Feel like you cannot adequately serve God? Do you know your own voice?
As a pastor's wife, I have had quite a few people talk about their inability to serve God in a way that makes a difference. Like so many others, they think you have to be a pastor, religion professor, or famous Christian speaker to serve God meaningfully. As I talk to these individuals about their voices, it is beautiful to see the transformation as they come into the power God has given them, a power they were unaware they possessed.
Voice is both a noun and a verb. Most often, people associate voice with talking, singing, and a writer's literary style. Please consider for a moment that our voice is an agency by which our Christian point of view is expressed or represented. Agency is a person or thing through which power is exerted, or an end is achieved. For college students, the school newspaper may be their agency. Social media often became the agency for everyone trapped at home during COVID. For employees, a strike can be their agency. My best friend's agency is her artwork.
Sherri is a gifted watercolor artist who has done commissions for famous people and everyday people like me. We have known each other for almost ten years. I have watched her art grow, change, and become more complex during that time. Her favorite series of mine is one our church commissioned her to do on the "I am Sayings" of Jesus. One particular painting stands out for me, "I am the Good Shepherd."
I have stood before this painting more times than I can count and searched its depths as God speaks to me. If you could see it overall, the image is a nature scene of a path leading to a distant destination. However, as you look at it and comb the depths, you would find a manger scene, a child walking the path, the pied piper (yep, he is in there), and more. The painting truly represents Jesus as the Good Shepherd, but it is from a point of view that I had not seen before. It was a new voice which expanded my concept of who the Good Shepherd is and what He does for all of us who listen to and follow Him. Sherri's main voice is painting the God she worships and what He speaks to her heart.
If you could talk to Sherri, she would be open and honest about her struggles with painting. The one that relates to this blog is owning her voice and standing in the power of it. When I first met Sherri, she did not own the authority God had given her through painting. Once I started talking to her about how she serves God and reaches others for Christ through her art, I witnessed her own her voice. Sherri accepted her voice over some time through praying, reading the bible, seeking direction from God, and fellowshipping with other Christians. It was amazing to watch Sherri truly step into the gift God gave her, own the power of God flowing through her as she paints, and see the resulting strength of God radiantly emanating from a finished piece of art.
Some of you might think, "I don't produce anything." Your voice is not necessarily a finished product like my blog post or Sherri's artwork. I know another person; her voice booms through her care and love of older people in nursing homes. What a voice. I know a couple, Bob and Evelyn, who had the same voice of service. Until his wife's recent death, this couple spent their time in retirement organizing food drives for our church's "Snack Sacks" program, running errands, picking up supplies for the church, printing bulletins, delivering food to homeless shelters, helping the pastor, cooking for my college students, mentoring elementary students, and the list goes on and on. When we held her funeral a week and a half ago, the place was packed, and we even streamed it online for those who could not attend. Her multiple voices of service, steadfastness, love, and loyalty transformed an untold number of lives. Today, her husband is currently: organizing food drives, running errands for the church, caring for the homeless, and so forth and so on. His voice and her voice were the same, and he continued to blast forth for God in a manner that was ideally suited to him.
In the first blog of this series, "The Power Behind Your Voice." I briefly discussed the stories of Esther, Jonah, and Mary Magdalene and how they had powerful voices for God. Esther's voice was due in a small part to her beauty and in a more significant factor to her ability to maneuver and speak in treacherous situations and do so cunningly. Jonah was a man who deeply loved God. His voice was independence and confidence. While Jonah's voice became feeble and irascible when he disapproved of how God wanted to use it, God still took Jonah's meager offering and magnified it in a way that only God could. And Mary Magdalene. Her voice was steadfastness and generosity with her wealth.
Voices come in all shapes and sizes, as illustrated above. Your voice is a noun and a verb. Your voice is your identity (noun) and purpose (verb) in Christ.
Know What Your Voice Is Not
When humans are on a path to discovery, it is often easier to start with the paths people should not be upon. If you know your own voice, we will begin with knowing what your voice is not before we discuss finding your voice.
Are there things you cannot stand to do? If you have taken a spiritual gifts inventory or taken it more than once, do you have an area at the bottom or, in my case, always at the bottom? Are there areas in which you can serve or may currently serve, but they drain your soul? Let me give some examples.
Honestly, I would rather die than have to go and serve in a nursing home. Please do not judge or hate me for it. I cannot stand it -- I get too upset. I become unable to function or interact. I have to force myself not to cry the whole time I am there. The last time I went into a nursing home was because the youth group visited and did a Christmas program for the residents, and my son wanted to participate. My husband was busy that evening, and my son was not old enough to drive...I had no choice but to go. I planned to stay in my car. As it came to be, the dog-gone youth minister came, knocked on my window, and asked me why I was sitting in my vehicle. I told him why. He did not take my excuse. I got out of that car and went in only because I was the pastor's wife. I felt some duty to that title. I would not have left my car if I were not the pastor's wife.
I was dying, slowly dying with each step to the front doors. Once inside, the dog-gone youth minister asked me if I was okay. Duh...no. He organized the youth and parents and then assigned jobs. I moved quickly to take the photographer's role; if I could not hide in my car, I would hide behind my phone's camera. So, the youth do the program, I hide behind my phone's camera, and I survive. Barely. Later, the dog-gone youth pastor said, "You did get upset; I did not know you would feel that uncomfortable." I told you, and I was hiding in my car; what other sign did you need? Ugh. My voice is completely lost every time I step into a nursing home. I am not useful to God while being in this physical place. I help nursing homes by giving the residents needed toiletry supplies and gripper socks. I drop them off at my church’s mission counter...far away from nursing home doors.
Another moment of honesty. I do not have a bone of service in my body. I have taken multiple spiritual gifts inventories starting in high school, then college, then seminary, in various churches, and just for fun. Every single time, each one has shown that I am least suited to the gift of service. Not that I need a spiritual gifts inventory to tell me this; I know it in my bones and through my lack of action in this area. I used to feel bad about that as I was called to ministry as a teenager, worked in a church as Director of Education, or served by my husband's side in his churches. I do not feel bad anymore and have not for a long while. It is okay to know our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing them makes us more effective in God's service and being a light in this broken world. If we try to use a voice we do not have, we will not be fully effective ambassadors for Christ. In fact, we may become horrible witnesses for Him as we try to act on our power and not God's.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 makes it clear. There is one body but many parts. Each has a role to play. And you can no sooner make a foot do the work of an eyeball than you can get the elbow to do the work of the mouth. And one part is not more important than another. The body needs its feet. The body needs its ears. The body needs it back. How can we say one of those is worth more than the other? Acceptance of these two biblical truths makes owning your voice easier.
By now, you should be getting a clearer picture of your voice. If not, no worries; next week, we will look directly at finding your voice and talk about what causes us to squelch it.
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