Truth moment: I enjoy (and sometimes expect) praise and attention for the good work I do for others.
Shocking? No, I am human and for some reason being completely out of my comfort zone in every way possible has made me extremely transparent. Now this may come back to haunt me later in life but God is prompting me to “be generous with my life” and not hold anything back. So if my “realness” is too much then I apologize in advance but I must be obedient to the direction of the Spirit.
Back to my earlier confession: Yes, I am admitting out loud for all to hear that I get a twinge of selfish joy and pleasure from other’s acknowledgment of my seemingly selfless work and sacrifice for the least of these. No this is not my main motivation for desiring to give back and help others, but I must be honest and admit that it certainly makes it easier and more enjoyable when others take notice of all that I do. Through my quiet time with God and His revealing myself to myself I am now able to own the fact that if one day no one ever acknowledges or noticed all of my hard work and dedication to the help of the less fortunate, I secretly would not be completely satisfied. I would feel some kinda way… If no one ever told me job well done, or liked my status on Facebook, or patted me on my back would all of my volunteer work be satisfying? Would I still be content and know that none of those things matter? When God first asked me this question, I could not answer with an immediate ‘Yes!’ But I am almost ashamed to say that some little recognition would be nice. Right?
I mean who wants to make many sacrifices, work extremely hard, spend lots of time on helping others to never have any one even say ‘thank you’? That doesn’t seem fair. Its human nature to want to receive some praise for doing a good job. Even as children we desire the approval and praise of our parents, teachers, and friends. So what is so wrong with wanting it and receiving pleasure from the admiration of others? I had to take a long hard look at myself and all of my motivations for wanting to VOLUNTEER full time without the certainty of being compensated in any way.
God directed me toward a hard reality: Am I working and volunteering out of selfish ambition? (Even if just a little bit) The majority of me knew I was working with these amazing children at the Lebone Centre because I have a heart for all children and I want to help them realize their great potential to do amazing things in their lives. But God revealed to me that all of my motives needed to be pure, because there may come a time when no one acknowledges my work and things get hard and will I be content no matter what people say or don’t say? Of course God didn’t just leave me staring at my broken reflection without also providing me with ways to improve and change that reflection to only reflect Him.
The first lesson came in the form of a Community Engagement training I attended last weekend. This was a mandatory training put on by Rhodes University (where I am attending graduate school) to prepare students to become involved in the community of Grahamstown. At first I did not see the need for me to attend at all. (Pride check moment!) For I had already been working in my volunteer site for almost two months prior to the training. And the primary reason I was going to participate in the training was to be eligible for the free transportation to and from the centre. So after throwing my little hissy fit, God humbled me and settled my spirit. This training was more of a blessing than I even anticipated! God was speaking to my soul! He was checking a major area in my life that I needed to deal with in order to be most effective at the center. He was calling out many places that I didn’t even realize were an issue, and holding up the mirror on certain characteristics that were not like Him.
He showed me how privileged I am and how that privilege plays a big role in my volunteering at the center. He revealed that not only am I privileged as a student, but also as an American heterosexual woman that is proficient in English, financially secure, and extremely educated than the majority (if not all) the people I was working with and for at the center. All of this has resulted in an imaginary chip on my shoulder that has been revealed to me on more than one occasion since being here in South Africa. I was battling with myself throughout this seminar on privilege and how it plays a role in our volunteering. While living in the States I fought so hard in school to have a piece of that privilege and have others recognize it, but here in South Africa I found myself trying to hide it but it kept rearing its ugly head in what I wore, how I talked, and where I lived. I started feeling guilt over my privileged life and how it came so easy for me and the fact that I expected certain conveniences and provisions. I didn’t want this to cloud my focus or effect my work at the center. God was steadily breaking my heart of all the things that break His heart!
So how do I find the balance in order to have a pure motivation for my volunteer work? God directed my focus to a scripture in Philippians 2:1-11. Paul talks about how if we want to be more like Christ and be united with Him then we must not “do [anything] out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). But instead of looking to do things for ourselves we must do things for the “interests of the others” (Philippians 2:4). Paul goes on to say that even Jesus Christ did not come to this Earth to flaunt His royalty and status of being the Son of the Most High. He did not enter into this Earth with trumpets blaring and a red carpet rolled out. He took off His kingly robes and did not use His direct connection to God to His advantage. Jesus could have easily made all of the people who wouldn’t and didn’t believe in Him bend to His will, but He assumed a complete humble role. Although He deserved all of the praise and attention and recognition but did not seek it out or even expect it. That is how we must all be. That is how I must be in all that I do.
My heart must be pure and motives genuine. I must quiet the selfish spirits that seek out and find pleasure in recognition and receiving many “likes” on Facebook! I must submit my will to the will of God. Yes SUBMIT! I must recognize that this journey is NOT about me! It is not about what I will gain, not about what I will give. It is all about God’s will! I am just an empty vessel. I must take on the humble role of a servant. Working hard and sacrificing much never expecting or desiring any type of recognition or praise. Yes I have a lot to offer, but it is not better or more important than what someone else has to give. I am only here for a season. The amazing women that work at the center were there before I arrived and they will be there long after I am gone. I am not a hero that has swooped down from America to save the poor people of South Africa! I am not working for the Lebone Centre, but rather working with the people of the center and community. I must let go of ‘self’. My agenda, my resume, and my ambition are not important and should not be any part of my focus (even if just a little bit). I must die to those thoughts of ‘one day someone will speak about all of the good things I did for the Lebone Centre!’ I must become completely obedient to God’s will and let go of the “what about me” mentality.
Before coming to South Africa, I had so many ideas of programs and things I wanted to do at the Lebone Centre to leave my mark and make things better for the children there. Well since being here, God has placed on my heart everything BUT the things I had in mind. Nothing I had planned has been something God is directing me to pursue at this time. He guided me towards things and people that I never had in mind. He is showing me that this is not about Sarah and what Sarah wants to do. It is about submitting those plans to Him and allowing Him to use me however He sees fit. God is teaching me that the “I’s and me’s” have no place in service. Service is not about what makes me comfortable or what is easy for me. I am sure if Jesus could have chosen a less painful, less humiliating, less inconvenient death He would have. But Jesus knew it wasn’t about what He wanted, but all about us! I am so glad He removed himself from the equation and died to His motives. I pray that no one ever knows my name.
I pray that through the work that I do it will draw people closer to God. I pray that God will use me however He pleases. I pray that people will not see my privilege or even me, but see only the Jesus that lives in me. I pray that with all that I do and learn its all to “make me more willing and able to obey God’s own purpose” and not my own (Philippians 2:12-13). If no one ever knows my name, never likes another status, never reads another blog post, never pats me on my back, never says thank you or you did a good job, then I will be content. I will be satisfied because I know that it is not about me at all! It is all about uplifting God and giving Him all of the praise and recognition. If you for some reason ever do think of me and say my name, I hope and pray that in doing that you will also praise the “name that is above every name” and “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2: 10 – 11).
God is Mindful!