MY ministry is NOT about ME

Post Grad Duck #27

As I sit in my room, trying to finalize things before I leave town on Wednesday, I can’t help but take a deep breath as I realize that I’ve made it through my first year as an intern. It really feels like it was merely  weeks (not months) ago that my parents and I packed up our cars and made the traffic filled journey up north. I was filled with such nervousness, fear, excitement, wonder, and even more fear back then. Now, I’m calmer (maybe that’s because I received my first massage earlier this afternoon with my roommate :P). I’m still filled with wonder and I’m excited, but the fear has dissipated. I’m thankful for what has happened over the past 2 semesters, and while I’m so ready for a break, I’m eagerly anticipating what next year will bring.

While I sit in the tension of a semester that’s come to a close amid thoughts of what’s to come, I’ve reached a conclusion about my first year as an RUF Intern at Penn State.

My ministry is not about me.

This is something that I think I knew beforehand, but didn’t really know until now. I believe there are two schools of thought surrounding this idea. One, “What do you mean Jayna? Of course YOUR ministry is about YOU,” and two, “You’re exactly right, Jayna. Your ministry has little to do with you, actually.”

For the majority of this school year, I can safely say I was spending more time camping out in the first school of thought. I was the one that came to Penn State. I was the one that was meeting with freshman girls. I was the one that was building relationships with these girls. I was the one that had students saying how thankful they were that I moved here. I was the one that helped organize certain events. I was the one that baked chocolate chip cookies (several times) for said events. (But if I’m being honest, y’all…those cookies were GOOD. But thats beside the point ;)). I was the one that was digging deep in conversations and wrestling through the hard stuff and giving encouragement through the good stuff. I..I…I..I…

In the last meeting I had with my boss, I said this: “I’m struggling to figure out why it’s good that I’m at Penn State. I mean, why me, Jayna Duckenfield, is a good fit here as opposed to someone else.” Let me give this a bit of background. I am someone who thrives off of the affirmation and energy of other people. Part of this identity of mine is beautiful and the other part of it is broken. I appreciate encouragement and being made to feel important, but I cannot let that give me value. I asked my boss this question, because people that were not at Penn State had told me how glad they were that I was here. Of course I said thank you, but was confused as to how they would know whether or not it was good that Jayna Duckenfield was interning at The Pennsylvania State University.

My boss took a beat before answering. He’s an internal processor, so usually pauses like this don’t bother me, but this one felt longer than normal. When he finally formulated his thoughts, he said this, “I think part of that is a sort of a false dichotomy. I mean, to some extent you being here is not any different than someone else being here…” That is NOT what I wanted to hear. What did he mean that me being here isn’t much different than someone else being here?! But he went on… “Ministry is often a thankless job.” We walk alongside people, encourage them, bear their burdens and don’t really get anything in return. “I think very, very highly of you, Jayna, and you bring a laughter and energy to RUF. You are wise and caring. Here me say that, but also here me say that you can’t go through this job waiting for affirmation to give you value because it’s not going to come.” He went on to explain that God is at work through me. “God has given you a slice of his kingdom.”  The good that’s happening on campus is happening in spite of (not because of) me. I’m not the one doing the work, God is. God has given me a slice of his kingdom.

My flesh hated what my boss had to say, but my spirit leapt at his words. He was right. We both agreed that affirmation and encouragement are important, indeed they’re invaluable, but our worth and identity and measure of work has to come from Christ and the gospel.

So as I reflect on the joys and trumps and victories of this past year, I can look first at the faithfulness of God and smile. I can look second at this slice of the kingdom I’ve been given and humbly say “thank you.” Thirdly, I can look at myself and realize that the God of the universe loves me enough to use me to serve His people. What an honor!

“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:58


[Jesus, thank You for this semester. Thank You for the lessons You’ve taught me and the lessons of humility that come along with being in ministry. You are a good, good Father.]<3Amen

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