Re-defining my ROLE
Each of us assumes dozens of roles in a lifetime. I don't mean a role in a drama or play. A role is a function or action in relation to someone or something else. It refers to our position in a job or career situation. A role is also defined by our relationship to family members, church, or community. A role is a label to help people identify us.
Sometimes we aren't happy to have people identify us only by our role in life. We long to simply be ourselves, whoever we think we are. Sorry, but that's unrealistic. Try as we may, we can never be our true selves in isolation. We will always find ourselves, our distinctive identity, by relating to someone else. We are our child's mother, someone's next door neighbor, the sixth grade teacher, the charity volunteer, the retired accountant, our friend's prayer partner. We are defined by who we are toward God—His child, His disciple, part of His Church, His obedient servant, His witness.
In the late season of our lives we may find that others are defining us by non-roles we would rather avoid: the new widow, the resident in assisted living, the patient in room 301, the elderly person who lives alone.
The pain may come when we find that a particularly satisfying ROLE is OVER. One or more of our roles don't fit us anymore, we have grown out of a role, or we are told that we no longer suit the role. Or someone has stepped into what used to be our role. Others are beginning to carry the torch that we felt we were carrying so well. In later years we change jobs or lose our job, we move from our neighborhoods, we lose our independence, we are forced to downsize into one room in a retirement residence. We feel nearly as homeless and marginalized as the man who sleeps on the street or under a bridge.
Our role in relation to others has drastically shifted. We lose a spouse or a loved one, our children grow up and no longer seem to need us. The nurturing role in our lives is over. We may feel that we are being benched. We change roles from caring for others to being cared for ourselves. Adjustments can be traumatic, especially if we didn't choose to give up those roles; the decision was made for us.
I need to understand who I really am beneath all of life's roles so that when my roles change it will not shake me. If I maintain a constant, intimate relationship with God throughout my lifetime, I should be able to weather the inevitable changes of roles with His enabling. Our relationship with the Lord is our constant, our sure anchor to keep us from being overwhelmed as we navigate the stormy seas of life.
Rather than grieving over changed or diminishing roles in my latter years, I can decide to welcome the adventures that changing roles bring and roll with the new roles.