Gifts of the Spirit
Here’s something I found interesting and unexpected: I went to Amazon in search of a particular book called The Gift. The heading on the page read, “Everyone has a gift that can change a life.” The possible titles that turned up were The Gift of . . . Imperfection . . . Fear . . . Dyslexia (huh?) . . . Rain . . . Caring . . . Years . . . Being Yourself.
Author and futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard talks about our “unique gift” that will not only be of service to others, or our greater human community and the planet, but will satisfy our deep needs for meaning and purpose.
In the Christian tradition, the Gifts of the Spirit are related to The Beatitudes, and Fr. Thomas Keating says the seven Gifts are “the means that Spirit uses to purify our conscious and unconscious lives.” The “contemplative” Gifts are knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. The “active” Gifts are reverence, fortitude, piety and counsel. (Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit, Thomas Keating)
Indigenous elders speak of four gifts that will enable humanity to evolve and to create a world that works for all, what some call the “Great Turning.”
The power of unity
The gift of hope
The gift of healing
The power to forgive the unforgivable
My friend Kate says, “Idealism, optimism and visioning a better future, are essential to creating a healthy present and future for all. Let the persistent hopefulness of idealism be your first gift to yourself and those around you.” (See my September 2015 Reflection, “Reclaiming Idealism,” for more on the importance of idealism.)
We often overlook giving gifts to ourselves, like love, acceptance and forgiveness. Come to think of it, there’s probably no gift we give to ourselves that we can’t give to others, and vice versa. For the overly-responsible among us, and for those who work so hard to bring goodness into the world, who experience the suffering and pain of the world very deeply, we can give ourselves permission to be happy, to enjoy life! For us self-sufficient, independent types, we can allow ourselves to receive gifts of help and support.
People are surely great gifts to us, even in unwelcome ways. Sometimes there are people who make trouble for and frustrate us, push our buttons, annoy us. They are the ones who can teach us important things about ourselves. If we’re open to the teaching, they can help us grow, let go of thoughts or behaviors that no longer serve us. Conditions that challenge us (like snow, ice and cold for me) can also be that kind of gift, a catalyst for transformation. Maybe when we pass on we’ll have no more buttons to be pushed!
It’s hard to see a gift in the midst of a difficult, demanding, challenging, frustrating, even traumatic time. Probably all of us have the experience of being called upon, and confronted with, what seems like an impossible challenge or task or demand. Perhaps caring for an ill or dying person or animal is the most difficult
My mentor and friend, and the beloved husband of a dear friend, passed away recently at the age of 91.They had been married 45 years. Dick had needed full time care for a year. Carole deeply wanted to tend to him as best she could herself so he could stay at home. Her round-the-clock care giving was relieved by her kids and occasional outside help. After he passed, she said she felt that her desire and will to wholeheartedly devote herself to do what needed to be done was a gift. We both feel that this ability to do the impossible is not just a matter of personal will, but really is grace—the gift of grace from God. Without that gift, we would not be able to undertake such demanding and all-consuming work on our own, no matter how much we want to.
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. Mary Oliver
The blessing that comes from catastrophe has been a theme in my life. Roshi Joan Halifax
The greatest gift we can give to another person is to reveal to them their own. Benjamin Disraeli
What are your most treasured Gifts of the Spirit? Here are a few that come to my mind: insight, a warm smile, a random act of kindness, attention, breath. If you feel like it, make a short list and send it to me. I will post it next month.
For whatever Gifts of the Spirit we have or will receive, may we be truly thankful.
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