Doula and Doulos

Am I a Servant (Doula) to Christ?

Titus 1:1-4, ESV

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God who never lies promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching which I have been entrusted by the command of God our savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Today we began a new series at church on the book of Titus.  This is only the second time in my life I have attended a church that does expository preaching through books of the Bible.  It is a far superior, in my opinion, method of discipleship than topical sermons.  It truly gets you into the the word, gives you a deeper understanding of God’s message to us, and leaves little room for me to add my preferences and culture to the Gospel.  Actually, it leaves no room.  I love it, “just give me Jesus” as my friend often says.


So, in the ESV the third word of this Scripture is the one that gripped my attention, and that the Holy Spirit revealed a special message to me through.  Servant, the greek word: δοῦλος. Doulos.  Doulos (1401 Strongs) means “someone who belongs to another; a bond-slave without any ownership rights of their own.” The use of doulos occurs at least 53 times in the Greek New Testament.  It is used literally, to refer to individuals who were actual in slavery (Romans 6:19; Acts 2:18; Matthew 18:323,26) including by Mary, the mother of Jesus in Luke 1:38 and 1:48. It repeatedly found throughout the New Testament metaphorically to refer to apostles, prophets, those who obey God’s commands, and those who labor for another’s salvation.  This metaphorical use, is what is found in Titus 1:1 and the meaning, according to Strong is, “one who gives himself up wholly to another’s will.”




I actually knew a little about the meaning of this word, as I am a birth doula.  The feminine form of doulos is doula and it means slave, as we see articulated above.  In our modern society, the word slave is distasteful and understandably so.  We tend to spin the world “doula” to mean “servant” which is much more palatable.

As a doula, I have discovered through experience that my purpose is not only to serve a woman in labor, but to serve her without regard for myself, without my preferences factoring in, and devoid of my agenda.

I have tended to attract clients that have a preference for natural childbirth experiences. As a woman who is blessed to have had two natural childbirths (and praying for a third one later this month!) I understand this desire deeply.  My births have held so much significance that I have struggled, emotionally, in my role as a doula when my client’s birth plan veers off her original desires.

Birth, muddled by my own desires

I believe this experience is called “projecting” and it honestly has no place in labor and delivery.  I call this time period, “The Dark Night of the Doula Soul.”  Often this point comes when a mom who expressed disdain for an epidural, gets one.  Sometimes it is when mom is wheeled back to the operating room to birth her baby surgically.  At this point, I question my purpose.  My body feels weak, even in short labors.  My heart longs for my children and I want to cry out for the comforting arms of my husband.  I do not view these moments of mom failing, but of me failing her.  To be away from my family doing work I am passionate about and feeling like a failure is a very dark place.

This moment passes, she births her baby and new, powerful loves enters the universe.  A family is born, and I was privileged to stand witness.  I feel privileged to be the person who knew all along that she could do this, and to have been the gentle reminder that all of this is normal, and beautiful.

Yet, at every birth I feel confident that I was useless.  I hope life experience will lead me away from the “Dark Night of the Doula Soul.”  As I said, projecting my own passion for natural childbirth is a factor in this dark moment and my agenda is irrelevant.  In fact, my agenda needs to reflect that deep meaning we explored above. “One who gives herself up wholly to another’s will.”

Christianity, muddled by my own desires

How many years have I lived my faith in Christ with an agenda?  To be honest, I’d say my entire life of faith has been muddled by my desires that are separate from Christ.  I’m a deeply emotional person, and this illumination of Scripture by my pastor’s words and the Holy Spririt’s gentleness makes me realize that many of my “dark night of the soul” moments have stemmed from this lack of singular focus on being a bond-slave to Christ.

I desired to be in ministry as a pastor’s wife.  I longed for approval, significance in my “service” to God’s people.  I longed for love, a spouse, children, a house, leisure, and international travel.  Now surely, my desire to be a missionary is a good thing, and I believe it comes from a calling. However, making that the object of my desire instead of raw service to Jesus is wrong.

Until January of 2014, I honestly had no idea how shallow and selfish my faith had become.  I never wandered far from Christ in my morals, and my life at a glance looked pretty okay for a Christian woman.  In the past 17 months God has gently, consistently and lovingly broken me down and opened up my eyes to the truth of his word.

Doula, given wholly over to the will of another

I am a doula when I serve a family.  I serve without agenda for the sake of a mom’s birth experience. I am a doulos every day to Christ.

My faith, like my work, is to serve without regard to myself.  “For the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God who never lies promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching which I have been entrusted by the command of God our savior.”

May Christ be glorified as I submit myself wholly to him.

Thank you Holy Spirit for such a personal and beautiful reminder.

How have you added your own desires to your Christian walk?  Have you struggled emotionally as a result?  Have you experienced the “Dark Night of the Doula Soul” in birth work? I’d love to hear your perspective.



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