Define Your Role as Servant

I felt invalidated for a long time.

It began in a faith culture where women were to be quiet and keep their spiritual convictions to themselves.

It moved into my first working environment where my success was excused as youthful energy.

And then motherhood—how in the world do you validate yourself in motherhood? I’ve decided it’s nearly impossible.

So the fact that I am passionate about my faith, young and new to overseas work, and a mother to a toddler stirred up a perfect storm in my life.

This is the story of my mid-twenties identity crisis.

Let me lay it out for you: I’m a fairly strong-willed, opinionated woman. I consider the Holy Spirit my greatest companion, and He only empowers me further. I’m a sorry excuse for a stay-at-home mom.

I rejected the idea that I had nothing to offer the Kingdom. I resented the fact that I had been overlooked and ignored for the majority of my life. I balked at the expectation to make my children my only ministry.

So I worked harder and performed bigger and sought out affirmation from anyone who would deem me worthy of an honorable role.

I pursued a PhD. I beautified my blog. I learned a tonal language.

I networked my tail off. I articulated my gifts until I was blue in the face. I fought for a place at the table. ANY TABLE.

And yet, I still came up empty-handed.

So I obsessed over the concept of defining my role. My role in our family, on our team, in our country. It was an eat-breathe-sleep kind of obsession.

I allowed myself to be hurt when it seemed I wasn’t needed. I under-valued my mind, my body, and my design. I took to social media, hoping to find my voice again.

And when I still wasn’t presented with a prettily packaged role, I waved my entitlement around with a final white flag.

Someone, please notice me.

Someone, please tell me I’m capable, worthy, or useful.

+++

For the majority of my life, I have been handcuffed by my desire for a title. I’ve longed to be esteemed by my peers and sought after by man.

I’ve filled roles like:

Student Body President

Musical Director

Teacher of the Year

Project Leader

Community Development Consultant

Something about the presence of a title gives me an unhealthy surge of pride and belonging. And I’ve craved it more and more until I can’t manufacture any more roles to fill.

And here I stand, still coming up empty-handed.

Because the role I’ve never sought after—the title I’ve never longed for—is the one called SERVANT.

I’ve been so concerned with knowing exactly what the Father made me to do in my lifetime that I’ve neglected doing what will advance the Kingdom today.

And I must confess this sin before you faithful women.

Because our roles are important. They are valuable and needed.

But there is no giftedness, no talent, no contribution greater than the humble offerings of a servant.

How did I miss this for so long?

+++

This is where I wrap up this post. I can’t seem to put together a smooth transition, so I’m cutting to the chase.

We weren’t called to be great. We weren’t set apart to be admired.

We were commanded to lay down our lives. We were asked to become the least of these. 

The thing we’ve actually been led to do is love well the person in front of us.

Yet we seek after followings. We crave being known. We desire to be the leaders, the trailblazers, the movers and the shakers.

What if we craved the simple? The unnoticed?

What if we sought to see others succeed?

What if we took all of our functions in the Body and upheld the one role we’ve all been given: SLAVES to the ultimate MASTER?

Would we be a better representation of the hope that is within us? Would we then be living out the New Testament in our hearts?

Servant is the role I wish I had been searching for this whole time.

It’s the only role that never leaves me empty-handed.

24 Comments

  1. Kay Bruner March 15, 2015

    “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  This is your true self.  Every other identity is illusion.”  Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

    I don’t know that it matters what you do, role-wise.  Just get your “beloved” on first, last, and always.

    Otherwise, every single thing is a chasing after the wind.  Even servant hood.

    Love and prayers for the long and winding road.

    1. Elizabeth March 15, 2015

      I’m in love with Brennan Manning. As I told a friend earlier this week, Brennan Manning = Life Changing.

