Feel like you cannot adequately serve God? Do you know your own voice?
As a pastor's wife I actually have had quite a few people talk about their inability to serve God in a way that makes a difference. They like so many others think you have to be a pastor, a religion professor, or a famous Christian speaker to adequately serve God in a truly meaningful. As I talk to these individuals about the voice they do have, 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 the literary style of a writer. I want you to 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. For everyone trapped at home during COVID, social media often became their agency. 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 some fairly famous people and for everyday people like me. We have known each other for almost ten years. During that time, I have watched her art grow, change, and become more complex. Her favorite series of mine is one our church commissioned her to do on the "I am Sayings" of Jesus. One painting in particular stands out for me, "I am the Good Shepherd."
I have stood in front of this painting more times than I can count and searched its depths as God speaks to me. If you could see it, overall, the painting 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. For Sherri, her main voice is painting the God she worships and painting 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 take steps to own her voice. Sherri accepted her voice over a period of 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 power of God radiantly emanating from a finished piece of art.
Now, some of you might be thinking, "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 the elderly 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. It was her multiple voices of service, steadfastness, love, and loyalty that 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 one and the same and he continues to blast forth for God in a manner that is perfectly 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 larger and more important part 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 did not approve of how God wanted to use it, God still took Jonah's meager offering and magnified it in a way that only God can do. 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
Oftentimes, when humans are on a path to discovery, it is easier to start with the paths people should not be upon. In the case of, do 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 just cannot stand to do? If you have taken a spiritual gifts inventory or taken it more than once, do you have an area that is at the bottom or in my case, always at the bottom? Are there areas that you can serve in or maybe currently serve in but they drain your soul? Let me give some examples.
Being completely honest, 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 just 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 went to visit and do a Christmas program for the residents and my son wanted to participate. My husband was busy that evening, my son was not old enough to drive...I had no choice but to go. I planned to just stay in my car. As it came to be, the dog gone youth minister came and knocked on my window and asked me why I was sitting in my car. I told him why. He did not take my excuse. It was only because I am the pastor's wife that I got out of that car and went in. I felt some duty to that title. If I was not the pastor's wife, I would not have left my car.
Dying, slowly dying each step to the front doors. The dog gone youth minister asked me, once inside, 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 really did get upset, I did not know you would feel that uncomfortable." I told you, I was hiding in my car, what other sign did you need? Ugh. My voice is completely lost each and every time I step into a nursing home. I am not useful to God while being in this physical place. I do help nursing homes in my own way by giving needed toiletry supplies and gripper socks to the residents. I drop them off at the mission’s counter at my church...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 use to feel bad about that as I was called to ministry as a teenager and as I worked in a church as Director of Education or as I served by my husband's side in his churches. I do not feel bad anymore and have not for a good long while. It is okay to know our strengths and weaknesses. When we know them, we are 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 a fully effective ambassador for Christ. In fact, we may end up being a horrible witness 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 of more worth more than the other. Acceptance of these two biblical truths just makes owning your voice easier.
By now you should be getting a clearer picture of what your voice is. If not, no worries, next week we will look directly at finding your voice and talk about what causes us to squelch it.