Laying Aside Privilege

I didn’t realize until later that I was speaking with Someone Important.

I was working a Saturday shift at a busy community health center. The health center sat in the middle of a city, subject to all the noise, dirt , chaos, crime, and dysfunction of an urban area.

The woman came into the center and approached the front desk. As a nurse I was normally not in the front area, instead I would be in back surrounded by charts, sterile gauze and syringes, but I had been called to triage another patient. The woman interrupted my task: “Could you please help me?” Her eyes were desperate as she stood self-consciously to the side.

I looked at her, initially impatient, and realized those desperate eyes were full of tears.

“I have such a bad headache, I feel I could faint”.

Alarms went off in my brain as I quickly but silently reviewed the various things that could be wrong. I immediately took her to a room and within minutes she was seen by a physician, taken to a hospital nearby, and treated–a tragedy averted; a statistic that didn’t happen.

It was the following Monday that I found she was on the board of Trustees of the health center; an active and well-known member of the community. She was a doctor in a specialty practice. She had the ear of every member of the leadership team at the health center.

She didn’t talk about who she was on Saturday – she just walked in, desperate but not pushy. She did not voice her importance or claim her position. She laid all that aside.

It struck me that it was a measure of character, of security.

To be willing to lay aside privilege and not be bound to status – this is remarkable in a world that works through these mechanisms.

And if I am honest, at heart I love privilege, I love status, I love being known — I think we all do. I would have surely asserted who I was, demanded to be seen, demanded immediate attention. She was humble, meek even.

It is in both little and big ways that we are called to lay aside rights and privileges. Lay aside my right to be first, lay aside my right to make a turn without someone cutting me off, lay aside my right to comfort, security, reputation; there are hundreds of areas where I want to exert who I am and claim status and privilege.

Even as I write I know that there is One who lived this like no other. Someone who emptied himself of all he was — all status, all privilege,

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”*

And he calls me to that mind-set. He calls me to not fight constantly for my rights, not continually open my mouth to exert my voice loudly, not get angry when I am treated poorly, not consider my opinion as more important, my life as better. He calls me to something higher, to a security that doesn’t rely on who I am, but who He Is; to an identity wrapped in His character, His calling, His love. He calls me to lay aside privilege – but am I willing? 

*Philippians 2:6-8