In Embracing the Heart, Servant Leadership

 

servantleadership copy

 

First things first: I have three facts to share: (1) Honestly speaking, this is my first book to read written by Frank Padilla, (2) Because of the abundance of points, it took me a week to seriously read the entire book (even though it is thin and looks like a breeze to read, it is not) and I resorted to using a pencil to underline everything that struck me, even scribbling down bits of “side-notes” from all the realizations I got, and (3) This book is definitely one of the best books to read for any youth servant ready to be used by God.

If the reader may allow, I will divide my entire reflections chapter per chapter. Because I have “scribbled side-notes”. And the book, though it may seem an easy-read, is really a lot to take in. Yet, that’s what makes this book a very, very good read.

Introduction
The very first thing that struck me is that “Servant Leadership is an oxymoron.” It is a contradiction. The world has defined what leaders are; they are to be obeyed, they lead of course, they command, they lord it over people because they have the power to do so. Yet it is very much different from what Jesus is asking of us: to be a servant leader and it means that although we are leaders, we should be least, the last, the lowest. And “…that is the only type of leader that God calls and is able to use.” and if one adheres to it, “…God will use such a one mightily.” Who, in the right heart and mind and spirit, would not want to be used by God?

 

Part I—Who You Are

Being More Than Serving
Being more than doing. This is not about what we do, but more importantly, what we become when we serve God. And when we allow ourselves to be used by God, we can do amazing things but that “depends on how much that someone is willing to give.” I am a self-confessed Martha. I have the tendency to do and work and deliver but my heart is not right. What happens next is I become burdened. The chapter has helped me to “look first at my heart before moving my hands and feet.” It means that my relationship with God and the posture of my heart and spirit comes first before my duties and esponsibilities. It means that I should become a Mary and sit first at Jesus’ feet before serving hard like Martha. And that is always the best choice.

Being A Ransom
This is what sacrifice is: Jesus’ giving His life for us to be a ransom for the world. What struck me was that we were under Satan’s dominion until Jesus’ became the ransom for us. Now we are His. Thus we are also called to be a ransom for the flock that God has put under our care. We need to be ransoms. And that means giving the very life that we have (dying to our human nature) and expending all our means just to bring those under our care to heaven.

Being Like A Child
I have always admired St. Therese of Lisieux for her child-like faith. It is so simple yet it reaches to the deep theology and the beauty in there is that anyone can follow her example—to love God with faith like a child’s. A child is clingy, needy, very easy to please, innocent and pure, sensitive, obey without doubting and totally dependent. The problem when people grow up is that they become independent, rely less and are stubborn. I believe that if we want to serve, and to love God fully, we should learn how to see God through a child’s eyes; to acknowledge that we are weak, we know nothing, and we cannot do anything without God’s help. “It is as simple as this, when we let God truly be a Father in our lives, everything will fall into place.”

Being A Disciple
Jesus’ disciples have gone through many trials and much suffering just to follow His ways. This chapter has been one of the most striking parts for me for it says that those who want to be Christ’s disciple should deny one’s self, take up his cross and follow Jesus. I learned that denying means to give up things we love, things that are dear to us, things that bring us comfort and security, things that are important to us because if removing it from our lives is what it takes for the furtherance of the mission, we should leave it, give it up, and let it go. Self-denial makes us people not for ourselves but for others. When we learn not to think about ourselves, we become more focused on God and His work. I also learned that taking up our crosses gives us the opportunity to be one in suffering with Jesus Christ. When faced with trials and tribulations, we do not drag our crosses but we embrace it. Total embracing means fully accepting and enduring all that life throws at us while acknowledging that through these we become better, stronger and braver persons. ”We are not masochists. We do not find pain to inflict on ourselves. But when pain happens, we allow it to teach us things we will not learn elsewhere. We let pain mold us and hardships to strengthen us. We embrace pain when it comes and trust God to hold our hands as we pass through the storm.” This chapter has also pressed on me that suffering is a part of the privilege in being servant leaders, and that it is necessary for us to undergo hardships so that our faith will be tested and be proved genuine. “The crosses we have are our way to salvation. It enables us to fully trust in God’s strength and to believe that He will work wonders in His own timing.”

