One of my life’s favorite quotes is from Helen Keller, “I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.” Me too. I desire to accomplish great and noble tasks, to do “big things.”
I dream of great legacies, amazing missions, and significant impact.
Then I empty the dishwasher or do the laundry or sweep the floor. These are not the great, amazing, significant things I had in mind.
In a world where rank, command, and leadership are measured daily, my every day activities never seem to amount to much. I used to have rank, but these days my name isn’t even on the orders that sent us to this place. “I used to” are words heard from many military spouses— including myself—which are not necessarily bad words. But sometimes they’re a peek into the discontentment with the things of today.
From non-commissioned officers to generals, the military’s intention is to grow leaders who challenge, inspire, and serve those in their sphere of influence. The military spends years training personnel for the next level, the next job. It’s a good thing, a gallant task.
As a military spouse, I wonder where I fit in that world of leadership. Having moved 7 times in 13 years, I have yet to keep a job for more than a couple of years. I volunteer in different capacities from one duty station to the next, starting over every time. What does leadership look like for me, and how do I do it well?
In my perspective, leadership is more about obedience than audience. It doesn’t matter who we are or in what capacity we serve. Someone is always watching.
Leadership is not about how many are on our committees, how much money we raise, or how many show up for Bible study. Being obedient to what the Lord has called us to do in this place and time is worth following. From our children to our neighbors, obedience is something they will see.
Photo by SrA Ty-Rico Lea, USAF
In addition to serving God by leading in the home setting, leadership as a military spouse outside the home can be look like a Family Readiness Group, thrift store volunteer, Parent Teacher Organization board member, Bible study teacher, or committee leader at the officer spouses club.
Leadership can look like a Family Readiness Group, thrift store volunteer, Parent Teacher Organization board, Bible study teacher, committee leader at the officer spouses club, or parenting my children. It can look like any of these things and many more, but I would argue that leadership is about much more than position or title and our leadership reaches farther than the committee we run.
In light of the uniqueness of our callings, we can also find some foundational truths as we seek to live a life of influence. Here are four truths the Lord has taught me:
- Diversity is a beautiful thing. The military world brings us from different places, at different stages in life, different ethnicities, and weaves us together as a community. Different is not always bad. Seeing the beauty of diversity can be challenging, especially when other’s differences run straight into mine. Loving others is one of the greatest commandments the Lord gave us, ranked second only to loving the Lord. How has the Lord called us to love today?
- Conflict does not equal failure. When conflict arises, my every desire is to run like the wind in the opposite direction. Sometimes we disagree—even as Christians. But when we talk through it in love, the conflict can actually make us stronger as people and as a body of believers. However challenging to walk through, it’s worth it in the end.
- Joy is not in the circumstances. Our joy is in our Savior and our service to Him. It really has nothing to do with our circumstances. Although this is much easier said than done, all we are must be found in Him. He is the source of our joy and our hope. Happiness is something completely different.
- Obedience is not always a “want to” thing. God expects obedience from all of us—of His word, commands, and callings on our lives. Even the calling of being a military spouse. Just like dealing with our children, He expects obedience, whether we want to or not.
Leadership is more about the humble place of serving than it is about leading. Yet, God can take the humble place where we are and do things that we could never imagine. Acts 4:13 reminds me of that very thing, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
The difference from ordinary to extraordinary in Peter and John was not their position or rank. It was their time with Jesus. The Lord’s Spirit poured into them overflowed and impacted the world around them. God can do the same with us. Though ordinary men, through their obedience, Peter and John impacted the Church, the eternity of many—and history itself.
As a military spouse, I can feel insignificant and underutilized—ordinary. I can get discouraged because I had big dreams and ideas, yet I spend many hours cleaning house, cooking dinner, and getting vetted once again as a volunteer. I start to question if I matter in the grand scheme of things or if my contribution will make a difference in the world.
I long to do great and noble things, but God reminds me it’s in the humble things that He can be extraordinary through me. Ultimately, I desire to be like Helen Keller: to do humble tasks as though they were great and noble, leaving my legacy up to the One who called me.
Kori, the author of Olive Drab Pom-Poms, is the founder and director of Planting Roots, a growing organization building a community of Christian military women worldwide. This speaker, blogger and former Marine is now an Army wife who homeschools the two children she has with husband, Kyle. The Yateses live in Stuttgart, Germany.