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“Do you spit in the face of God?”

"Gift" Some rights reserved (CC BY 2.0) by Cláudia Assad. Sourced from FlickrI have a regular meeting with a mentor, and we have great conversations that are thought-provoking, honest, and safe. So last week he hit me with a whopper of a question:

“Do you spit in the face of God?”

Egads – not an easy one to answer, and I’m sure my face reflected that there was an explosion of reactive thoughts and emotions coursing through me, before I finally settled on: “I probably do, but NOT intentionally.”

My colleague admitted that he had not received that answer before. We went on to discuss, at length. He’s been pondering this one for a while. We agreed that any time anything is done to hurt, deceive, strangle, damage, or in any way destroy their relationship with God, it is an insult –spitting in the face. Even those things done in ignorance: if I’ve said or done something to hurt someone but don’t know it, it doesn’t lessen the hurt.

“So how do you unintentionally spit in the face of God?” my friend asked.

Hmm. Another tough one. Another myriad of thoughts and reflections racing through my brain. So I responded the only way I could: “Hmm. I. Um. Let me think on that. *pause* I guess the same way I inadvertently break or damage relationship with anyone – broken baptismal vows, lack of respect, speaking in anger…”

He cut me off before we got too specific, and instead shared an idea with me: “The Creator has given us all amazing gifts, right?”

Yes, of course; I could easily agree with that.

“And it’s up to us to determine how we use them?”

I nodded, somewhat hesitantly, waiting for the proverbial lightbulb to go on over my head.

“So when we aren’t using our gifts to the best of our ability, we’re essentially rejecting what the Creator has given us. Isn’t that spitting in the face of God?”

Needless to say, the room was silent for a bit, but the thinking hasn’t ceased.

When it comes down to it, this is a basic concept. We appreciate when someone we love gives us something; we use it, knowing that this is something given to us carefully by someone who knows us well. We would never ignore it or mistreat it, especially when we know that person will be watching to see what we do with it. A hand-knitted sweater? We wear it, especially when we know we’ll see that person. Home made jam? We delight in it, savour it, and return the empty jar with hopes for a refill. A carefully chosen novel with a personal inscription? It moves to the top of our to-be-read pile, and we enter into conversation about it with the giver once we’re done it.

So, then, how do we respond to the gifts that are given to us from God? From the one who knows us and loves us best of all? Do we bring them out as often as possible, using them over and over until they resemble that well-worn sweater or dog-earred novel? Do we show the world how much the gift – and by extension, the giver – mean to us by regularly using these things? Or do we ignore it, unintentionally hurt the giver, spit in the face of God?

I expect that no one would wish to cause such insult. But I suspect that we all, at some point, have unintentionally done just that. We’ve ignored a gift, we’ve let apathy prevent us from using that gift, we’ve let fear paralyze us from action. We’ve been given a gift, and we’ve not used it. Sometimes we don’t even realize or recognize that we’ve been given the gift – if we’re still not using it, though, the result is the same. An insult.

The challenge for us all, then, becomes identifying these gifts in our lives. It requires dedicated time and effort to really recognize what were capable of, and what God is calling us to do. It will take some honest conversations with people who know us well, so that through them we can see what the rest of the world sees, and delight when a hidden gift is revealed that way. It takes prayer, it takes openness, it takes a willingness to not just see the gifts but then accept the responsibility of using those gifts.

And use them we should; fully and completely, in the world, to the glory of God. Our gifts may grow and mature as we do too, so we should regularly re-evaluate what gifts God has given us at this time to use and share. But the time in discernment is worthwhile; the joy in acknowledging the gift is true and profound; the peace that comes from appreciating and using the gift is sublime. It is the peace that comes from knowing that we have intentionally avoided insulting God.

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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11 Responses to “Do you spit in the face of God?”

  1. What a thought provoking read…I think it is easy to ignore our gifts so that we don’t have to active in creation. Thank you for making me take notice!

  2. A powerful metaphor, and one that could go many ways. In the past, a friend likened not forgiving one’s self as slapping Jesus in the face–essentially saying, “you don’t have the power to handle this.” I don’t think either simile is too far off the mark.

    • Indeed! If we truly believe that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins, then to not forgive ourselves is to suggest that Jesus was insufficient for our needs – yikes! Much to think on, Jesse, thanks!

  3. Under normal circumstances, this is a provocative and even slightly playful question. However, it also needs to be contextual. How also is community supporting each person to use God-given gifts? Do we support the shy new congregant to contribute in the service? Do we support efforts to give marginalized groups voice? Is there mobility in council so more than the same people also can influence church? Are our communities accessible; ramps, inclusive language, services at different times?

    • Thanks, Lauren. It definitely is a provocative question – and that is intentional. The wording of the question itself carries the shock factor (I think I got whiplash when my mentor asked it that way!). But the question itself invites discernment and reflection when we consider the use of gifts and the potential insinuation to the giver.
      I firmly believe that discernment is not a solitary exercise. Whether we’re discerning gifts, use of gifts, callings, whatever – we do that best when engaged and engaging with God, with the world around us, with folks who know us well. And I think discernment is a continual process, an ongoing work.
      I appreciate your comments on the need to support people in their discernment – to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5.11). It’s the basic hope that community will work together for the betterment of all; that sometimes we be a positive help in anthers’ discernment, just as they will be a positive help in our own.

  4. I think the phrase, “Spitting in the face of God” is waaaay too harsh! After all they’re MY gifts. When I should or shouldn’t use them is up to me. That’s called “FREE WILL”! “Spitting in the face of God”??? Are you serious? LOL!

  5. God knows who we are and who we can be. It is up to us to discover our way toward that image God has for us. Because we stumble or fail does not mean we are spitting in the face of God. (Although I think John Calvin might think so.)

    • Thanks Jim!
      I think when we stumble or fail it shows that we are trying to do our best, to use the gifts given. We don’t have to be perfect at using our gifts (I think they all take practice to improve and maintain!). I don’t think failure coming from effort is an insult; stumbling is part of the process.

      • Here’s a paradox. I was born with the gift of music, but 57 years later I still have stage fright to the point where I can barely stand when performing.

  6. What bugs me about this article is the judgemental attitude. Yes, we should give ourselves and our actions to God, and yes, do our best each day. But I say a big no thanks to the punitive attitude. That’s old school Christianity, and is perhaps part of why so many churches are so empty of younger people. Instead, celebrate Jesus, and bring his light and love into the world. No keeping score or worrying about whether someone else thinks you’re doing enough. Open hearts change the world.

    • Thanks for your comments, Randa! I’m sorry that you read this as having a judgemental and punitive tone/attitude – that was not my intention. The question, as pose to me, and as I passed along here, is meant to be provocative and hyperbolic, ideally to spark consideration of how/if we use the gifts God gave us; furthermore that by doing our best to use these gifts we are in fact avoiding causing insult.
      In future I will try to be more sensitive to how tone may be perceived.
      Can I ask for more specifics from you? How do you see this article as ‘keeping score’ or close-hearted or keeping young people out of church?

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