Being A Servant of the Lord
I think the word difference between being a servant of the Lord and being a disciple is that a disciple “follows” and a servant “obeys”. I have learned in this chapter that obedience can be best personified by Mama Mary herself. Her obedience in the Lord’s will for her life is very outstanding and it is the very reason why we have Jesus. Mary’s response and saying yes was a crucial moment in our salvation history. Everything would have been very different if Mary had not said yes to God. I believe that also all are yesses in this mission that God has entrusted to us all play a crucial part in our lives and in the lives of those who are entrusted to us. There is a fine line between blind obedience and active submission. As servant leaders, we do not push through blind obedience. Yes, we are obeyed but at what cost? Is it only because we are leaders and they are subordinates? Active submission helps both servant leaders and subordinates have a harmonious relationship while showing respect and love.

Being A Slave of Christ
“It means that we totally belong to Jesus. Totally.” Those were the words that I
underlined and it struck me and made me grasp the truth that Jesus owns me; body, mind, spirit, my whole self. Before, we have been slaves of the devil. We are sinful in nature and we adhere to evil. We were in darkness. Yet Christ tore through that darkness and brought us to the Light that He is. He brought back our lives through one an act that shaped our humanity—death on the cross. Through His death, we were purchased and we now become slaves of Christ is our master and we are His servants. We do His bidding, His commands; we follow, obey, and we must never complain, slacken or even question His authority. But this slavery we are in is the best slavery we can ever be: holy slavery. How wonderful it is to know that whatever we do these all add up in our list of riches stored in heaven. Whenever we follow, our eternal reward becomes more and more defined. Then there is this truth that Christ became a slave of the world to save us. “He became a slave to save us out of slavery from the evil one and thus, we are redeemed by His most precious blood. We become now Jesus’ slaves of holiness.” But the most striking part in this chapter is that we are not just Jesus’ slaves but we now become His friends. And we become: From slaves to friends to brothers.

Being A Presbyter
I realized in this chapter that this is the call for us all to take the assigned task to us seriously. We are not just having a group under us, but we are being held responsible for their spiritual welfare. While reading this, it also dawned on me the weight of what a servant leader should be. Being a presbyter is also a task that should be done not just for the sake of doing it but out of our deep love for God. He has entrusted His children to us, we are His instruments and more than that, we should feel privileged and not burdened.

 

Part II—What You Do

Tending The Flock
As presbyters, we should love the flock God has entrusted to us. This chapter has given me concrete steps on how to approach this duty God has given me. The most important is to acknowledge that what God has given me is a privilege and I should take good care of it. I am in the sandals of Christ and I am doing his work. Thus I should never ever grumble, complain, and do things my way. He is the chief Shepherd and I am given the chance to take care of His flock. What struck me in this chapter are three words/phrases: (1) unconditional love, (2) joyfully and eagerly, and (3) if the heart is right. To love the flock with unconditional love, and to joyfully do every task God has given me and to eagerly take care of them. And lastly, if my heart is right, then everything will be done out of love and though it may seem impossible to do, I will hold on to God’s strength because this is His work and He will make things possible. “The reward is so great, so beautiful we cannot help but desire it in its entirety. That’s why we are doing the best we can to be what we ought to be.”

