On Our Shoulders

“The mindset that leadership is someone else’s responsibility means our guard is down and we may not even notice the kingdom battles God is calling us to fight.”                         

My college roommate and I were studying in our dorm room, when a girl burst through the door to alert us that someone was in trouble. We jumped up and raced down the hallway into the bathroom where a freshman was bleeding profusely from a deep laceration on her hand—not, as we first thought from a suicide attempt, but from a glass bottle that had accidentally shattered in her hand during a water-fight.

Without hesitating even for a second, I grabbed a towel, pressed it over the wound, and held her hand firmly to stop the bleeding. I didn’t release my grip on her hand until we reached the hospital.

 I don’t think she lost another drop of blood en route.

Once in the Emergency Room, however, everything changed. She wasn’t my responsibility any more. Doctors and nurses were there to take over. While she waited for the doctors to phone her parents, I sat by the bed where she lay quietly waiting and noticed that her cupped hand again began to fill with blood. As I started to feel woozy, a doctor stepped in, took one look at me, and urged a nurse to “Get her out of here!”

When God designated human beings as his image bearers, not only did he confer on us the highest possible honor as his representatives, he also placed squarely on our shoulders enormous responsibility for what goes on in his world. We are to be his eyes, his ears, his hands, his feet, his voice.

Suffering in this world is our business, and he intends for his image bearers to take action in relieving it.

As women, we are often encouraged to embrace a smaller vision of God’s calling on our lives. Much of what we are told tends to narrow our focus to our own spiritual health and making sure our personal lives are on track. Rarely is our attention drawn beyond hearth and home to consider others who are in desperate need of our care and advocacy. We draw the parameters of our responsibility far narrower than what God has in mind. Sometimes, we even embrace a notion that is utterly foreign to what it means to bear God’s image in this world, namely that responsibility for those kinds of things belongs to someone else. I was dumbfounded to hear a gifted, competent 30ish single business woman complain, “I just want someone to take care of me.”

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to shatter our small thinking of how far our responsibilities extend. Every person in the parable—the priest, Levite, and the Samaritan—had responsibility for the injured man at the side of the road. The fact that the despised Samaritan took pity and acted completely redefines the definition of “Who is my neighbor?” as a borderless concept.

A young woman in Dallas with several of her friends read through Half the Church. She told me, when they finished reading, “We wanted to change the world.” They felt responsible to do something and they did—initiating a city-wide awareness campaign to combat sex trafficking during the 2011 Super Bowl.

I’m stunned in the difference it makes in me when I feel responsible and when I don’t. Responsibility leads to action. But when responsibility belongs to someone else, I can watch someone bleed and become a problem myself by going limp.

According to statistics, women make up at least half of the church. Think how the kingdom of God would be advanced if we took up our calling as God’s image bearers and acted on the responsibility he means for us to carry!

[Originally published in the FullFill  {Think} column and reprinted with permission here.]  

About carolyncustisjames

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3 Responses to On Our Shoulders

  1. RJ Thesman says:

    While I agree that we need to do what God calls us to, I also plead the need for moderation in all things. I can understand the woman who just wants someone to take care of her, because as women we often nurture the entire world at the peril of our own health. When we are over-stressed because we take on burdens that are not ours to bear, then we are no good for the Kingdom. Rather, staying in tune with the Holy Spirit and asking Him for direction as to how we are to serve and minister – will keep us in focus so that we can do the most good with the gifts God has given us.


  2. stevensabby says:

    I loved this post. I used to be the 20-something single woman who said she felt lost without someone to take care of me. Now I'm a 30-something single woman who has finally realized that I never actually felt that — everyone just told me I was supposed to.

    I think frequently of the story in the Gospels where Jesus is teaching and the house he's in is so full, the crippled man's friends have to carry him to the roof and tear it off just to get him to Jesus.

    That's who I want to be. It's who I've always wanted to be, and abdicating responsibility has only allowed me to blame others for the state of the world without requiring anything of myself to help it.

    Thanks for this post and this reminder.


  3. megan says:

    a thousand times over, yes, yes, yes!

    wonderful piece!


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