The One Phrase We All Need to Eliminate from Our Vocabulary

February 28, 2017 | 26 comments

I have a friend who works as a school janitor. Tired after a long day of work, she called me a while back, wondering what worth her work held. To her, it felt insignificant in the scheme of things — waxing floors, washing blackboards, wiping down every desk in every classroom.

“Jennifer,” she said, “every day, you get to look on your day’s work and know that you’ve done something for the Lord. You write blog posts and books, and you speak at conferences. You help people know how much they’re loved by Jesus.”

“But me? I empty garbage cans,” she continued. “I’m just a janitor.”

I wish I could have reached through the phone, put one hand on each of her shoulders and looked her straight in the eye when I responded to her. I told her what I want to tell you — and what I have to remind myself again and again: There is no such thing as just a janitor, or just a mom, or just a blogger, or just a volunteer, or just a secretary, or just a (__________).

This is the one phrase we all need to eliminate from our vocabulary: “I am just a . . .” In the body of Christ, there is no such thing as “just a.”

Take a look at a few of our spiritual ancestors:

• David could have said he was “just a boy.” But he didn’t. He grabbed five smooth stones and slayed a giant.

• Paul could have said he was “just a tentmaker.” But he didn’t. He carried the gospel into the world, spreading it like wildfire.

• Mary could have said she was “just a teenage girl” from the wrong side of the tracks. But she didn’t. Nine months later, she gave birth to our Savior.

Sometimes, it seems like everyone else is getting tapped for the coolest Jesus assignments. In the body of Christ, it can feel like you are “just an eyelash” while your best friend is a bicep. It can feel like you’re “just a toe” while your colleague is a leg.

But try walking down a beach on a windy day without eyelashes. Try running a race without toes.

Paul the tent-maker said it like this:

“I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. . . . As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where He wanted it.” {1 Corinthians 12:14-18, MSG}

“Right where He wanted it.” My friend is where she is for a reason — because God wanted it that way. So are you, and so am I.


That day on the phone, I reminded my friend of all the unforeseen accidents that never happened because she had cleaned up a spill before students stepped into the hallway. I reminded her how she makes such an impression on teens, because she makes a point to know all their names. And I reminded her that her most important work happens after she clocks out every night: She has made a commitment to pray for every kid she encounters.

You don’t have to hold a microphone to do something big for Jesus. (And if you do, remember that a tech person set it there, and that a janitor swept the floor before you stepped onto the stage.)

You don’t have to have a big blog following to be important to the body of Christ. (But if you do, remember that you wouldn’t be able to do it without your web designer, your assistant, or the person who — thanks be to God — invented spam filters.)

We are all in this together. Maybe your life doesn’t get celebrated on Instagram. Maybe nobody is @-mentioning you for your latest book or upcoming song release. Your life is probably like mine, full of a lot of little things that would never make headlines.

But the little things aren’t “just-a” things. The little things are the big things.




Look at you, friend. Already this week, you have prayed and cooked and believed and cheered and hugged.

“Just a” didn’t put clean socks in their drawers.

“Just a” didn’t put dinner on the table last night.

“Just a” didn’t put a bandage on the 14th skinned knee of the season, or log a thousand hours on the bleachers.

“Just a” didn’t organize meals for the sick mother.

“Just a” didn’t send the sympathy card to the grieving widow.

“Just a” didn’t do a thing. You did. And it mattered.

Have you believed you are “just a (________)? Have you felt like an eyelash or a toenail? Who could you encourage today, to remind them that their work is vitally important to the body of Christ?


Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Becky Hastings. Do you have a hard time being content with the calling you’ve been given? Do you ever want more (or “better”)? I think Becky’s words will be an encouragement to you today, if so. Find Becky here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer

by | February 28, 2017 | 26 comments


  1. Meghan Weyerbacher

    Love this Jennifer. My heart needed to hear this today. It seems like sometimes after I get on a mountain the voices of doubts come at me the most. Thanks for this, xoxoxo

  2. Michele Morin

    The timing on this post is incredible. It’s so easy to believe the lie that our voice is too small or our story too mundane. So thankful for this reminder that God will use a humble and yielded heart in big ways.

  3. Mary

    Love this! I have never known just a janitor in my whole teaching career. Each of those people were so much more to the kids in that building. Just because many didn’t see those behind the scene actions, they were there.

    The reminder to know I am not just a “retired teacher” is a truth I needed to hear today. It is easy to fall into that trap. Love your words Jennifer!

    • Nancy Ruegg

      Mary, I’m a retired teacher, too. Those same just-a thoughts take roost in my mind now and then. We can fight them together with Jennifer’s encouragement, yes?

  4. Trudy Den Hoed

    I love this, Jennifer. I really needed to hear this. I often beat myself up for not making a greater impact, and it was especially weighing on me today. So thank you for this beautiful encouragement. I love how you encouraged your friend, too. Love and hugs to you!

