Multiple Buckets

I’m one person. But I take on several roles. I wear a lot of hats. I represent different things to different people.

I am an American, Texan, Tylerite, and Wacoan. Other localities have shaped me, but this country, state, and these two cities most prominently factor in my formation.

I am a pastor, teacher, and writer. I have done other work. But those three ways of being are the most fully enmeshed with my way of operating.

I am a husband, father, and friend. I have other relational ties that are important to me. But these three roles are actively assumed each and every day.

I am a Christian. This commitment is my foremost way of understanding myself and is the one I want to be principally determinative for the rest.

When I first meet someone, most of what makes me who I am is obscured. It is only within a few relationships that the manifold dimensions of my character are displayed and known. In most encounters, only a fragment is revealed: I’m known as a soccer coach, a Sunday school teacher, a Baptist, a preacher, an administrator.

In these fleeting, surface level encounters, I only have time and occasion to represent a part of myself, not the whole.

Relationships can deepen and broaden. And they do, given enough time, space, energy, and experience. But in an atomized society the majority of our encounters are constrained, our modes are thereby limited, and the impact of each encounter is narrowed down to one or two of our identity markers. We’re encountered as an undergraduate student, Gen Zer, lawyer, clerk, an Oregon State Beavers fan, salesperson, or a company board member, a bureaucrat, etc.

We do not experience these encounters with another, at least at first and in a moment, with all of the breadth, depth, and texture that is resident within each human being.

We learn standard shortcuts that we apply to our encounters with those in certain roles. If a person is wearing a hardhat and a reflective vest, I may gather I am dealing with a construction worker, or a fan of the Village People. These shortcuts can become biases, or stereotypes, and some may be faulty. Be vigilant. If your experiences with the police has been positive, you will likely turn to them for help when victimized. If the police prove helpful, your confidence in the police is strengthened. If they do not, the converse results.

As I’ve meditated on these dynamics, I’ve considered what I’m representing, and to whom, in my daily interactions. I’ve thought of my roles as a stewardship.

Stewarding our roles means we make deposits into multiple buckets, not solely those that are our own.

When I help to create a positive experience in my role as a teacher, for example, that is not only to my credit, but a credit to the work of teachers and of teaching.

When I speak to others who know of my service as Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Truett Seminary, I remember that I am not only representing myself, but the institution as well.

When I share with someone that I am from East Texas, not only is that person making an association with my drawl, but also with those who call the piney woods their home.

In respect to faith I remember that as I bear the name of Christ, it is not only my reputation that is in view during my daily encounters, but his. I can be a credit or a debit to his account. I seek to be the former, not the latter. We are witnesses. Better to be a faithful one.