    2. laura r March 15, 2015

      Abba’s Child was slipped into my bag by a dear friend the day before we returned to our passport country.  I think it’s time I cracked it open…

  2. Denise March 15, 2015

    I don’t want to sound critical of your joy in the role of servant, but sometimes seeing ourselves as servants first gets us into trouble.   Yes, we are told to be servants, but often servants are worried about their master’s acceptance. So first and foremost,  my most important role, is as God’s daughter. I am accepted and loved no matter what I do. I have many jobs/roles and one can be a servant, but my serving comes out of knowing my Father loves and accepts me. I relate to Him as His child. I inherit all He has for me. He runs to me with love and acceptance when I mess up in my many roles. He guides and disciples me when needed, but always as a loving Father.

    I totally agree we are to  love well the one right in front of us. But sometimes I don’t do it well. I get mad at my husband, I yell at my kids, I ignore a valued friendship. Those are the times I can go to my Father as His daughter and not worry He will be mad at me. I can go, confess and get right with Him first and He can help me get right with others next. But when I think of myself as a servant first, I worry that I will get punished. I don’t want to go to Him. My master may be harsh with me. But when I am His daughter first, I can curl up in His lap and not worry about what I share with Him. This does not give me license to sin, but the right to go to Him without fear.

    For me the role of daughter to the Creator of the universe never leaves me empty handed.

     

    1. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

      Denise, I’m glad you’ve found your identity as daughter of the Creator! Like Danielle says below, maybe ‘identity’ is a better way to describe who we are and ‘role’ is what we do. I in no way expect all of us to wrestle with role and identity in the same way…I think that’s the beauty of how we’re created differently. The point I was trying to make is that it doesn’t matter what we do if we aren’t willing to first be a servant. But of course, we won’t make good servants if our identity isn’t in Christ!

  3. Kra March 16, 2015

    Interesting, to wrestle with the idea of embracing the role of daughter, vs the role of servant. There is truth to both…. And I thnk Jesus is the answer. Being the very nature God…. He humbled himself and took on the role of servant. He was secure in knowing who he was, his identity as Son. By grace, in the same way, we can rest and revel in our identity as daughter. And yet as we follow our Lord, we are told to be like him, and take on the role of servant.  Jesus has elevated that ‘title’ to be the most impressive.

    1. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

      I love how you’ve linked the two concepts here, Kra. So beautifully put. I need to work on elevating the ‘title’ of servant in my life. So much preaching to my young heart…

  4. Amy S March 17, 2015

    Lauren, thank you for sharing so openly. I really appreciate your vulnerability. I can tell that your experiences have brought you closer to God and more able to help (serve) others. I think we can all identify with this longing to be seen and appreciated, to be valued for the good gifts God has put inside us. I’ve recently learned that rejection by others when I offer my gifts leads me to place of shame about who I am. (Thanks, Brene Brown!) I’ve lived in that place for over a year even as I seek to hear the Father’s truth. It has been hard to hear it. It has made me have to go deeper to find the roots of rejection, judgement and shame.

    This is a really good topic and I’m glad you shared!

     

    1. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

      Such encouraging words to my tattered soul, Amy. Thank you! Of course Scripture is wonderful and the most truthful, but I also find myself googling Brene Brown quotes when I start to believe others’ lies about myself. It sounds like you and I could have a long chat and process this together. So sorry you’ve experienced this same rejection, judgement, and shame…it’s a dark, lonely place, even for the most seemingly confident of women. Praise God for healing. <3

  5. Danielle Wheeler March 17, 2015

    Lauren, thank you for your confession here.  Thank you for boldly and vulnerably stepping out and sharing your heart struggles.  I think that you’ve described beautifully what our role should be, that of servant.

    To follow up on the comments above, I think perhaps we should make the clarification between our identity and our role.  Our identity is who we are.  Our role is what we do.  Our role flows out of our identity.  Our identity is beloved daughter of God.  There’s no doing involved in that.  It’s our being.  Our role is the doing.  We serve, living as God calls us to, in the servant example he set for us.

    Such good stuff to think through!

