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“I noticed you didn’t fill in the line about your occupation. What do you do?”

My new doctor was interested in knowing more about who I was. Having been home for several years as a full time mom, I was tired of giving “homemaker” as my occupation title.

“Actually I’m the CEO of an independent management consulting firm. We have assets of over three quarters of a million dollars. Right now those assets are tied up, but they promise to produce great dividends.”

The doctor leaned forward with more interest. But then he looked at me quizzically and a bit annoyed that he’d briefly fallen for my line.

“Oh, you’re a mother and housewife.”

I had recently read that it took more than $250K to raise a child from birth to age 21, including college. I knew in my heart that what I was doing was important and valuable.

But I was tired of the dismissive looks and comments from people during social interactions. You could almost hear them sighing, “You poor uninteresting person” as they turned away and engaged with someone more fascinating. So I created a description that would be much more compelling. At least it gave people pause to imagine how involved my job was.

“What do you do?” is a common question we hear when meeting someone. Does it really give any insight into who we are? Is our identity locked into that title or description?

I have been a dental receptionist, waitress, secretary, teacher, music director, mother, daughter, wife, and author. Some of these have been simultaneous. I’m sure that is true for many people who wear several hats at the same time.

Because you are something or say you are something, does it follow that you do certain things? Someone can be a father or a mother, but that doesn’t mean they actually fulfill their role. I’ve met teachers who are good with quizzes and tests and relaying information but have no interest in truly teaching.

“I’m the director!” “I’m the president!” “I’m the doctor!” “I’m the judge!” “I’m the principal!” “I’m the teacher!” “I’m the boss!” “I’m the…”  Often these proclamations are met with “Fine, then act like it! Do your job!” People expect more from us than just a statement of authority. Only God can get away with “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).

Can we do without officially being something? Of course! When a parent is absent or is shirking their responsibilities, other family members often step in. If a leader isn’t doing the job of leading, someone is sure to fill the vacuum. They don’t want to just sit around sharing ideas. They want to get something done.

What happens when you retire from your profession or your children are all grown? Perhaps something happens to the company or organization that you led and you are no longer the head, the director, the leader, the CEO? What if your job disappears? You are no longer advising, teaching, counseling, working the line, compiling reports and proposals.

Those “what do you do” introductions become awkward. You are out of work, so what do you actually do? You’re retired, so I guess what you do now isn’t really important. We ask ourselves if what we do identifies who we are? Or is it something deeper? Can we still be without doing?

We know who our Lord Jesus is. His Father said clearly that Jesus was His Son (Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Jesus said He was the light of the world (John 8:12), the bread of life (John 6:35), the good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), the resurrection (John 11:25), the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

But He didn’t just make those claims. He always followed up with “Because I am this, I do this.” He shined the light clearly on our need for His forgiveness and brought light into our hearts. He fed our souls with the nourishment of His Word. He laid down His life for His sheep. He raised people from the dead. He showed us that He had conquered death by rising from the grave.

Jesus also reminded His disciples what His real title was: servant (Luke 22:27). And then He showed them what it meant to be their leader when He washed their feet (John 13:12-14). There’s our answer when we get too caught up in who we are. There’s our reminder that leaders serve!

Above all, our God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). He acted on that love by giving His one and only Son, our Lord Jesus, who then gave His life for us as the ultimate act of love (John 15:13). And He keeps on being love and showing us His love.

No matter where we find ourselves in leading or following, we know we are the one thing that defines not only who we are but also what we do. We are children of God, beloved and saved for all eternity by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus. That identity doesn’t change with time or place or circumstance.

Because I am a child of God and wear the name of my Lord Jesus, is that enough? What follows?  What do I do? Hopefully they are the actions that honor my Savior. I show patience. I act with kind intentions. I express mercy and forgiveness to those who hurt me, even when they have no remorse. I lead with a gentle and humble spirit. Most of all I lead as a servant… always with love.

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