Journeys by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Proverbs 10:21 The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.

We sat at circular tables, approximately 50 of us in all, each with a leader assigned to steer discussions and keep us from rambling. These groups are designed to indoctrinate us in the beliefs of the church Dave and I attend here in Florida so we can be plugged in as volunteers. Every weekend of each month a new “Journeys” group starts, four in total. In April I attended week one and two but was not here the last two weeks of the month. That meant I took the week-three class in May at which time I continued with a new group of people.

Our assignment after week two was to go online and take a test to determine our top three spiritual gifts which we would reveal to our tablemates. That third meeting we were allotted 10 minutes in which to share our findings, a countdown clock visible from where we sat. Sheila, our leader, started with me and asked (1) what I found out, (2) if I was surprised by my results, and (3) if I agreed or disagreed. My answer time: 30 seconds (yes, even I am shocked).

The woman to my right was next. She had not taken the test because her life was “a mess” and she didn’t “have any free time to work on it.” For two minutes, she shared some of the details of her messy life. Sheila was empathetic but encouraged this woman to please take the test. It would be helpful for her to know in what areas God had prepared her.

Bob spoke up. He thought it foolish to ask us to do anything on line because some people might not have a computer. He, of course, did, but did not take the test because he was protesting. Couldn’t Sheila just give him a hard copy? No, she couldn’t, she explained, because the questions were computerized so as to reveal our top three gifts. She was not equipped to determine the results.

Bob thought that was “ridiculous.” After all, he knew his gifts; his “main ones” were compassion and listening. (Surprise!) Sheila shared that sometimes we might think we know what our gifts are but that our ideas aren’t necessarily God’s and Bob might be pleasantly surprised by what he found out if he took the test. Unnecessary, he said. He “knew” his gifts. (Bob’s time: 5 minutes)

I’m not sure what happened next except Bob’s neck veins started to bulge. He turned and whispered something to “messy-life woman” and stared at his notes, fuming. Sheila moved on to the next couple who actually had taken the test and were excited about their results. Hospitality was #1 on their list, and since they love having people into their home, they considered this verification. (Time: 2 minutes)

That’s when Bob erupted, slammed his study guide down, grabbed his things and stormed out of the room, disrupting the class and loudly expressing his disagreement with the volunteer at the door. I stared at Sheila, looking for a response. Nothing. Not even an eyebrow-raise. Impressive. She smoothly moved on to the next two people at our table and was told–yet again–that they had “forgotten” about the test (which actually was fortunate since we now were out of time).

When class was over, I stayed to tell Sheila how much I respected the way she had handled our group, especially Bob. She had “represented Christ in such a loving way while still holding Bob accountable.” Too, she had not gotten upset with those who did not do their homework. Leading, I thought, had to be one of her gifts.

Oh, you have nooooooo idea,” she answered. “I was biting on my tongue the entire time to keep from saying something I would later regret.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Well,” I told her, “Maybe that’s the best spiritual gift of all.”

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