Years ago I went on a silent retreat where I had a lot of time in prayer and silence before the Blessed Sacrament. At the time, I was homeschooling my three sons. Although I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Mass several days a week, I didn’t have a lot of time during my normal day to sit quietly in prayer. The retreat was organized to include a lot of free time where we could walk outside, sit in the chapel or even take a nap. Several times a day the priest would give a meditation, and then we would have time to take the Scripture passage and delve deeper in prayer. As we sat in silence and thought about the words the priest shared with us, I focused on one particular thing he said during the reflection: “We are all unique, but we die photocopies.”
At first I didn’t appreciate what he meant. I understood the obvious uniqueness of our physical characteristics and, knowing he was speaking to women, there was a normal temptation to compare ourselves to others. It took me a while after the meditation to really understand the deeper meaning of his talk. Yes, it’s true that we don’t all need to dye our hair the same color or be the same size. But the message he was trying to tell us was much more profound.
Find purpose in your natural gifts
Each of us has a shared purpose in this life: to lead others to God so that together we can be united in heaven, adoring and praising him. Yet, how we go about that is unique to us.
It is easy as a woman to think we are not enough. We might think we aren’t smart enough, beautiful enough — enough of anything. We might be tempted to believe we don’t have anything to contribute. When we get caught in the trap of comparison, asking questions such as, “Why can’t I look like her?” or “Why can’t I do that as well as she can?”, we forget that we were made by God with different strengths and weaknesses that help us achieve what he is calling us to do in this life. While two women might both have the vocation of motherhood, the way they show God to the world through their vocation can be vastly different.
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God created each one of us in a special way, and he wants us to serve him with our own talents. We are unrepeatable, so our different gifts and different personalities are opportunities to glorify God with our lives in a way only we can.
Instead of falling into comparison, we need to focus on the gifts God has given us, looking inside rather than outside to determine God’s individual purpose for our lives. Through prayer, we can look at these particular qualities and discern how we can glorify God with the life we’ve been given.
Offer your gifts to God
St. Peter tells us: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pt 4:10-11). We should use these gifts to contribute to the kingdom of God in our unique way.
During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we have an opportunity to offer up our individual prayers, works, joys and sufferings to God. St. Paul instructs us to offer our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1). We have been given an opportunity, each day of our lives, to contribute to the good of others. We do this by living our unique vocation and offering up the seemingly mundane tasks of our day to God.
Be unique like the saints
The saints are all unique. What if St. Thérèse had not thought of her little way? What if St. Monica had not sacrificed daily for her son? What if Mother Teresa had not listened to the call from God to establish the Missionaries of Charity? Thanks be to God they all used their unique gifts to lead others to Jesus Christ and his Church! We are called to do the same in our own distinct way to lead others to know, love and serve God.
As I reflected on the deeper meaning of the priest’s message, I prayed about my life and vocation. I asked myself the following questions: How can I serve God in my own distinctive way? Are there talents I keep hidden under a bushel basket that I should use to give glory to God? What are my strengths and weaknesses? How does God want me to use these gifts to serve him in my vocation? I made a resolve to not compare myself to others and to renew with fervor the desire to live my life with purpose. I prayed: “Help me, God, to do your will in my life and be as holy as you want me to be. Help me to use the gifts you have given me to serve you with my life.”
How will you do this? Look deeper inside yourself, and think of ways you can serve God with the unique qualities you have been given. Do certain skills come easily to you that are a challenge for others? You might have the ability to make others laugh, cook exquisite meals or write poetry. Connect these gifts with your vocation, and glorify God in how you use them.
If you are unsure about your unique qualities and gifts, here are some simple steps you can take to help discern them:
- Pray to the Holy Spirit for clarity regarding God’s will in your life.
- Look at the roles you play. Are you the natural leader, or do you prefer to work behind the scenes?
- Are you artistic or have a beautiful voice?
- Do you naturally give of your time or treasure and like to help others?
- Are you a writer or a teacher?
Finally, ask your family and friends. People who love you will easily see the gifts you have that they admire. These are just some of the ways you can find clues to your God-given talents.
So, the question remains: Will you be the person God has created you to be, or will you be a photocopy?