Washing The Feet
A thing I’ve realized in this chapter is that one can never be called a servant leader if one does not know humility. Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet is one of the most humbling scenes in the bible. Jesus humbled Himself, lowered and cleansed the dirty feet of His disciples. Thus, we are all also called to do the same. To acknowledge that we are nothing but a tiny speck in this world, that we are insignificant and that we are nobodies, we need humility. I have learned in this chapter that to fully become a servant leader, we should all know that we are nothing without God. And that we do not know anything and we cannot do great things or even meager things and we are humans and we weak. This chapter teaches me that I am nothing and I need God in my life. More than all the things I have done, said, gave, shared and accomplished, all of those will never come into reality without God working in my life. Humility makes us people who point our achievements and successes in life towards God who is the maker of all things and the One who gave us the abilities, talents, resources and life that we have. Humility also teaches us that we can never control our own lives and manipulate it. Rather, it is God who directs the very lives we live and we are nothing but mere instruments in this work that He has put us in. It is humbling to know that what we have as servant leaders is the result of God choosing us for His plan of salvation and that we have done nothing to gain that but it is purely God’s decision to choose us. What a privilege and a blessing! What an opportunity that has been given to us to serve with all our heart the very people God loves. “It is a gift that there are people who needs God and see Him in us. God gives us those people to help and to love genuinely.” There are lots of things that with humility we can only understand. “We may not understand a lot of things now but we should still continue to trust for we will understand it all I time. We are nothing but instruments but we are instruments used by the very God who made the universe.”

Evangelistic Headship
I’ve realized here that it should not be about pleasing others but it is only God whom we should please. “Focus on the One who called you. More than on the things you should do.” Exhorting, encouraging and insisting. Those words struck me at my core and I pondered if I am like that. This chapter has reminded me that a servant leader is never complacent in his work. A servant leader exhorts his flock to always live a life pleasing to God. He encourages them to always strive to become better persons by doing good and obeying the will of God. He insists to them the importance of the teachings of the Church and why should one deepen one’s faith. I also realized that being a servant leader calls for becoming like a mother, a brother and a father to the people placed under his care. It is hard work, the duties are endless but it should not stop one from pressing on towards the goal—guiding everyone to the path to eternal life.

Living Out Servant Leadership
True servanthood is not about having authority and power, lording it over people, stepping onto people just to gain respect and pushing one’s commands down on their throats. Rather, it is the other way around. My realization in this chapter is that we as servant leaders are nothing but God’s instruments and thus, we do not have the right to dictate whatever we want and to do what only we think is best without consulting the counsel of others. Humility also kicks in because if one is not humble enough, he can never acknowledge that even his subordinates can help him. But a servant leader recognizes the beauty of maintaining a pleasant relationship through respect, love and humility. Being a servant leader also entails that one should have trust in the people around him and that he is humble to accept that he does not know everything and he can’t do it all by himself without the help from others. As servant leaders, we are called to lead the way Jesus did and serve the way Jesus serve. Yet Jesus is Jesus. He is God. Still, we can make Him the best example on how we should lead and serve.

 

Part III—How You Serve

Humility
I have learned in here that I should regard myself as nothing and my efforts worthless compared to what Christ can do in my life and what He can do to others through me. I am not a servant leader for myself and it will never be but I serve because out of all the able, willing and more deserving people in the world, God chose me. And I should feel highly privileged that I am called to such a task! That task is to help build God’s kingdom here on earth and to proclaim Jesus’ name to every person. It is a heavy duty and I know I can never do it on my own, which is why I am always relying on God’s strength and to cling to His promises that everything will be fine if I just do my part.

Faithfulness
We are Jesus’ servants and He is our Master. I believe that faithfulness is always being sure that we are doing God’s work every time. What struck me is the verse Luke 12:3536. It is about being ready whenever the Master comes. It is being vigilant and when the time comes of Jesus’ second coming, I will be proud to say that I have done my job. Yet it is a duty that one should never stop doing, never cease serving. Also the result of the work will be accounted on us if we have really done our job to be servants of the flock. “What we do will have a big effect on their eternal well-being and although the weight of responsibility is heavy, we should not let it burden us. Rather, we should be confident and trust that God will empower us and help us through everything because He was the One who put us where we are.”

Integrity
Maybe one of the most crucial things in being a servant leader is integrity. And not only integrity but having integrity until the end. It is one of the hardest to maintain because it involves more of the self and personal knowledge and honesty than other things being seen on the outside. I have realized that only God and the servant leader can truly know if he is a person of integrity or not. People may not see and know it but God does. And God looks at the heart of a person. Integrity is being above and beyond reproach. It is striving to be blameless and to be perfect, just as God is. Many people can fall short in integrity because lying and putting up a face can all be easily done. “Whether we speak half-truths or not, God always sees it. So who are we fooling?” It is not man that we should please, but God. This chapter has taught me that I should live my life genuinely whether people see me or not, whether they know the real story or not. It means that my yes should be yes and my no will always be a no. It is living blamelessly and striving to always and forever please God, who is the One who sees and knows everything.

