Scripture Reflection: Leaning On Our Strengths
By Katie Mulembe, Catholic Volunteer Network
Which is stronger - my commitment to personal growth, or my commitment to my values? Am I a logical person or a sensitive person? After forty minutes of answering head-scratching questions like these, five words popped up on my screen: Includer, Input, Developer, Belief, and Connectedness. These are my strengths, as assessed by Gallup through their StrengthsFinder inventory. “Really – that’s it?” I thought to myself. I can’t say that I was surprised by the results, but I definitely wasn’t excited. The strengths listed just seemed so boring and there was a part of me that was hoping for something a little more interesting. Slightly disappointed, I skimmed my personality assessment and moved on the next items on my to-do list.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to revisit my strengths assessment along with my Catholic Volunteer Network co-workers during a recent staff retreat. We all took the test and participated in a day-long workshop to help us better understand the ways we can maximize our talents and work better together as a team. During this session I realized that I had been spending too much time thinking about the strengths I didn’t have, and almost no time at all digging in to the strengths I did possess. Only after I stopped worrying about my deficiencies did I realize how accurate and helpful my results are.
I’ve been reflecting on this experience a lot lately, and have noticed that this is actually a pattern in my life. During my years as a missioner in Zambia, I spent a lot of time with children suffering from the effects of HIV and AIDS. Many days I felt completely inadequate for the work I was assigned, wishing that I was a trained medical professional instead of a recent college graduate with a Religious Studies degree. There were days that I became so overwhelmed by the amount of affliction I encountered, that I even considered returning home early to pursue a nursing degree, not paying too much attention to the fact that I am quick to faint at the mere sight of blood. Now, looking back, I remember how much love I received from all those kids. They did not seem to mind that I couldn’t treat their chronic tuberculosis or write a prescription for their eye infections – they were happy enough with my patient attempts to teach them their ABCs and the great hugs that I gave freely. The children understood that my strengths were in the relationships I was able to build, and they were very pleased with that. My mission was about being a loving presence to the poor, and I already had all the skills I needed to succeed in that.
How often do we overlook the gifts and talents that God has given us? How much time do we waste wishing we were equipped for missions that are not ours to fulfill? When we spend more time working in our areas of strength, we may truly have an impact on our church and the world. We are not accidents; instead we are uniquely created to serve one another in distinctive and effective ways. I’m reminded of a statement often made by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, “You are exactly what God had in mind when God made you.”
What are your strengths? And how are you using them in service to your family, your community, and our Church?
Katie Mulembe served as a lay missioner with Franciscan Mission Service in Ndola and Lusaka, Zambia from 2004-2006. She joined the Catholic Volunteer Network team in 2007 and currently serves as the Coordinator of Recruitment and Alumni Relations.