Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Role Call

What roles do you play? As an actor, I've played quite a few. Some I sought out, some I was offered because I happened to be available. Game show hostess, beauty pageant contestant, doting mother, dotty mother, druggie daughter, to name a few. Actually, after that last one, someone called out to me, "Hey, druggie!" as I was walking by afterward.

Really? We're in church, man. Be cool.

Sometimes people don't think to separate me from my roles. Yes, I played a girl who was on drugs. Am I into drugs? No. I know that guy was joking, but still. In theater, there's a thing called "suspension of disbelief." As an audience member, you know I'm not really the person I'm portraying, but you suspend your disbelief and go with it, knowing you're watching a performance.

In life, we have roles. I'm a woman. I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a Christian. I'm a churchgoer. I'm a writer. I'm an actor. I'm a leader. I belong to a lot of groups and I do a lot of things. It's often hard to keep track of all the things I do. I haven't quite gotten the hang of the whole "calendar" thing yet.

Even more troublesome is separating what I do from who I am. I had a hard time with that when I stopped working. Here I am, this educated woman with a degree and a skill and a desire to contribute to my family's economy, and I'm staying at home. Granted, I'm contributing to my family's economy in some form (namely, raising a future Person of Quality and thereby saving the cost of outsourcing child care), but it doesn't always feel as productive as having a job did. Still feels that way on occasion. I'm not doing what I've always done, so am I still who I've always been?

Yes and no.

The things I do don't really determine who I am; the things I do are a reflection of who I am. They reflect my gifts and talents or my current place in life, like being a wife or mom. They influence who I am, but they're not the sum total of who I am.

I'm Rachel. God put a specific set of traits in me, good (Talented! Compassionate! Maybe a few more things!) and bad (Lazy! Never on time! Tends to put her foot in her mouth too frequently! The list goes on!). No matter how my life changes, there will always be Rachel at my core. For better or for worse.

That does not mean, however, that my core can't adjust. Do I always hope to be the least punctual person I know? Definitely not. Do I want to be treading water in my faith? No way! I've got goals. But do I always hope to have a good sense of humor and rapier wit? Of course! Now, whether or not other people agree that I have those things is another post altogether (although I'm sure they'd all agree on my lack of punctuality).

Now, here's the real question: As you take on your roles, do you have to activate your "suspension of disbelief?" Do you have to say, "Well, this isn't really me, but I'll go along with it."

Why? Some roles we don't get to choose, really. I didn't choose to be a daughter, but I am one. I did choose to get married and have kids, so those are mine (even on the days I don't want them to be). I choose to be on committees and teams and all that jazz.

Often, we take on roles because we think someone needs us. Especially in church. "Oh, they need people to serve, so I'm going to serve." OK. Cool. Serve. But serve where your gifts and talents put you. Serve where God needs you to be, not where you think church people need you to be.

There are two reasons for this logic:

  1. Sorry to say it, but you're going to do a lousy job if you're serving someplace you're not gifted. You could be doing an amazing job if you were serving where your talents lie.
  2. You're holding a spot that someone who is talented in that area would love to have.
Some churches have a whole ministry devoted to figuring out what your gifts are and where you'd best be used. Or there are spiritual gifts inventories that can give you an idea of what you'd do well. And you could always, you know, pray about it, but only as a last resort (she said, her statement dripping with sarcasm). 

You've got a lot of roles to play throughout your life. Some were meant for you, others you can live without. Reevaluate frequently. 

And if someone yells out, "Hey, druggie!" in the middle of a crowded church atrium, walk the other way. Quickly. I'm just sayin'...


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