Holiness
Holiness is a big word. And it entails a bigger thing to do. God is Holy and we are but humans. Yet this is not a valid reason to not strive to be holy. Jesus became man yet He was holy. Jesus set an example where everyone can follow and imitate. I have come to realize that I can never be holy enough but I can always and every time strive and struggle and constantly try to be holy in everything that I do. Every moment is an opportunity to be holy; for we are people who are already renewed by God’s love and redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross. Faithfulness urges us to no longer live by our own ways but only through the ways of the Lord. We are called to obey, to be humble, patient, and to continuously seek God in everything. We are called to Christian perfection and we can only attain that through God’s grace.

Unworthiness
This chapter reminds me that I am nothing but a slave and a servant of God, that I am but a mere instrument in the hands of the mighty King. This chapter is somewhat similar to humility. I have realized here that I do not have the right to complain about anything that is happening in my life because it is God who plans for my life and not me. I do not hold my future and I certainly cannot dictate to God what should be done with my life. All I can do is to answer to Him and to obey and be patient in whatever God plans unfold. As a servant leader, I have realized also that I was a nobody before God chose me. Like everyone else, I am sinful and very human in nature. Yet God has a plan for each and every one and He plotted this moment in my life wherein He called me to be His lowly servant. What a blessing it is to used by God whenever, wherever and whatever moment, place or situation. Unworthiness is acknowledging that I am forever a servant of God that should be willing to give up the very life I have for His work all because this came from Him.

Joy In Suffering
Suffering can be turned into something beautiful if it is suffered for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. I have realized that I can never find joy in my sufferings if I do not see Christ as the center of my life. Because He allows me to suffer for me to be strong, firm and brave. It is a privilege to share in the suffering of Christ. And because I find joy in suffering, I acknowledge the fact that God chastises the son/daughter He loves. Because Christ has suffered much, and because we follow Him, we should also be happy to suffer and allow ourselves to be inflicted with pain, trials and tribulations. Because we love Christ and the world hates Christ, the world also hates us. I have also experienced my set of persecutions. And it has taught me to stand firm in my faith and even though sufferings come, I will never cease in finding the good in everything. “We suffer because we love God. God allows us to suffer for our own sake, to teach us, to mold us, to strengthen us because He loves us.”

 

Part IV—How You Work With Other Leaders

Serving As A Team
Teamwork is essential if one wants to attain a certain goal and exceed it. What struck me in this chapter are the qualifications of Jethro in choosing servant leaders: able, God-fearing men and women who are trustworthy and who hate dishonest gain. The task at hand is so big, so heavy that it required committed people to do it. I have come to understand that it is important not to burden oneself which such tasks when it can be delegated and split and divided and shared. It is simply sharing the joy and burden with fellow servant leaders to be able to finish something excellently and pleasing to the eyes of the Lord.

Handling Disagreements
In this chapter, I learned the different attitudes when approaching disagreements. I have learned not to be onion-skinned and take criticisms as constructively as I can. And also that healthy arguments can be benefitted from. Not all those who correct me have something against me. Most of the time, it is for my sake that someone does it. Bottom line is that we, as servant leaders, when faced with disagreements or strife in the community should know that these are all part of the growth God has planned for us. And it should not be a reason for someone to leave anything rather, face it wholeheartedly. I
believe that the defining factor here is love. When it is done, made, said, brought and caused by love, then it is good for us. And we, too, should respond with the same. I realized that when we respond with love, everything works out for the better.

Obeying Leaders
There is such a thing as anointing. And when people are anointed as leaders they are given the heavy task of taking care of a lot of people and their spiritual welfare. This chapter taught me to respect the anointing of leaders, that they are put where they are for a purpose and that it is blessed by God and the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers them. Also, I should respond to my leaders with active submission and not blind obedience. I acknowledge their authority and they are given in my life because God knows they will help me become better in some way or another. Becoming a good follower enables me to become a better leader someday. And becoming a better leader towards my subordinates enables them to mold good subordinates when they also become
leaders in the future.

