I have never enjoyed role-playing. It is kind of funny that one of my first remembrances of going to Piper’s Church Youth Group with her soon after we began dating entailed a role-playing session. I was the new kid in the group, so guess who got picked to go first… Yep! It was me! Let me tell you… I was NOT too thrilled about it but… I was so captivated by my sweet cheery girlfriend that I was not about to let anyone know how I REALLY felt about the activity. Ah… The things we do for love!
Later in life when I worked in management for Hewlett Packard and their spin-off company Agilent Technologies, I regularly attended management training classes and seminars in which role-playing was a common training technique employed in the sessions. There wasn’t too much that I could do about it, so I put on a fake smile and put myself through the ordeal hoping that I wouldn’t make too much of a fool of myself in front of my peers.
Over the last ten years as Piper and I have lived through the daily adventures of the disease that has attacked her body, I have become extra aware of how people regularly use role-playing to get through the various situations in their lives… especially the uncomfortable ones! This new-found awareness started after Bible College when I began to look into the mirror and question how strong my faith really was. Was it all talk, or was there some true love and personal understanding of God and His Word working in our lives?
I noticed in my attempts to be brutally honest with myself, that there were many situations when ministering to parishioners in the local church when I would automatically flow into the role-playing position of Pastor when assisting them with the tough times in their lives. I could easily switch it on, say and do all the right things and then, most times, walk away without having to get too deeply involved in their situations.
Now that’s not to say that I didn’t have a deep Christian love and concern for the folks in our church and that my words, thoughts and actions didn’t have a positive effect on them, but… as I examined myself, I could see that it was just kind of a well-learned and practiced routine that I just sort of flowed into without much thought.
Now that I was suddenly thrust on the other side of the equation and found myself in need of love, concern and assistance from others, I quickly became sensitive to those who were sincere and those who were, in essence, playing a role. It is something that I see almost every day. In the store there are those who will pass us by as I do my best to navigate Piper’s wheelchair in front of me and the shopping cart behind me around the corners and narrow aisles, and they’ll say “hello” and/or give me a warm smile. There are the one’s who immediately turn their eyes and conveniently look the other when we pass and if I should accidently bump their cart (or worse, knock them in the side as we attempt to pass…), they’ll put on a nervous smile and quickly start moving away from us. And then there are the one’s who are real and will stop and greet us and start a conversation.
Last week while at Walmart we passed a young couple (older youth or young adults) on numerous occasions throughout the aisles of the food market. At each passing I gave them a smile and a few times made a nice comment to them and they would respond in kind. I didn’t think too much about it until we were back out at the car in the parking lot and I was about to lift Piper into the car, when another vehicle pulled up behind us with that same young couple in the car. The girl was driving and stuck her head out the window and asked if we needed any help! Their response of love really touched my heart! To me, that wasn’t role-playing or just the acting out of a rote response, it was an interaction of the heart.
I found it interesting when I discovered that Proverbs 3:5-6 also talks about role-playing in our lives. This portion of scripture encourages us to “Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth.” (God’s Word ©) In the original Hebrew, the definitions of the word “understanding” include the ideas of, “discernment, an act, or personification.”
As you can imagine, it was the thought of performing “an act” that caught my attention. In reference to its usage in this application, I would imagine that the writer is talking about performing an “act” that is derived by one’s own understanding of the particular situation at hand. Its like automatically going into a rehearsed role-playing mode when faced with the various situations of life… like I discovered myself doing in the past and see people around me doing when faced with Piper’s and my situation.
Yesterday we met the new nurse on Piper’s Hospice team. We spent quite awhile together as she examined Piper and we got to know each other. As I was telling her “Piper’s story” and about her normal vivacious, out-going personality I turned and pointed to all the framed pictures I have up on the wall that display images of Piper and I and the kids during various events in our lives. Stefanie looked over the pictures and then focused in on one in particular and after a moment asked, “Is that her too?” I commented that is was and told her a little history of the particular photo to which she declared with a gush, “She’s really beautiful!”
Well, that remark made me reach for the tissues! Later in our discussions she became over-whelmed with emotion over something I was telling her about Piper and I almost had to get her some tissues too! Let me tell you, those kinds of actions are from the heart and not just the reaction of a role-playing mode! And like I stated, they really blessed and uplifted me.
That’s the same kind of responses that I want to input into people’s lives! I don’t want my insecurities, my pride, or the confines of my personal comfort zone to interfere with any opportunity that may arise where I could possibly be a blessing to someone else. How about you? After these last ten years, I don’t ever want to fall back into an impersonal role-playing mode when people’s hearts and emotions are on the line.
Let me warn you though, setting aside the role-playing mode isn’t always easy! It takes some premeditated thought and courage to step out into the unknown! My old favorite verse in Joshua 1:9 has come to my aid at many times when I’ve faced these situations. It is always like a shot of adrenaline when I remember that Papa God has commanded me to “Be strong and courageous! Don't tremble or be terrified, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (God’s Word ©)
He’s with us… He’s got our back! So, what have we got to be afraid of?
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to stay out of the role-playing mode when ministering to other’s today?”