by the Skit Guys:

If our creation story is our testimony of salvation, then our formation story is the process of our sanctification. It is the process of being shaped into the image of Jesus. Formation is discipleship. A poem by Tquan Moore describes being a disicple of Jesus as being “covered in the dust kicked up by His stride.” It is following so close behind Him that you hear His every breath and cling to His every word. It is walking in His footsteps, and going wherever He leads. It is following His example – living as He lived and loving as He loved. So how are you being formed right now in your walk with Jesus? What are you learning? What questions are you asking? In what areas are you growing? What is challenging you? Do you have a mentor in the faith? Are you being a mentor? Who is pouring into you, and how are you pouring yourself out to others? Discipleship is about more than being a disciple, it’s also about making disciples. Formation is a journey, a process of moving from one place to another. It is a journey from who you are to who you want to be. This type of transformation requires sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2 says to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. It says we are transformed by changing the way we think. We are transformed from the inside out. After his transformation, Jacob walked with a limp, but that limp kept him humble and served as a visual representation of God’s victory over his sinfulness. Paul was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming prideful. Thorns are sharp, they pierce our flesh and expose the blood within, revealing our physical weakness. But Jesus wore our thorns, and His blood brings healing and cleansing. The pain we endure on this earth is temporary, but the purpose it serves is eternal. Keep the faith. Keep pressing forward despite the doubts, discouragement, and difficulties. Spiritual formation is not about perfection, it is about progress. It’s not about what we’re doing but about who we’re becoming.

When you start to doubt, just remember… He is the Artist and the Potter. We are the canvas and the clay. He is not finished with us yet.

Reflection on a Decade


As I reflect back on this past decade, I have so much hope for the road ahead, because I can clearly see how God has been working all things together for good. When I think back and remember who I was on January 1st 2010 – I see so much personal growth. On a day-to-day basis it’s easy to look at my life and be discontent. This isn’t the way I pictured it. I should be doing more. I should have accomplished more. There are so many goals I set for myself and never completed. But on January 1st 2010 I was a shy, high school senior, attending youth group each week, and trying to decide where I should go to college.  I was scared. I was full of hope. I was in a season of learning to navigate grief and loss. I had little knowledge about the world around me outside of my church, my town, and my family – let alone any knowledge or confidence of who I was and what my purpose in life was. Would I stay home and go to the college 20 minutes from my house? Or would I go to the school 1.5 hours away? It was the first major life decision I ever made. I remember going to the Gardner-Webb campus in February 2010 for a scholarship interview. I did not get the scholarship, but the experience confirmed that Gardner-Webb was where I needed to spend the next four years of my life. I didn’t take in the full picture of the cost. I didn’t anticipate that financial aid would slowly dwindle away each year, and I didn’t take into consideration the loans I would still be paying off 10 years later – I just knew there was a nudging in my heart for me to step outside of my comfort zone, to leave home for least 5 days a week and experience something new. And although I sometimes resent that 17-year-old girl for her choice when I am making those student loan payments each month, I am so proud of her decision to walk bravely scared into an unknown future, because that decision made me who I am today, and I am eternally grateful.

If it wasn’t for the grief and the loss, I might not have made that same decision. I wouldn’t have understood the brevity of life. I wouldn’t have appreciated the little moments that make big impacts. That year opened my eyes to so much. I learned about the power of brokenness and transparency among a community of believers. I learned about the power of worship. I learned about the beauty and history of scripture and the church. Until then, I had only ever accepted everything that was told to me as truth without reading and understanding the context for myself. It was the first time I started to see that there were people who believed differently than me, went to different types of churches than me – but still desperately loved and served Jesus. It was the first time I started to read through the Gospels and get to know Jesus for myself. It was on that college campus that Jesus became so much more real to me. His Kingdom was so much bigger. His love was so much deeper.  His presence was so much more real. His purpose was so much more passionate. His friendship was so much more personal.

It was in October of that year that I found myself on my knees alone in my dorm room floor with an open Bible and an open journal in front of me when I made the decision to start a blog. My expectations were not aligning with my reality, and I felt spiritually weak, but I met with God in the place of my pain. I put pen to paper to write what He was speaking to my heart, and then decided to share those words with the world. That first post was titled “Weakness in the Spirit: Where do I find my strength?” and I remember it vividly. Although I sometimes cringe when I go back and read some of those early writings, I am grateful for that lonely college freshman who decided to once again step out in faith and do something she had never done before. A few months later I posted a blog with lyrics to a song we had been singing on campus. The song was “Set a Fire” by United Pursuit and it was not well known at the time. My post showed up in the Google results when people searched for the lyrics. I started having comments come in from all over the country of people who had found my site after looking up the words of the song. People I had never met were telling me my writing encouraged them and gave them the kick-start they needed. They thanked me for my faithfulness and encouraged me to keep writing. I received comments telling me my blog provided the confirmation they needed. I received comments asking deep questions about whether or not I believed God could heal the sick, and if so, why did He heal some and not others. I never set out to reach the world, but somehow, I was making an impact on the lives of people I had never met, and I was doing it from within my dorm room. I found passion and purpose in writing. Over the years, that blog would receive over 45,000 views. Not much to some – but more than I could have ever imagined when I first started writing and hit the “post” button on that Tuesday night in my dorm room.

