I Have Learned That I Am Very Expendable (7)

coffee5_1.jpgI have learned that I am very expendable.

Sometimes it is easy to think that the whole world rests on my shoulders.  Maybe that is an exaggeration.  Yet, it is easy for some of us to also exaggerate our own sense of self-importance.

  • What would this company do without me?
  • What would my friends do without me?
  • What would this church do without me?

The truth is that my company, my friends, and my church will go on without me.  If I die — when I die — life will go on for everyone else.  The sun will rise and set.  The flowers will grow.  The next week and the next month will happen.  All of that will happen with or without me.

Perhaps some of these feelings of being essential come from trying to meet everyone else’s expectations.  Think about the expectations that you experience regularly.  What if I try to meet everyone’s expectations?

  • What my family expects.
  • What my children expect.
  • What my boss expects.
  • What my church expects.
  • What my friends expect.
  • What the civic group expects.
  • What the team expects.
  • What the committee expects.

If life is about meeting everyone else’s expectations, then I can begin to feel far too essential.  In fact, I can begin to feel so overloaded and burdened that there is no longer any joy in day-to-day living.  It is one thing to recognize one’s vocation/calling and to live as a servant.  It is quite another to define my existence by my ability or inability to measure up to the expectations of others.  At some point, I need to wrestle with these expectations and take a hard look at which ones really seem to matter, which ones have been thrust upon me, and which ones I have gravitated toward out of my own insecurity.

I was in a conversation with a friend of mine about this very issue.  We talked about the struggle of living with no margin.  We talked about the price and futility of living an overloaded life.  My friend was a minister for many years for a very large church in Dallas.  He said to me regarding his time and his ministry:

"I began to realize that if on a Sunday morning I was crossing the street in front of our church building and got run over and killed by a truck, this church would have a search committee in place by that evening."

Now my friend chuckled as he spoke this exaggeration.  Yet, he was trying to make a point.  He went on to say that sometimes ministers (and many, many others) see themselves as essential.  Yet, life will go on for the church with or without those of us who serve these churches.   

Bottom line?  The essential one is God.  God is the one the world cannot live without.  We are born.  We learn to love God and serve him.  We die.  The constant from generation to generation is God himself.

What helps you remember that you are the one who is expendable and that God is the one who is essential?

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13 thoughts on “I Have Learned That I Am Very Expendable (7)

  1. I think the only real way to remind ourselves of this truth is from a strong inner life.  In ministry whenever we begin to believe our own press, good or bad, it will shape us into a machine that functions in one of the following ways: we do more to uphold the image others have of us, or we focus so on image management because of what we think they think of us, or finally we try to please enough people that their perception of us changes. 
    All of these futile pursuits are made clear to us when we are in intimate community with God, however that happens for one.
    It makes me also wonder if this is why so many ministers are not really equippers. If we hold the power of the "doing of ministry" close, we remain needed.  If we shift our perspective to relational ministry and spend our time shepherding, growing, equipping and investing in the lives of members to minister, the tasks can be handled by the multitude and that threatens us.
    Jim, as always – something to chew on, thanks!

  2. Although we have been given a short time on this earth, the difference we can leave here can effect so many people and turn them in the right direction. Sure the things we physically do can be done by someone else however if we could possibly say or do one thing that could turn a lost soul into a Christian, the Lord would smile. In turn that Christian converts many more lost souls that individuals work becomes a greater impotance in the eyes of the Lord. Our lives are not about what everyone else expects. It what the Lord expects. This blog has not been expendable. It has been everlasting.

  3. Boy, this one really spoke to me.  Intellectually I know that I am replaceable, but in reality I seldom live like I believe that…I tend toward trying to meet all of those expectations out there and I feel like a failure if I can’t meet them.
         It is humbling in the extreme to know that all things would go on without me…and yet in a deep way too, it is a great relief that all does not depend on me…God is perfectly capable of taking care of my family and…
        Thanks again for a great post.

  4. Iain,I really appreciate what you said and suspect that many people who read this post can identify with you.It is amazing how we can take on so many expectations that others bring our way.  Sometimes, they are reasonable but so often these expectations are so unreasonable.Thanks, 

  5. Perry,Thanks for such a good comment.In particular, I appreciate your comment regarding what really matters.  It is not about the expectations of others but the expectations of God.

  6. Arlene,You express this so very well.In particular, I was drawn to your comment about why ministers are not equipping others instead of attempting to do everything themselves. Lone Ranger ministry really does shortchange the body of Christ. 

  7. Jim:
    Great post! I tell our staff on a regular basis that each one of us can and will be replaced, and the church will continue on without us quite well.

  8. Jim, I appreciated this post, particularly as I was sitting with some new therapists-in-training yesterday afternoon helping them understand our role in therapy as facilitators not fixers.  However, I do have one question regarding your post.  How do you balance being expendable with also being a co-laborer with Christ?  Thanks always for your thoughts, Jen

  9. This reminds me of a story I once heard about an old man and his son. They were both on their way to the market to sell their donkey when the old man suggested that his son ride the donkey. A short while later they met an old woman who chided the boy for allowing his elderly father to walk while he rode the donkey and so they both switched positions. Yet a short time later, they met a man who yelled at the old man for being selfish since there was ample room on the donkey for both men and so the son joined his father on the donkey’s. They had barley gone a few feet when they met a young lady with accused them both of being wicked because they were riding this poor donkey. You should be carrying this poor defenseless animal! she cried. So both men grabbed the donkey and slung the animal about their shoulders and on they went. Reaching the market they were greeted with mock laughter and jeers… What stupid men you are! they said.. why don’t you let the donkey walk? There lies the trouble with trying to satify all the expectations of those around us. If we just fulfill God’s expectations, then everything else will just fall right into place. So instead of pleasing everybody just please God.

  10. Hi Jennifer,Thanks for a very good question.  As I think about your question, it occurs to me that for me the balance comes down to whether or not my work/ministry is about Jesus and what he seems to be calling me to or is it about me?For example, as I think about some earlier years, especially, I have to admit that at times what I did was not really a response to him but was more about me.  (I wanted to be liked, valued, appreciated, and yes, even seen as essential.)On the other hand, I am now trying to respond to these opportunities asking myself such questions as,Is God creating this opportunity for me?What would Jesus do?Do I seem to be the best person to be involved with this particular ministry opportunity or is someone else better equipped (which in that case I might help to connect them with one another).This is my answer this morning.  Something else may come by this afternoon.