Choosing Roles

It’s been a warm winter so far here in Austin.  While sitting outside a Starbucks recently, working on my computer while enjoying a nice day, I noticed a couple of boys playing in the nearby playground.  They both had sticks in hand, often swinging and poking those sticks at each other.  It was obvious that they were engaged in some serious pretend sword fighting.  Parry here, a quick riposte there…a feint and then mighty swing downwards.  It sounds violent, but boys just do that.  (Plus, they were uncoordinated and those sticks were really small.)

In the middle of the furious action, the bigger of the two boys stops suddenly and, in a bit of pout, complains to the other that he’d been doing it all wrong.  It turns out that they were re-enacting some swashbuckling scene in which the bigger boy was supposed to defeat his friend…except that his friend wasn’t cooperating by going down.  The little one just shrugged and responded that he was tired of being the bad guy.

It was interesting to observe how clearly those boys understood the idea of roles within a narrative.  The hero is supposed to triumph over the villain, so the story goes.  Even in the middle of spirited play, there was some level of awareness that the action was supposed to unfold a certain way.

Today is my birthday.  I always feel introspective on my birthday (at least more so than usual).  I thought about those boys today and the notion of choosing roles in my life.  With varying degrees of vanity, I cast myself into certain roles and those roles, invariably, carry great importance.

This being our adoption blog, I can relate this to adoption, too.  It is with utmost sincerity that I proclaim adopting a child to be an act of courage and selflessness.  That doesn’t make me, as an adoptive parent, a selfless person, though.  In fact, there’s a great deal of selfishness and self-centeredness here.  You can see it in how I envision my role as a father: Rescuer, Benefactor, Protector, and Life-changer.  I have so many dreams for my son.  In my dreams, he will be a man of character; living a life with integrity and honor.  In my dreams, he’ll be a winsome personality, quick to make friends and beloved by those who know him.  He’ll be funny and smart and athletic and creative.  He’ll marry a wonderful woman and have many fantastic children.  He will be a good husband and a loving father.  He’ll know Jesus and live a life of worth living.

I feel – sometimes so deeply that I sense it in my bones – the need to make those dreams come true.  Those of you who are parents know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all had these thoughts.  Some of us live our lives in light of those dreams, making daily choices to usher those dreams to fruition.  Some of us, in the harsh light of reality, have already been disabused of those notions.  Regardless, we all know the type of role we’d choose for ourselves if, indeed, the choice was ours.

Today is my birthday, but it is also Christmas time.  In reflecting on the coming of Christ, my thoughts are drawn to the life of Joseph…himself an adoptive father.  We don’t know much about Joseph.  He is an often forgotten player in the narrative, infrequently celebrated.  In the retelling of Jesus’ life, his adoptive father bears little mention.  But we know that Joseph willingly and obediently played his role.  He didn’t abandon Mary.  He moved his young family to Egypt, getting them away from Herod’s murderous intent.  He eventually settled them in Galilee, fulfilling a prophecy.  He raised his son and taught him his trade, so that he could make a living.

Joseph serves as a good reminder that parenthood is not about casting myself into the central role.  His life is a reminder that parenthood is NOT about investing in some payoff down the road, but about a loving choice today.  I feel compelled to examine what motivates the dreams I have for my son.  Who and what are they ultimately about?  I want to be the kind of dad that values, as precious, every contribution I make to my son’s life.  But, I don’t want to be the kind of dad that needs that affirmation, nor do I want to be the guy that buckles under that pressure or tries to control everything because that’s the only way he can see things turning out right.  Am I wrong?  Thoughts?

Mostly, it’s a reminder that there is but one Story and God occupies the central role of said Story.  And, if I want my son to understand how his own life fits into this one Story, I need to be the kind of father that lives out his role in light of this reality, too.  So, with that last thought, our family wishes to extend to you our prayers for His blessing upon you this Christmas season!