    1. laura r March 17, 2015

      Thank you for the clarification between role and identity.  I had missed the differentiation and, as a result, was feeling quite a lot of tension as I wrestled with the post.

      When I change my perspective I can begin to picture how any role in the context of servant works and that is empowering.

      In fact, when I look at the roles I have had in the context of servant I see how amazing they really were.  My experience has been a little abnormal – I am a married mother who worked outside of the home while it was my husband who served in the role of stay at home parent, family organizer, CEO of the home, whatever you like to call it… There were moments where we got our roles ‘right’ and moments when we had to step back, reassess and try again.  There were moments when we had to stick to our intuition/gut feeling/discernment and live out our roles as we felt we were called, no matter how ‘untraditional’ we were.  Indeed, having such untraditional roles saw us walking a hard journey as we learned to lean into the Father and what he was asking of us regardless of how those watching reacted.  (I’m not saying we don’t need accountability or to come under the vision and leadership above us… I am saying that we needed to be sure that we were following our calling and not trying to follow the calling of someone else.)

      Lauren, I love how you said, “The thing we’ve actually been led to do is love well the person in front of us.”  May that be so of my life whatever role I have in each season of life.

      1. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

        Oh Laura, I feel you so deeply with this reply. My husband and I also have stumbled through defining our roles, as we share work and home responsibilities untraditionally. I have felt guilty so many days allowing him to stay home with our daughter; I have felt masculine so many times when I’ve paid the bills; I have felt like I was created wrong somehow when it seemed we weren’t fitting gender-defined roles correctly.

        I love how you said, “Indeed, having such untraditional roles saw us walking a hard journey as we learned to lean into the Father and what he was asking of us regardless of how those watching reacted. ”

        This is so much of what I have experienced, and I’m still awkward and clumsy about it. Alas, grace is greater. So thankful for an understanding community of women and champions of authenticity!

    2. MaDonna March 18, 2015

      Beautifully put, Danielle!

      Lauren, thanks for your honesty and transparency. I, too, have struggled with the whole role bit and wanting to be noticed for something more than the “wife of…” or the “mother of ….” God has worked in me the last – oh, let’s just say a number of years – on this such topic. Looking at a timeline of my life, I’d say I’ve improved, but I’m definitely a work-in-progress. But, that is life isn’t it? I mean, God works in our life to make us more like him…I’m not there yet, but I’m in such a better place than I was 5, 10, oh let’s just say 20 years ago. Thank goodness! I’m sure we can all look back and see some growth in the areas of life that God is working on in us.

      Thanks again for sharing! I really appreciate this group of ladies who share from the heart and inspire me to continue to keep walking in faith and love. Blessings!

      ~MaDonna

      1. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

        MaDonna, you’ve put a smile on my face. I can see your ability to laugh at yourself, brush off the dirt, and try again. I hope I can keep doing that myself. Here’s to all the work-in-progress women!

    3. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

      Thank you so much for clarifying this, Danielle. I think this was a crucial comment in understanding this week’s theme and processing the implications of our ‘roles’ together. You worded it perfectly, as always. So thankful for your leadership here!

  6. Laura C March 17, 2015

    Thank you for being open and sharing this!  It was very timely for me, as I just told my husband a couple days ago “I think I’m going through a mid-life crisis at 30!”  We are leaving our home to head back to stateside in 3 days due to visa issues.  My boys are now both school age and I will get to head back to work and/or return to school to finish my bachelors.  It’s been 8 years since I worked though and 11 since I was in college!  I feel fairly confident in my role here on the field, but I have no idea what it is stateside.  Before we left it was caring for 2 young children, but that won’t be my reality anymore.  As mentioned above, I know primarily my identity is His daughter.  I don’t feel the need to do something to prove myself to Him or anyone else.  I’m thankful for this!  This new season sounds so scary though as I find out what my new role will be.  I really liked the reminder though to just stay focused on loving others.  Because no matter what my new role ends up being, this will be a constant.  It’s what I did before moving away, what I’ve done here, and I can continue doing it as we return.  Thanks again for sharing 🙂

