I was on a fast track. Everybody was telling me that I was a really talented TV producer. I can be really good at a lot of things, so I believed them. But this time (perhaps because being good at producing a TV show actually counted for something trackable on IMDB, and accumulated to real dollars in my bank account), I noticed I was also becoming really easily influenced by other people’s perceptions of me. I was getting too comfortable being what other people wanted me to be.
It’s a human thing. We need acceptance. And as children being accepted by family, and schoolmates, peers is how we develop our self-image and a healthy sense of self-esteem. Especially in our rewards-based educational system. When we do good, we are rewarded and consequently accepted. It’s how we learn to do life in our formative years.
But as you mature in the spiritual life, formation takes on a slightly different form. You begin to notice a distinction between Doing and Being. You may begin to sense that what you are good at doing is not quite the same as who you were created to be. And at a certain point along the road to spiritual self-discovery, you find yourself asking not, “What am I doing?” but, “Who am I being?” And God is drawing you to that question because our perceived ideas about who we are that are based on what we do, the role we play in this world, hinder our ability to become who God intends us to be.
This does not mean you can’t enjoy what you do. I enjoy producing. I enjoy the role I play on set, directing talent, developing stories. It’s good, mostly clean, fun. So when I started to ask myself, “Who am I being?”, I was very aware that I was good at what I was doing, and set no intention to never do what I do as a producer again. I wasn’t leaving behind a life, I was just letting it go for a moment. It wasn’t a “Bye Felicia”, it was an act of surrender in response to the invitation of God I felt impressing itself upon my heart.
The aim of the spiritual life is to be released from an overattachment, or overidentification with our roles (ie. what I do); and free to identify with who we are in the Spirit. And when God has a vision and purpose for your life, from time to time, he may stop the clock, slow us down…giving us the opportunity to realign ourselves with the truth of who we are in God. And I trust this process. So much so that I’m starting to envision what I will produce when I get back in the game. I imagine it may somehow be more authentic, more honest, more brave.
Jesus said, we will be known by our fruits. Which implies that first, we must know our roots.
He also once shared a parable to his disciples…it was about a barren fig tree. And I love this parable because it shows us how we can still be alive, with dried up fruit…or alive and not bearing any fruit at all…
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'” Luke 13:6-9
This is the spiritual life. You begin to notice a dryness. You ignore it. Until one day, someone comes looking for your fruit. And you remember what you were created for. And you begin to pay attention to the tree. You remember, there’s still life in you. You start to dig around inside, you begin to excavate your soul. It is not easy work. But with every diligent and intentional act of care and kindness you offer yourself, the truth of who you are is revealed. With persistence and courage, you find the joy, you find the fruitful life you were determined to rediscover. Then you begin to produce what you were created to produce.