Monday, October 12, 2009

Who Are You Not What Are You Good At

I finally got to watch The Wrestler recently. I saw a film that told a wonderful morality play along the lines of what happens when you invest your life into something at the cost of everything and you are defined by what you do rather than investing in who you are called to be as a character.

This is particularly poignant if we are particularly good at what we are doing – if it gets us acclaim, fame and that glimmer of glory that is like a whiff of something intoxicating, alluring and compulsively addictive. We are good at it, so we become one with it and no longer have the emotional or character skills to deal with life when we are no longer the best at what we do and there is nothing left to life for us.

Someone said that it was a film that dragged for her, but to me it travelled at a measured pace ticking all the journey marks of a good story – tell the basic areas of the character’s life, introduce the main character, let us know what the main theme of the brother’s life is, give us the crucial up and down points, lead us to the finish. It does this well, it takes us on an emotional rollercoaster but in no way at a stomach churning pace.

So I enjoyed watching the film and came away thanking God again that He has delivered us from any other preoccupation other than being His sons, so that I don’t find my identity in anything else than that – not what I do, or who knows me or how well I am known. I also left hoping others would likewise be set free from such a dangerous clinch on the world and the things of the world.

To be lonely is a very sad thing and there we don’t have true love that forgives, that puts relationships as a priority and that can allow us to find contentment in the simplicity of life and not be wracked by a need to be fulfilled by the temporary.

So I was reflecting on some of the lessons I learnt from The Wrestler and continued reading the book of the moment which is the autobiography of Eric Bristow I was walking home and as usual thinking. The Bristow book is definitely about a man who became obsessed with something he was good at to the cost of virtually everything else. Whilst taking all that in, I thought again about King David’s issue with Bathsheba (found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12).

There is a reading of the story that goes as follows. David took time off from doing what he’s always meant to be doing, i.e. leading the troops. Because he took that time off he was susceptible to being caught off guard and hence the whole mess and so the lesson to learn is to always be at our post doing what we’re meant to be doing so we don’t foul up as David did.

The problem with that reading is that it doesn’t actually address the fact that David’s actions with Bathsheba exposes the dark heart of what David is capable of to himself more than anyone. It exposes his spiritual bankruptcy and vulnerability to the many sins that plague a lot of men. To leave it down to the brother taking a break actually reinforces the sort of thinking that makes the Protestant Ethic such a popular thing for work-a-holics.

There is something to be said about being where you need to be, doing what need to be doing so as not to be caught out. In this case, however, there is more to it than that. It fits a better picture of our growing understanding of what the life of every faith-traveller reveals – after the initial encounter with God others follow like this that are not meant for someone’s elevation but again to bring the traveller to an appreciation of their utter dependency on God because of the deeper issues in life.

I trust that out identity will continually be tried by God so that all the dross is dealt with, in whatever season of life and we won’t be dependent on something we’re good at or something we desire of limited value. Rather our desire will again be determined by God telling us that we are His and He is ours.

For His Name's Sake



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