When your role changes and you wish it hadn’t

by Amy Young on September 20, 2020

I’ve written extensively before about role deprivation when someone moves to the field. You are the newbie and trying to figure out where you fit and what your role will be. Though uncomfortable, this process is not unexpected.

But what about when your role changes because of a pandemic, organization shift, illness, or any of the other ways you may find yourself not doing what you wanted to do where you wanted to do it. (Even as I type this, I can feel myself wanting to stomp my feet.)

I reread something I wrote about role deprivation and people moving to the field, “Role deprivation is part of the incarnational process. Jesus laid aside part of his role as God. We know from Philippians 2:6-7

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

When you move to the field you lay aside either all of or part of a role you have played.”

I want to say “BUT” and then push back with the difference between willingly choosing to move to the field and being forced to change plans. God smiles when I try to point out flaws in His logic.

When you consider yourself nothing and take on the nature of a servant, you can serve anywhere.

This is not to diminish loss, hurt, disappointment, or sadness. What I have been thinking about this week is how many of you are experiencing role deprivation without naming it as such.

Here are a few signs of you might be experiencing role deprivation:

  1. Your emotional responses out of proportion to the situation.
  2. You notice you are hustling for your worth. Do you sense yourself being defensive or questioning what others think about you or how you use your time? Your hustling might be related to role deprivation.

Role deprivation is unavoidable but not unnameable … naming helps us make sense of what is going on.

Transitioning from the field makes you aware of roles that had become so automatic you may not have noticed them in years.

When I transitioned to the mission field, roles I thought were meaningful and added to healthy self-esteem, were taken off the table for a while. And roles that I would define as “not very meaningful” suddenly took an inordinate amount of time.

Maybe you are in a season where roles that you found fulfilling have been taken off of the table for a while (maybe forever). And roles that you find to be “not very meaningful” are what fills your day. You know that you will adjust and you will have meaningful roles, but what to do about it today?

Make a list of six roles that you had at the beginning of 2020 that have either been altered or eliminated. Sit with Jesus and your list. Tell him what you loved about each role and what you miss. Then spend some time listening to what Jesus, the lover of your soul, wants to share with you in this season.

Role deprivation isn’t fun, yet I find that it is one of the most tender ways Jesus identifies with us.

If you happen to be on a planned or unplanned home assignment, furlough, or sabbatical, Global Trellis has a course that will be available until September 23rd (so not long!). The Sabbatical Journey Course adapts to any length of sabbatical and is divided into four quarters: rest, refuel, reequip, and refocus. Read more about it here.

In the comments share the six roles you had at the beginning of 2020 that have either been altered or eliminated. You’re not alone and it’s good to share and comment with others on this same path.

Photo by Jordan Madridon Unsplash

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About Amy Young

Amy Young wants to help people find the sweet spot between burn out and rust out with ongoing personal and professional development. Founder of Global Trellis, co-founder of Velvet Ashes, she personally blogs at Messy Middle, and is the author of four books (Looming TransitionsLove, AmyEnjoying Newsletters, and GettingStarted. You too can live in your sweet spot.

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