23 Sep Living In The Shadows
Do you ever feel like you are under-appreciated? Do you ever feel that others around you get all the recognition and the credit, but you are the one doing so much of the work? So often, people that do most of the work go completely unnoticed.
Many years ago I worked as a waitress. Waitresses actually have to be quite skilled to do their job. They have to be able to multi-task, have perfect timing, be friendly and polite, and be virtually invisible to the table, serving, clearing and catering to every need with the least amount of interruption to the guests. I always say that you can tell a person’s true character by the way they treat people in a service capacity. People leave a tip, but seldom do people say thank you or ever really notice you.
Later on I worked as a secretary to the General Manager of a hotel. This was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. He relied on me for everything. No matter what he asked me to do, I rose to the challenge. I was doing work that I was neither trained to do nor paid to do, but I did it. Even handling the duties of a marketing director, planning a marketing budget, writing and illustrating an employee handbook, presentations, placing media and planning strategies. Yet, everything I did, he would take and present as his own, and receive all the accolades and praise.
Millions of people live in the shadows every day. People in a service capacity, who work hard to provide service to others, are seldom seen, seldom thanked, or seldom recognized. Secretaries, waitresses, bartenders, maids, fast food workers, clerks, janitors, teachers, and more all live in the shadows. People in the missions field work hard for the glory of God in the shadows. They work tirelessly helping to change the lives of our most broken. But they are seldom recognized. There are many times when we may feel like we are invisible; that we just continue to do our job day after day with no one taking much notice.
This has kind of been a pattern for my life. I have always lived in the shadows and that continues even today, outside of one exception. I am a singer and have spent a good portion of my life on a stage. I sang professionally for many years and later was the praise and worship leader in church. So I know what it feels like to be in the limelight at times. But for the most part, I have been in a service capacity all of my life.
While I was singing, an agent found me and signed me to a contract. I moved to Cincinnati and sang at night in clubs and did a lot of studio work with some amazing musicians. To earn extra money, I took a day job as a receptionist in an ad agency. I went from receptionist to secretary quickly. As a secretary I sat in on the creative meetings where the team would brainstorm campaign ideas for large national clients. It was exactly like the TV show Mad Men, where 12 men sat around a huge conference table and drank heavily while shooting around ideas. I joined in on the discussions and many times threw out ideas. No one ever noticed me, but often my ideas were the ones they ended up using for the campaigns. I had no idea what I was doing, but I found out that I was really creative. I never did get credit for any of the ideas, but it was satisfying to me that I was discovering things about me that I didn’t know.
Little did I know at the time that that experience was laying the foundation for the rest of my life. All that time spent in the shadows was God setting me up for what He had in mind for me.
I‘ve owned my own ad agency for the past 31 years. All that I learned there I was able to apply here and enjoy the freedom of owning my own business. I have always treated my business as a ministry and we have blended service to the Lord and service to our community with our work. It has been awesome and I thank God for the opportunity to work in a job that I love. We have created and organized a multitude of community events and always someone else received the award and praise.
I’ve come to accept this life in the shadows and actually now fully realize what it means.
We live in a society where we worship celebrities and their every move. We follow wealth and covet after their lifestyle. Every celebrity and athlete feels their life and their opinion are of far greater importance than the millions of other people who live in the shadows. I will never understand how millions of people can be so obsessed with Kim Kardashian’s humongous ego and her humongous butt. Ordinary people live vicariously through the rich and famous, and find themselves obsessed with them because they view their own lives as so plain. Fame does not equal brilliance. We give honor to the wrong people! Honor belongs only to God.
It’s very easy to get caught up in resentment or bitterness when you are constantly the one doing so much of the work, and getting none of the recognition. It can lead to gossip, hurt feelings and low self-esteem. Please understand this. Most people live in the shadows, working hard every day, getting little or no praise or appreciation.
There’s something I want you to know about the shadows. To me, the shadows are a holy place. God loves those who live in the shadow of their meekness; who work hard and silently with no fanfare or honor. They are the ones closest to God’s heart. They are the ones who define humility. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”
There is a place of humility and surrender that Christians come to on the road to maturity. Surrender does not mean you just give up. It means you give up to God and learn to trust in Him completely for every situation. It means you give your heart so fully to God that you rest in His ability to guide you, provide for you, enable you, and anoint you to live your life for Him and build His Kingdom.
Listen to this scripture: Acts 5:14-16 –
“Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.”
When I read this scripture, everything came pouring in on me about living in the shadows. Peter is the rock that Jesus built His church upon. Peter, the one who denied Jesus three times and hid in fear. Peter, who tried to walk on water, but sank because he didn’t believe. Yet Peter became a fierce advocate for Jesus and the Kingdom of God. So much so that even his shadow was filled with the anointing of God. People believed in Jesus so much that they believed there was even power in the shadow of his disciple. There is power in the shadows!
When God uses someone or uses an organization, there is so much anointing that even the shadow has power. This is where we are, in God’s powerful, anointed shadow where our faith is a weapon.
