Rev. Nancy Bacon

If you could be any person in the Bible, who would you want to be?

My husband and I enjoy writing skits about biblical characters and watching people perform them at our church services in the park. Skits require people to play different roles, sometimes quite different from the ones played in real life.

Sometimes we are unaware of the roles we play in our real lives. As a dual-career licensed marriage and family therapist, I have studied roles within families. I’ve been fascinated that families can shape even identical twins to play very different, sometimes radically different roles. I’ve met identical twins where one became a sheriff and the other a career criminal, with diverging roles set early in life.

Are you aware of the roles you’ve played in your family? Were you the responsible one? The overachiever? The family clown? The caretaker? The popular one? The loner? The academic? The good kid? The bad kid? The black sheep? In healthier families, roles are more flexible, allowing people to respond differently to different situations. In less healthy families, roles seem fixed, permanent, like stable personalities. Some roles are more favorable, while others can be devastating over a lifetime.

In therapy, some therapists use psychodrama to allow clients to try out different roles. It’s enlightening to “try on” someone else’s role, to gain insight about others as well as one’s self.

Perhaps due to my family therapy training, I was recently drawn to a new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” written by Isabel Wilkerson. I had heard the author speak about double meanings of the title word “Caste.” In some ways, we are all people performing certain roles, like a big cast in a huge real life production. We each have different roles and sort of know who has each one. We know who the lead actors and actresses are, as well the backstage crew. At the same time, we function as a nation within a caste system, whether we’re aware of it or not. I’ve read a lot of books about racism, but so far this is my favorite.

If you’ve ever wondered why things haven’t fully healed since slavery, this is a great book to read. It’s well written, not too surprising in the first several chapters, but mid-way, at chapter 7, wait for it… I was shocked to consider things that I had never thought of. If you are brave and open-minded and want to learn more about roots and pillars of racism in our nation, pick up this book or listen to an audio version. My church is offering a book discussion group or you may find one online.

It takes a lot of bravery for people to enter therapy, but seeking to discover ourselves, can open us up to healthier, fuller lives. I believe that is the place God calls us to — healthier, fuller lives; the dream God has for all of us. Like our real world, the Bible is filled with tragic stories, troubled people, who are often transformed. Crises can open doors for change and transformation. Think of the character you wish to play. Consider trying on a different role to gain insight into racial issues and God’s intentions. Let us help to bring about a more just and loving world.

Rev. Nancy Bacon is the pastor at Tehachapi Community Church.

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