In the beginning of her senior year, one of my students was running across the football field during a pep rally, tripped, and fell flat on her face in front of the entire student body. For the rest of the year, and even up to this point, she has been known as “that girl.” It’s a label and role that has stuck with her for some time. Thankfully, she has a great sense of humor about herself and has embraced the role with grace.
Just like her, senior superlatives play a similar role and function in that they create a label and role for that person. Many of us probably still remember who was voted “most artistic”, “most likely to succeed”, or “cutest couple” because the roles set forth a certain set of expectations. Whether or not they lived up to those titles remains to be seen for many, but the idea is that once established, these people tend to feel a responsibility to live up to them.
I play a number of roles in my life, one of which is teacher. For the entirety of my existence, I will be known as my student’s former teacher, a role that I will never lose. When my students run into me thirty years from now, I will still be their former English teacher, and there will be a certain set of expectations from them as to how I will act when I see them. It seems there are some roles that you can never turn off or change.
Another role that can never be turned off is that of parent. Last week, my wife had to go out of town for four days to a conference, so I was left home alone with my 10-year-old son. In addition to developing a strong appreciation for single parents, it was reinforced in my brain that the role of parent is a 24-7 job. I was never not his father during that time, as like most children, he needed a tremendous amount of attention and assistance in his day. Whether making a lunch, doing laundry, or cleaning up after him, there is never a moment where I can say to him, “I don’t think I can parent today. You’re on your own.” It doesn’t work that way.
I was recently at a social function where I witnessed a mother say to her 4-year-old son that she was going to leave him to go hang out with her friends and then promptly left. Abandoned, the child began to cry, as he felt scared and lost. (My son ended up going right over and volunteering to hang out with him so that the kid would feel better.) Apparently, that parent doesn’t realize that you can’t turn off being the role of “mom.” It’s a full-time job. Sure, there are scheduled breaks, but even those are often at the whim of a child’s schedule. When we become a parent, if we take on that role and the responsibilities that come with it, we work towards our child’s success. Reject the role and responsibilities, and we run the risk of harming the child’s well-being.
There are roles that no matter what, we just can’t shake, nor should we. (If you don’t believe me, try taking off your wedding ring next time you’re at a party and see how much you spouse approves.) Another role that we can’t get rid of is that of Christian. When we decide to commit ourselves to Him, our lives reflect that change. Our words and actions are then used for His glory, not our own. Our stumbles are only a reflection of our humanity. However, what doesn’t reflect a saved life is one where the individual turns off being a Christian, where he or she decides to not adhere to the standards set forth by the role.
Now, many might look at that last sentence and think that they are doing fairly well, as they don’t drink excessively, do drugs, cheat on their spouse, etc. Yet, many of us shake the role of being Christian when we maintain our silence in the face of adversity. We conveniently forget that we answer to a higher power when we look away from people in times of need. We don’t actively take on our role as Christian when its time to take a stand for what is right. And we choose to be silent when a voice could lovingly correct a path. Through passive allowance, we actively reject our role as Christian – it is only when we stand firm in our role that we maintain our status.
Although a daunting charge, what we can take great assurance in and be joyous about is the fact that although we may not always be firm and consistent in our roles, He is consistent in His role as our savior and king. As His followers, He will always be there for us, and there is nothing we can do to lose the assurance of our salvation. Designated as His sheep – which by definition are creatures that have a tendency to wander and are in need of being herded – He is our eternal shepherd. In John 10.27-8, Christ proclaims that, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” No matter how strong and harsh the influences of the world may be, there is nothing that can steal us away from Him. Our role as Christians is eternal because of His strength, and it can never be taken away from us.
As Christ is consistent in His role as our savior, so should we be also as His chosen and saved. We should strive towards actively taking on the role of being a Christian and making it the defining characteristic of who we are, a role that cannot be altered or turned off no matter the circumstance. This week, spend time in prayer and meditation where you are seeking a deeper, more consistent role as a chosen representative of his flock, taking a more active position as one of His own. Abandon convenient conformity: let your faith be unshaken and immovable, letting the rest of this world conform to it. Amen.