Only once in the forty years we’ve been married have I picked out a gift for my wife that she really liked. We were on vacation, walking around a little mountain town on a summer evening. She admired a necklace she saw in a shop window, but they were closed and we were leaving early the next morning. The following week I called the store and arranged for the necklace to be shipped, surprising (and delighting) Marsha on her birthday.
Though we stopped giving each other presents long ago, sharing gifts is really important to us. The gift of making a home together. The gift of raising up wonderful children. The gift of planting gardens wherever we went, surrounding ourselves with beautiful flowers and luscious tomatoes.
Those aren’t exactly the spiritual gifts that Paul described in his Letter to the Corinthians, but they’re working for us. “There are varieties of gifts,” he says, “but the same Spirit... and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them.” (1 Corinthians 12:4) Whether your gift is faith or healing or cooking a great dinner, it comes from God, uniquely shaped by your life and hands.
Here’s the key to all of this: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Whatever gifts God has given you, they’re not intended only for your own enjoyment or satisfaction. Gifts of the Spirit are meant to lift up everyone, to delight the people around us, to make the world a better place.
Whenever you have the privilege of giving or receiving a gift, you can respond with the simplest and most basic prayer: “Thank you.” There’s really nothing else to say at a moment like that...