I’ve been thinking about gifts lately. Those special talents that each of us have; those things we spend our lives learning, improving and in rare cases, mastering. Things that sometimes seem as though they are unexplainable when we observe what others are capable of, that we ourselves can’t even contemplate attempting. But, we all have gifts. They are different, some more obvious than others. But no matter how hard they can be to find and hone, no one is exempt.
I am particularly interested in what it means to share our gifts. Something many are very obviously doing right now. I had a look in my hymnal at the section about offerings and found this hymn. The words were written by William Walsham How in 1864. He was an Anglican minister who wrote over fifty hymns, perhaps his most famous being, For All the Saints. The music is trickier to track, as the tune was originally attributed to Schumann and carries his name. However, apparently after his death, his widow, Clara Wieck Schumann wrote that she could find no evidence of this in her husband’s work, so we don’t really know!
We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.
May we Thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our firstfruits give.
To comfort and to bless,
To find a balm for woe,
To tend the lone and fatherless
Is angels’ work below.
The captive to release,
To God the lost to bring,
To teach the way of life and peace—
That is a Christ-like thing.
And we believe Thy Word,
Though dim our faith may be;
Whate’er for Thine we do, O Lord,
We do it unto Thee.
This is a hymn about stewardship. The practice of being responsible for what we have, for acknowledging it must be cared for, and understanding that, in this case, it comes from and belongs to God. This is not an uncommon belief among people who practice a variety of religions and even of those for whom nature or mother earth is considered the source of all. And, I suspect, there is something very powerful in the idea that what we have is not our own.
I don’t think this means we are not able to earn a living from our gifts, using them to do our jobs or find satisfaction in our accomplishments. I think this means they are fertilized by their use, by being shared. By being offered with sincerity, generosity and openness, our gifts’ benefits multiply and enhance the worlds in which we live. We receive our gifts mysteriously, we work at them conscientiously and then, if we offer them freely, they become something more than they would be if only self-serving. Suddenly they provide comfort and blessings, balms for woe, tend to the lone, release the captive, find the lost, teach and offer peace.
It is easy to think of these kinds of angels’ work as being limited to only certain gifts. But they are not. There are countless ways in which what we offer of ourselves fills these roles. I am blessed by the tireless person in my neighbourhood who picks up garbage from the sidewalks and encouraged knowing that there skilled gardeners and farmers ensuring we all have food. I learn from those who share their recipes and instructions on all kinds of things, and am comforted when I am able to have conversations with my family members and friends. It is a balm for many worries to know of people that use their minds and knowledge to solve enormous problems being faced by us all, even if we don’t understand how these processes work. Peace can be found in the gifts of others and the knowledge that not one of us must fill every need.
I am thankful for the many gifts I see in the people I know. Many are beyond my understanding and impress me endlessly. Especially now, the variety and quality of our gifts, and our individual commitments to using them, is so important. We are all stewards of whatever we have been fortunate to receive – regardless of whether it seems significant or not. When we share all these things, we become whole. When we recognize the wealth and value of this variety, we start to become healthy.
Know that your gifts are valuable, important and welcome. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. All of our gifts are treasures of immense beauty and powerful force. Give freely and be satisfied that you are, and have done, enough.