Check out this story of a Muslim man named Mohammed in Africa who was deaf, missed his train and fell asleep in the shadow of a building. He had no idea there was a huge Christian conference going on inside with evangelist Daniel Kolenda, music, speakers and tremendous cheering crowds. God’s power was so awesome that he was healed in the shadow of that building and he ran inside to tell everyone of God’s power. He gave his life to Christ that night. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geD_9FqGDRA
As far back as I remember I have prayed for God to keep me in the shadow of His Almighty Wing. It is one of my favorite prayers, my favorite image to see myself huddled under His massive wing in His shadow where I know I am safe. In that shadow, I am also in the presence of His anointing, His work, His blessings, His power, His love. There is power in His shadow.
Now I know there is nowhere I would rather be than in the shadows, doing the work God gives me to do. I don’t need the glory because the glory is His. I don’t need to be thanked or have my picture in the paper, because the work is for God, by God and through God to meet the needs of His people.
We are the mission field, doing what God gives us to do every single day. Do only what God puts in front of your face daily and by the end of your life, you will have accomplished a great many things for the Kingdom of God.
Mother Teresa said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.”
Mother Teresa never sought fame or publicity or even acknowledgment. She worked in the shadows her entire life and was content with what God gave her to do and the joy of seeing the fruit of His gifts fulfilled. Now she’s a saint and I promise you she would not care at all about that either.
As I look back over my career, what do I consider to be my greatest accomplishment on this earth? Even though the community projects have been awesome and fulfilling, that’s not it. I have two beautiful children that I love, but that’s not it.
I have led people to Christ, even entire families, even complete strangers. I have never been afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, especially when I knew they were in distress or trouble. God has used me most in the shadows to reach his lost.
I attended a big event in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jacksonville. It was an opening for a new community center. City Council members were there, live music, preachers on stage, free haircuts. But I stayed out by the street on the fringes of the activity. In the shadow of this big tree I saw a homeless man standing behind the tree and just peeking around to see what was going on. I went over and started talking to him. He was so dirty and his hair and beard nearly covered his entire head. We talked for a while and then I asked him if he knew Jesus. He said he never really thought about it and wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he saw him on the street. He lost everything and hated everyone and was content in his misery and emptiness.
I got him a plate of food, then got him in the chair for a free haircut, and washed his face with a washcloth. Then I introduced him to City Councilman Johnny Gaffney to see if he had any ideas about where this man could go to find work. Johnny said he knew of a big city construction project just a few blocks over and he could definitely get him hired on.
Later, the man came back over to me and I asked him how he felt now. He cried and said that he thought Jesus had helped him. I asked him if he wanted to pray with me and accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior and he said yes, so we prayed right there in the shadow of that tree.
Even with all the praise music and preaching on stage, it was me in the shadows that Jesus was able to use that day to bring that man to Christ.
We were created to love and worship God. God delights in us and loves us more than we can even fathom. We are also weapons of righteousness. We need to take being a warrior very seriously, because every time we encourage someone, bless them, help them or lead them to a life in Christ, we are destroying hell and taking power from the devil.
We aren’t all called to be Billy Graham or T. D. Jakes. We don’t stand in front of screaming thousands and preach. But we are blessed to work in the shadows, obedient to a loving Father with no fanfare, yet giving all glory to God, where all honor belongs. We are the reflection of Christ, the light of the world and we bring the light into the shadows to illuminate God’s love.
If you are feeling like you’re less than important, please know that you are everything to God. If you feel like your job and what you do is insignificant, please know that you are the lifeblood of Jesus Christ and who He died for.
You are in a relationship with Jesus Christ who died for you. Live in the fullness of His love. We are all disciples of Christ.
WE are the hands, feet, eyes, and mouth of Jesus on this earth right now. You do not need to be waiting for some prophetic word over your life to tell you who you are and what you are to be doing. God has anointed you right here in this moment, in every moment to change this world for Christ.
We who live in the shadows, who work in the shadows, who dwell in the shadow of God’s Almighty Wing, we are the foot soldiers in God’s holy army. We carry the breath of life in our words, our testimony and our witness. We are nobody and nothing, yet through God, we are everything.
Peter’s shadow actually had no power of it’s own. The shadow itself can’t heal. But Peter’s shadow represents tremendous faith. It shows every single one of us how powerful we can be when we surrender to God and allow Him to use us to His glory.
All you have to do is look at the news, or your Facebook feed or any social media and you will see this world is descending quickly to the ravages of evil. We have leaders who have stoked division, racism, hatred and belittle Christians. We have celebrities who are encouraging militant mindsets, protests and violence. There are athletes using our most patriotic and beloved symbols of freedom to divide us further.
As Christians, we have to engage. We have to live in this moment and pray boldly for our nation and each other. We cannot have tunnel vision and give into hatred or division. We can be effective weapons for the Kingdom of God. Do not be intimidated by thinking you are nothing and no one. Wake up and tell someone about Jesus. Share your story, your testimony. We are in urgent days and we cannot be complacent any longer. Only love will change this world.
When we submit to Christ, we possess the strength and power of Christ himself. God is at work all around you. Just open your eyes and get involved in what God is doing.
You serve a great and mighty God who has a plan for you and for this world. Everything you do in His name has a ripple effect that is eternal. See the shadows now as an opportunity to illuminate and ask God to use you as the fierce and mighty weapon you are, in Jesus name. Amen.