  5. Anita

    Thank you for the encouragement! I fall into the ‘just as’ trap in referring to myself all too often. On a side note, I never realize Amazon was so important–it’s not ‘just a’ website that sells stuff. The inlinkz link isn’t working because Amazon Web Services is down! Who knew?!

  6. Mary Bonner

    I needed to read this. So often I think I am “just a.” Thank you for this encouragement Jennifer!

  7. Maree Dee

    I love this post. I think we need to learn to say what we do with confidence. I caught myself the other day saying OhI don’t work I just do a lot of volunteer work. When I should have said, I am a writer, speaker, and have the opportunity to serve on a non profit board and run a ministry for families with a loved one with mental illness at my church. Good news is in about 5 minutes I will have the opportunity to try again with a new physical therapist.

  8. Leah Adams

    I think that I have never loved any of your blog posts more than this one! As my friend Andrea says, It is BAM! Such encouragement to be all in with who God made us to be. High five to you from north Georgia!

  9. Susan

    No more “just a”…

  10. David Rupert

    Jennifer, good words here and very encouraging.

  11. Lisanne

    In a room full of beautiful people in beautiful outfits, I let one person make me feel like “just a guest” to this luncheon of notables. Then, I sat in my car and thought, you’re you Lisa and you’re more you than before. Women and comparison and wounds we know not of each others’. Goodness, I’ve come a long way in the insecurity battle with time…thank you Lord!

  12. Theresa Boedeker

    We are all needed and important. Much more than we think. Thanks for the message. Hopefully we can remember this when we feel small and not necessary.

  13. Leslie

    I love this Jennifer. Thank you!

  14. Dawn

    Of course the relevance of your words hit their mark right in that space where He intends…sometimes the ‘just a’ is also a confession of ‘not enough because of’ argument. But they are both irrelevant when held in the might of our yes to God in our day-to-day moments. Especially the ones that spill love into the lives of our people.
    Such necessary reminder, Jennifer. 💓

  15. Ginger Harrington

    Oh this is preaching to my soul. God gave you a good word today for sure!

  16. JViola79

    So needed to read this just now. Thank you!

  17. Julie Loos

    Thank you for this! We all are needed in the body of Christ, but some days we need this extra encouragement!

  18. Sue Donaldson

    amen! all for One and One for all. will share. (:

  19. Nancy Ruegg

    Why is it so easy to forget the importance of EVERY member of the body, including OUR part?! Thank you for this much-needed encouragement, reminding us that many of the things we do ARE producing kingdom results, though we may not see it. And God bless that dear janitor for the love, attention, and prayer she’s pouring out for the kids at her school!

  20. Rebecca

    It’s amazing how powerful those four letters can be. Choosing to BE instead of JUST BE!

  21. Sherry Thecharmofhome

    Thanks for hosting!

  22. Meg Bucher

    Thank you for encouraging my heart! Just this morning on the way to dropping my oldest daughter off at school, she said to me …”Mom, you have two jobs …you’re a writer and a substitute teacher.” I responded, “Actually, I have three jobs …’Mom’ is the most important one.” That conversation helped me to remind myself that all of the things I do are things I love to do! It helped rescue me from the impending feeling of doom on my never-ending task list lately. Happy Wednesday!!!! Megs

  23. Lisa Appelo @True and Faithful

    Oh, your post takes me back…to law school when one of my (arrogant) professors made a snide comment about school bus drivers and a dear friend (who was older and already a mom of 6!) raised her hand to defend those drivers. I loved her for her spunk! She’s still to this day a defender for the voiceless.

  24. Elizabeth Serling

    While in all serious
    Ness some of not to make a horrible play on a familiar1960s refrain some of my closest friends our Born Again I am just a lucky girl who was given a lot of great opportunities and wonderful foundation and exposure to a lot of different people places things and ideas and as a result I am always willing to see the humanity in others and WHEN things get a little overwhelming I tend to want to read a good book laugh with my friends walk the mall and look at the pretty clothes dream about fitting into diet anyone and hope that everyone I know knows that despite my own journey to recovery I still care about them. I am really looking forward to the upcoming Spring and summer season.

  25. Gloria Joy

    Dear Jennifer,
    Thank you. This post really spoke to me, and caused to me learn a lot. I usually process things that The Lord is teaching or speaking to me by writing them down. Though it is hard for me to be vulnerable with others and share intimate writings/conversations that are normally between me and The Lord, I felt that I should share with others what The Lord reminded me as a result of reading your post. I ended up posting those thoughts here:

    I linked back to this blog post of yours in my post – I hope that was okay!

    I pray that Jesus Blesses you mightily.

    Love, Gloria



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