    1. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

      Laura, I’m lifting you up now! What a big transition you’re facing…not easy at all. Like you, I never doubted my identity in Christ or my status as beloved of God. But many days it felt like it was just God and I. Just the two of us. I had His validation, His love, His acceptance, but nobody else’s. And that’s where the power of your role comes in. You can know that you are important and made for a purpose, but if nobody sees that in you, whew. Your mind plays tricks on you. I am praying now that your role will quickly become evident as you repatriate, so that you don’t have to go through the ugly mind games. But while we’re both waiting on man-given role, I’ll keep serving in our God-given role alongside you. Sending love your way.

      1. Laura C March 18, 2015

        That is exactly how I feel…  Thank you so much for your response!

  7. Elizabeth March 17, 2015

    I’m currently working through Henri Nouwen’s Lent reflections, and this post reminds me of what he calls the Descending Way.  The descending way is hard. It means lowering myself to the level of a servant as Jesus did, because I’m following Him. It’s challenging. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s not my favorite thing 😉

    When we define our role as servant, we aren’t looking for applause. And it’s in that hidden place that we identify more with our Savior. The hopeful thing about this is that if we never receive praise or glory for our service, it doesn’t hurt, because we were never in it for the glory anyway. We were in it to be like Jesus and to be one with Him, and we receive from Him the reward of intimacy with Him.

    And now that my piece published today, I can say publicly what I could only say privately before. 🙂 When I read this on Monday and saw your use of the metaphorical Table, I was blown away. We hadn’t conferred about our posts for this week, yet the Holy Spirit spoke the same ideas to both of us. It made me love Him more, a God who coordinates things better than we humans can 🙂 So I want to say, thank you for listening to the Spirit and learning from Him, and writing out of that. We are all on the same path here, with our identity as daughters and our role as servants, and whatever other roles we may play in our earthly lifetimes. <3

  8. Lauren Pinkston March 18, 2015

    Love this, Elizabeth, and thank you for being a cheerleader for humble service and quiet teaching. We are learning so much about Christ’s identity, yet are still so far from being like him.

    The hopeful thing about this is that if we never receive praise or glory for our service, it doesn’t hurt, because we were never in it for the glory anyway. 

    This is such a powerful statement. I’ve been very convicted lately that if I give myself to die, nobody can take my life. You can’t take something that’s given freely. So if I will just go ahead and put the idol of my role on the altar, truly sacrifice it, I won’t be disappointed when I don’t receive praise for my gifts. I mean seriously, they aren’t my gifts anyways…they are God’s grace in the form of gifts. What I’m trying to say is, if I make myself lowly and truly take the posture of a servant, I relinquish my desire to have status…role…glory. It’s all God, and always God. And the Kingdom is made greater by His glory.

    Amen, sister. Great post today – going over to read it again!

    1. Elizabeth March 19, 2015

      “Convicted.” Such a good word. I can’t remember who said it, but I’m drawn to the phrase, “our hearts are little idol factories.” We can make an idol out of anything. God continually has to remind me to place Self below Him. Continuously. Even in things where I think I already have. Even in parts of my life that I think I’ve resolved. Status, role, glory, yep, those are our human desires, and Self can always creep back in. At least, in my life that’s true. . .

  9. Teddy Copeland March 19, 2015

    Are you familiar with this poem by Ruth Harms Calkin?

    You know, Lord, how I serve You
    With great emotional fervor
    In the limelight.

    You know how eagerly I speak for You
    At a women’s club.

    You know how effervesce when I promote
    A fellowship group.

    You know my genuine enthusiasm
    At a Bible study.

    But how would I react, I wonder…
    If You pointed me to a basin of water
    And asked me to wash the calloused feet
    Of a bent and wrinkled old woman

    Day after day
    Month after month
    In a room where nobody saw
    And nobody knew.

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