Keeping The Right Company
This chapter made me become more thankful to God for the community that I am in now. I know deep in my heart that where I am now is where God has intended me to be. I owe so much to this community and I have not known a better place to be than here and here is where I have found God and truly experienced Him. I know that I am in the right company and praise God for that.

 

Part V—How You Fit Into God’s Plan

The Way Of Salvation
There is a greater call for evangelization. And this chapter has really pressed those things in its very paragraphs. I know everyone is called to proclaim Christ as Jesus and Lord but there is the heavier task for servant leaders. “As servant leaders, our only goal should be to bring the flock entrusted to us to heaven and to bring ALL of them there.” I am a frontliner in the battle for salvation. And that everything that I should do should reflect Jesus.

“We should be like an open book that proclaims Jesus Christ, ready and easy to be read by anyone whenever, wherever.” Through being servant leaders, we take part in the very work of God. And if we have done well, our prize is eternal life. “Such is the duty which is so great yet eternally rewarding.”

Being in Spiritual Warfare
This chapter taught me to be more fearless and to not be afraid of the devil. If God is with me, who can be against? Yet the devil is cunning and a deceiver. He uses our weaknesses to weaken us in our faith and to take us away from God. I realized that only strong faith and love in God can conquer evil. With the armor God has given me, why should I be afraid? I have the light of God in me, the strength of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. There is indeed nothing to fear.

Stewards Of The Mysteries Of God
God is beyond human comprehension. Yet God has chosen me to understand some of His ways. How blessed and honored I should be! God has revealed many things and He reveals it to those who He knows can use it for His work. Being a servant leader, God has rendered me trustworthy to be a steward of His mysteries and I should respond through growing more in holiness and knowledge of the scriptures. And with this, I should take action “willingly and wholeheartedly.” for the mission.

Privilege and Responsibility
It is indeed a great privilege to be called by God, and to stand up for Him and to take care of His flock. Yet what a greater responsibility it is because of all the things that a servant leader should do, become and finish. Much has been given to me, so much is also asked. I have experienced God so it is my duty and my calling to let others experience Him too. A challenge and burden yet God lovingly assures me that whatever happens, He is with me every step of the way.

Living and Dying For Christ
This may be the best and heaviest chapter in the whole book. For I have realized two things: (1) To live for Christ is to experience trials and pains and sufferings yet we continue the work He has given us, (2) We cannot attain eternal life and be with Christ when we die if we have not done our work. The two are interconnected and I know that as long as I am alive, I should pursue and press on to the goal. That way I will gain the prize of eternal life with Jesus. “Life without God does not matter anymore; material things, possessions, power, authority…all these things are not as important as the task God has given us, and that is to bring His flock Home.” The phrase that struck me most was “Holding nothing back…not even our very own lives.” And this phrase has that challenge to anyone serving God to give his all, even his life for the mission. “If your life is mirrored in Christ, if it is lived for Christ, then death is sweet for it is the last step toward heaven.” We are all called to give our very lives for the cause of Christ and that cause is the best thing that can happen to anyone’s life.

 

Part IV—Models Of Servant Leadership

Moses, Joshua, Job, David, Nehemiah, Judith, Peter and Paul
They were all ordinary people. Yet called to live extraordinary lives. It is overwhelming because I know that God has called me, too, and I know I am far from any of those people mentioned. I haven’t done anything great or remarkable or something ages ahead will remember. But I know one thing: If I let God use me as His instrument and I let myself be used by God for His work, then I know I can do something worthwhile. I may not part the Red Sea, or build many temples and put down fortified walls using trumpets and all of those great and mighty deeds God has done through the prophets, I know I am a modern prophet for God and so let His will be done. For in the end, all I will ever want more than anything is to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant ,Ayana. … Come, share your master’s joy.”

 

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Reflection from Ate Ayana De Ocampo, Mission Volunteer
District Servant of Novaliches

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