It was in my University 111 class during that freshman year that I took the Myers-Briggs test for the first time and discovered my personality type was an INFJ. The “I” stood for introvert. It was the first time my personality had a name. It was the first time I realized why I was the way I was. It was the first time I realized I was not alone in the world – I was rare, but I was not alone.

When I started college, I thought I would make lifelong friendships and maybe find my future husband while I was there, but that did not happen. I met some amazing people who significantly impacted my life, but college didn’t miraculously change my quiet, guarded, and reserved personality. I didn’t magically start opening up and allowing people to get to know me. In fact, it wasn’t until after I graduated college and moved back home that I first started to establish my closest friendships. I remember the early days of our friendship so clearly, because it was all so new to me. It was exactly what I had always hoped and prayed for – and they came into my life without me ever going out looking for them. They showed up uninvited during a time when God knew I needed them the most. They welcomed me in without me ever asking to be included. They climbed over walls I built to keep them out. They kept asking questions when I tried to shut down. They continually challenged me and never accepted my silence as an answer. They forced themselves into my introverted life, and my life has been changed for the better ever since.

Ten years ago, I would get anxious at even the thought of getting on a plane or a boat. My dad offered to take my sister and I on a big trip the year she graduated high school and I graduated college – but I couldn’t accept the offer. I was too afraid. It made me sick to my stomach to even think about being in the open sky or open water. I looked at the shortest flights and cruises I could find, but I couldn’t manage to choose where I would want to go. The fear was overwhelming and I couldn’t conquer it. I remember those tears so clearly. I was so disappointed in myself.

But since that day, I’ve stood at the top of the Gateway Arch. I’ve been on a riverboat cruise in the Mississippi River. I’ve been on two cruises to the Bahamas. I’ve flown to Washington DC on a spontaneous whim just to conquer my fear of flying. I stood at the Lincoln Memorial and witnessed a march for peace and civility. I visited the Holocaust Memorial, the Museum of Natural History, the National Art Gallery, the Bible Museum, and countless other historical landmarks and memorials. I flew to New Orleans, walked Bourbon Street, participated in a Second Line, and ate gumbo and beignets. I flew to Chicago, walked along the Riverwalk, ate deep dish pizza, and stepped out on the ledge at Willis Tower. It was as if one day my desire to see the world suddenly became bigger than my fear of how I would get there.

So, when I say this decade has been life-changing and life-giving, I mean it with all the sincerity in my heart. I am not who I was ten years ago. I am not without fear, but I am learning to let my faith be bigger than my fear. I am not without insecurity, but I am learning to stand securely on the promises of God. I am not without discouragement and disappointment from time to time, but I am learning to find peace, contentment, and joy in who I am and where I am at this point in my life.

In the past ten years I’ve graduated high school, college, and graduate school. I’ve established a career in human services, and I love the work I’m able to do and be a part of in the community. I’ve counseled, mentored, and coached people who just needed some extra support and encouragement. I’ve been counseled, mentored, and coached myself. I’ve become a homeowner. I’ve led Bible Studies. I’ve wrote blogs. I’ve completed training to become a licensed foster parent. I’ve watched people I love get married, have babies, and buy houses. I’ve seen God answer prayers, break generational strongholds, and show up in ways I never even thought to ask Him to. I’ve seen Him exceed my expectations time and time again. And I know this is only the beginning. He’s just getting started. There is still so much more beauty and adventure left to come.

In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about poverty, injustice, racial inequity, systematic oppression, abuse, neglect, and trauma. These are heavy topics. And compassion fatigue is real. It’s easy to burnout when the problems of this world are so overwhelming and you feel so powerless to change them. It’s easy to scroll through social media and pretend the social justice issues don’t exist simply because they aren’t impacting you directly. It’s easy to binge watch mindless tv shows to escape the harsh reality of the world for a brief period of time. But I can’t let those habits continue into this new decade. God has done a great work within me these past 10 years, and as I move into this new decade, I’m asking Him to do a great work through me. I want to be less passive and more active. I want to be less self-centered, and more kingdom-focused. I wanted to be less distracted and more attentive. I want to be less hidden and more present. I want people to see Jesus when they look at me, hear Jesus when they speak to me, and feel Jesus when they are near me. I want to be His hands and His feet. I don’t just want to be changed by Him; I want to be used for Him. I don’t have a perfect vision for what 2020 will bring, but that’s okay, because I’m walking by faith and not by sight.