Editor’s Corner: Energy out, joy in

Amy Forbus

If you’re using your spiritual gifts in service to God and the community of faith, they will bring you joy.

It’s a simple concept that I didn’t know about until I worked for a local church and one of my tasks was co-leading a spiritual gifts discovery class. Before we taught it, my co-worker and I took the course at a neighboring church to get a test run of the curriculum, and to learn about our own spiritual gifts.

The joy-giving element stuck with me from the start: You may work hard and get tired while you deploy your gifts, but it’s not a sapped-of-energy feeling; instead, it brings a sense of fulfillment. You’ve emptied yourself, but during that emptying, you’ve taken in an equal (or greater) measure of joy.

One of the ways I care for God’s creation is by fostering dogs along their journeys to permanent homes. (I’m thankful that my husband long ago agreed to full partnership in this endeavor, because it would never work with just one household member on board.) Last weekend, we looked after two puppies while a fellow United Methodist dog fosterer traveled. Baby-dogs require extra care, but even amid cleaning up messes, we took joy in the progress they’d made since we’d last seen them—especially the runt of the litter.

We also had several human guests: one friend stayed overnight, two more stopped for coffee on their way to Indiana, another pair dropped by while running errands and on Sunday, my small group came over for our weekly study. I’m pretty sure everyone who came to our house spent time holding a puppy or two.

Small group members pointed out that while the puppies easily took the most energy of all the guests, they also brought joy to everyone around them. Energy goes out, and joy goes in.

I’m not suggesting that puppies are a spiritual gift, but hospitality certainly is among the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible. The weekend that filled my house with guests reminded me that even though I’m not abundantly gifted in hospitality (for example, it finally dawned on me to offer facial tissues five minutes after a friend first needed one), I can and do receive joy from welcoming others in the name of Christ.

What hard thing do you do that is always worth the work, and that never fails to bring you joy? It may not be something you see as a conventional, “churchy” gift, but if you use it in community, it just may have a gift of the Holy Spirit driving it.

To reach me, send an email to aforbus@arumc.org.