by Rocky Glenn
“You do what you do and I do what I do… you do what you do and I do what I do, I’m Alvin, and you’re Bill.” These are the words of Dana Carvey as Alvin Firpo in the 1994 comedy Trapped in Paradise about a trio of brothers who rob a bank in Paradise, Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve. The oldest of the three brothers, Bill, played by Nicholas Cage, is experiencing a great deal of anxiety and concern over every detail of the heist and questions his youngest brother to ensure he is prepared for his role. In response to Bill expressing his concern, Alvin looks at him and replies, “You do what you do, and I do what I do.” Alvin Firpo, despite being a recently paroled burglar with a bent towards kleptomania, displays a wisdom foreign to churchboys. Alvin is confident of who he is, what he has to do, and how he plays a role in the overall plan.
Churchboys are not confident in who they are because they feel who they are will never be good enough. It’s a life lived in fear believing one misstep or mistake, intended or unintended, will bring judgment and punishment from God. Churchboys don’t know God as a loving father, but rather as a ruler and king who demands complete obedience and perfection in order to earn the reward of eternal security. A churchboy’s relationship with God, although he would never use the word, is very much a relationship based in karma. Do good and God will bless you. Step out of line and God will get you for that! Churchboys are unaware of who they really are, sons fully loved and accepted as they are and simply for who they are.
Once you realize who you are and stop believing the lie there is something you must do, you are free to truly live and to truly live freely. Tullian Tchividjian says it like this:
The fear of not knowing whether I’ll get a return is replaced by the freedom of knowing we already have everything: because everything I need, in Christ I already possess, I’m now free to do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.
I can now actively spend my life giving instead of taking, going to the back instead of getting to the front, sacrificing myself for others instead of sacrificing others for myself.
The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.
When you don’t have anything to lose, you discover something wonderful: you’re free to take great risks without fear or reservation.
This is the difference between approaching all of life from salvation and approaching all of life for salvation; it’s the difference between approaching life from our acceptance, and not for our acceptance; from love not for love.
How does these words of Tullian apply to everyday life? God created you to be you and me to be me. I cannot be you and you cannot be me. Those last two statements may be fairly simple to understand but we often lose sight of them in our daily lives. You must be you and I must be me. We each have a role to play unique to us and that role is simply the life we live. I did not get hired at my job based on someone else’s resume and skills or because someone else interviewed for the position. I was hired based on my resume, my career, and the interview I participated in. Around six months ago, Jim Gordon extended invitations to myself and Mike Edwards to be co-authors with him at Done With Religion. Jim didn’t invite us to participate in hopes our writing styles would become clones of his own. Based on Mike’s work on What God May Really Be Like and my writings at Confessions of a Recovering Churchboy, Jim reached out to each of us because, while similar, we each have a unique voice and perspective based on the lives we’ve lived and experienced. No matter the lure, appeal, or tendency to imitate a coworker, manager, or predecessor within my company or to attempt writing in the style of Jim or Mike, I must lean and rest secure in the knowledge God created Rocky to be Rocky and I alone can be me. The uniqueness of who we are is important as we never know the exact moment something we alone may say or do in normal everyday living will create a forever and lasting memory or impression on a family member, friend, or coworker.
Because it’s such a rarity in the churchboy world, realizing who you are, what you have to do, and accepting how it all plays out will likely not win you much applause or be a cause for celebration. In fact, it can be a very lonely place and may cause you to stick out more than fit in as few seek to come to such understanding and are often riled up as though of us who do. In his book Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli states, “The essence of messy spirituality is the refusal to pretend, to lie, or to allow others to believe we are something we are not . . . When you and I stop pretending, we expose the pretending of everyone else. The bubble of the perfect Christian life is burst, and we all must face the reality of our brokenness.”
Two weeks ago I had the honor of accompanying my wife to attend a concert by one of her favorite singer/songwriters, James Taylor. His musical set began with a short video package chronicling his nearly 50 years in music. I pray the words below, which were the closing statement of his opening video package, be true of both you and me as we learn to live minute by minute knowing who we are, what have to do, and how we play a part by simply being ourselves.
Let me always present myself.