Cleaning the Mirror

Cleaning the Mirror (1)

Last weekend we had the privilege of attending a Called and Gifted workshop given by the St. Catherine of Siena Institute about finding our God given charisms.

What is a charism? From the St. Catherine of Siena institute website: “Charism” is a greek word used in the New testament for “favor” or “gratuitous gift.” Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to all Christians by the Holy Spirit to give them the power both to represent Christ and to be a channel of God’s goodness for people. Whether extraordinary or ordinary, all charisms ought to be exercised in the service of God. (CCC 2003)

I was excited to attend, but found myself in a state of fear as we drove home after the first night. We were given instructions to take a test to help us narrow down the areas to begin to discern our charisms, but we were instructed not to look at the potential outcomes, lest we semi-consciously try to influence the results of the test with what we want to be. I worried that either there wouldn’t be anything for me, or that my charism would be something along the lines of only mother-oriented tasks.

I know that what I do is valuable, but with the stress and intense activity of the last year, I had set aside almost everything I used to do that was not based in my vocation as a wife and mother. It began as a way to give myself a break, to remove pressure, and to reduce my to do list. But as the months ticked by I found myself unable to find a way to reintroduce those activities. Eventually they began to fade from memory entirely.

Even though it was already late when we arrived at home, I dutifully began my test. It took a little longer than the suggested 40 minutes, because I had to do it with the baby alternately sleeping and climbing all over me while I worked.

The test focused on 24 different charisms and had several questions relating to each one. Some things were easy and obvious to me, and some were things I wished I could say I did, but they didn’t characterize me at all. After I finished, I tallied up my scores and the instructions said to circle the 6 highest scores.

It was like I had been looking in a foggy, dirty mirror for so long and someone finally cleaned it. Suddenly I could see who I was again. None of the things were directly related to what I am in relation to others, but they were who I am. They showed the particular tools that are natural to me to use as I encounter others, my work, and the world.

Certainly, not all the things I scored high in are Charisms. Some my be talents or merely preferences. The test reminded me that I am not the sum of my roles in others’ lives. While charisms are other centered – they are meant to be used for the good of those around us – they also show how we are specifically gifted and called to act by the Holy Spirit.

Looking at my list, I saw that the things I do naturally are not just quirks or flaws, they are how God put me together, wound me up, and sent me out into the world. If my very first inclination in dealing with difficulty is to write about it and then read a book (or vice versa). Or if you come to me with a problem and the best thing I can do is offer you a metaphor for another way to look at your situation it’s not because I’m a socially stunted introvert*. It’s because God gave me a hammer and now everything looks like a nail.

*An exaggeration. I hope.

I’m not going to share specifics on the charisms at this point, either mine or in general. I still have a lot of discerning to do regarding mine and I want you to be able to find yours without a preconceived notion of what you want them to be. It is interesting to note that the items I tested high on fit perfectly with my Myers-Briggs personality type, INTJ, the brain in a jar personality.

Photo by Capture Queen, Creative Commons License.

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