When we meet someone for the first time we ask, “So what do you do?” The response usually includes a job title, position, or current activity. I’ve identified as an athlete, a student, minister, wife, mother, teacher, writer, and runner depending on my season of life. But here’s the problem: What happens to my identity when I can no longer do something? Who am if I lose my title or position or the ability to do my thing?
Last week I said that greatness is achieved by being a servant. I didn’t make that up. Jesus did and proved it with His life. What I had to learn the hard way about greatness and service is this: Serving isn’t just about what I do for someone; it’s also about who I am—my identity. And if my identity isn’t rooted in Christ then my service is just busyness propped up by pride.
Years ago, I had a friend who was in the process of losing his job. He came and talked to me and said, “If I’m not a _________, I’m nothing.” As a young woman in my twenties I remember thinking how sad it must be to have your whole identity wrapped up in your current job title. A hard lesson was just around the corner for me. Isn’t it always? A few, short years later I found myself struggling with the same issue. My choice to leave professional (paid) ministry to be a full-time stay-at-home mom left me asking “who am I” and struggling to answer the so-what-do-you-do question. It would take a few years and some divine encounters to understand that my true identity is rooted in Christ.
One encounter profoundly changed my life. We were in a new church and a couple had graciously invited us out to dinner. It was obvious that the man was a successful businessman but we didn’t know the specifics of his work. Over coffee I asked, “So what do you do?” His response: “I’m a cheerleader.” He went on to explain how he did that but never mentioned his business nor his company name. As we got to know him and his family better his true identity became apparent when his business hit a very low point during the recession. He continued to serve by being a cheerleader. His identify wasn’t rooted in his job title, his bank account, or his accomplishments. He understood his role as a child of God, so whether business was booming or the bottom was falling out, he was a cheerleader in service to Almighty God. Still, when I encounter him, he is always cheering me on in my journey.
My mother was a servant. Her audience was her family, her church, and her community though she always preferred to work behind the scenes. She loved to share her home and her home-cooking with whomever dropped by. She never had a job title but she was always serving—doing something for others. The last three months of her life were spent in a hospital bed unable to do anything for anyone. She was unable even to care for herself but she served until her final days. From her bed, she faithfully proclaimed the grace and mercy of a loving God who had given her all her days, even the ones marred by disease. Visitors poured in eager to see her one more time, to be served by her one last time. Her deep understanding of servant-hood and her identity in Christ made being in her presence a joy and a blessing. She never expressed a need to “do something”, she never spoke of hopelessness or helplessness. Being a servant wasn’t just something she did when she was able; it was who she had become as she rested in Christ.
Servant’s Heart or Busybody?
How do you identify? Would you consider yourself a servant or are you just busy?
2 ways to know if you have a servant’s heart:
1. Remove the audience
- If no one knows about or appreciates your service and you don’t feel the need to mention it
- If you never worry or complain about being forgotten or overlooked
2. Remove the ability or opportunity to do something.
- If you are content when there is nothing you can do.
- If you are not plagued by thoughts and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
I. Still. Struggle. With. This.
I am a do-er and a fix-er. I like my hard work to be noticed and appreciated. I hate feeling helpless.
Doing is good. It really is. I’ll never stop doing what I can.
But our identity must be rooted in Christ; not in what we can do. Service done in Christ is a blessing and He gets the glory. Deeds done apart from him no matter how noble they appear may be more of a burden for everyone.
Service leads to joy. Busyness leaves us resentful. I’ve flopped and flailed and pushed pride to center stage enough to know that what you do isn’t what changes someone’s life.
But when you come to understand and accept that your identity is rooted in Christ alone—now that’s when He uses you to change someone’s life!
Servant or busybody?
Which are you?