My brother Baylor is 8 years older than I. I watched him play Daniel Boone in his elementary school play. I got his coon-skin cap as a hand-me-down. When our uncle Wallis emerged from the production he told my family, “Well… I’ve paid more and I’ve seen worse.” That line was often repeated over the years, including by some who may read this blog – I’ve paid more and I’ve seen worse.
Years later, I was excited to get the lead in my elementary school play. I told my mom, “Our school is doing ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and I get to play the Emperor!” “O no you’re not,” she retorted, “I know that story.”
Thanks to thoughtful teachers and mom’s prodding, the clothes made by the royal tailors weren’t completely invisible. I wore a pair of black boxer shorts with white polka dots as I paraded through town before a child pointed out what everyone silently knew – that I had no clothes. I still hear the laughter, and I still don’t know if they were laughing with me, at me, or near me.
My stage career ended in high school. Our drama teacher cast me in the musical “Lil’ Abner” to play the role of Senator Jack S. Phogbound. I was a little jealous that my best friend had the larger role of Marryin’ Sam, but I got even by playing his part over a hundred times in years to come in my ministry. Sen. Phogbound asks the cornpone crowd, “I guess you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing in Washington these past 18 years…” Mamie heckles back, “We didn’t care what you was doin’ Jack S. as long as you was there and we was here.”
I guess the two roles I played affected how important authenticity is to me. In the Enneagram, those who have a four personality value authenticity so much they don’t even see you if you are inauthentic. I want to learn from them. I hear Jesus having a lot to say about being authentic with our words and actions since God knows our true self already. I want to learn from him, too.
I invite you to take some time today to consider the masks you wear and the roles you play in life. What roles have you been assigned in your family, work, faith community, and other social systems? How do you discover your true self beneath the parts you play? What are methods you use to remind you to seek to be authentic?