Signposts: Daily Devotions

Monday, May 19

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit...
—1 Corinthians 12:4

Implied in the question “Who am I?” is its counterpart: “What should I do with my life?” Granted, our culture tends to over-identify who we are with how we make our living, but the connection is nonetheless real. As Buddhism teaches, one of the keys to leading a good life is discovering our “right livelihood,” that path which emerges not from our desire for status, but from our very heart, a path that is based on our gifts.

While few of us may think of ourselves as “gifted,” the truth is that we are. Each of us has abilities and tendencies that make us well suited for a particular kind of life. One might excel at organizing people and projects, another at performing music, still another at tackling the mysteries of science. The capacity to listen, or to encourage, or to work alone—these, too, are gifts.

We honor our gifts, and the Giver, not by denying them or hiding them, but by living into them. They are part of who we are. Likewise, putting our gifts to work—that is, discerning our vocation, our “right livelihood”—is more than a matter of establishing a career. It is a marriage of flesh and spirit, the soul given form and weight.

When it comes to actually naming our gifts and finding our direction in life, one place to start is with a simple question: What did I most enjoy doing as a child? The answer is usually a reflection of our deepest self, and thus a clue to what we would find fulfilling as an adult. For example, a person who spent her childhood hiking through fields and collecting bugs isn’t likely to be happy sitting indoors at a desk for hours every day. By the same token, someone who loved to draw and paint when he was young will probably continue to need creative outlets such as these.

God knows our hearts, and he knows our gifts. His desire is that we use them not just wisely, but with joy.



O God, when I have no idea where my life is going, help me to use my gifts as a guide, and help me to honor you by honoring your image in my heart.

The Signposts for May are written by Susan Hanson and originally appeared on in September 2004.