Post #3: A theology of performing
In my prior post I tried to affirm the legitimacy of a “performer” profile, while also pointing out certain side-effects that often plague performers, such as loss of identity and performance fatigue.
In Be Different: Finding the Resilience to Lead, authors Christopher Howard and Andrew Gross insist that leaders in general — and for our purposes, performers — need to embrace both the created and re-created self.
What’s the difference, and why both?
The created self is what the authors call “the collection of a person’s most essential, God-given qualities and characteristics” (p35). This includes strengths, weaknesses, abilities, preferences, and spiritual gifts.
Being a performer, then, is part of my natural profile and should not be disdained but, in fact, embraced as a creation of God.
But in a fallen world, performers must also turn to the re-created self, which is the new self in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
The re-created self, say Howard and Gross, is a kind of anti-performance performer. The re-created self finds “a new freedom” because it now sees “God’s love . . . as the motivation for ministry activity” (p59). Such love cannot be earned by performing, but is simply received by faith . . . backstage, one might say.
“Good” performing, then, first receives, then gives. Good performing embraces the creational gift of performance and the re-creational gift of God’s love in Christ. Only under these conditions can performers function in their craft, humbly, for an audience of One — God himself.
If other spectators happen to enjoy the performance, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. The performer is secure in Christ and simply doesn’t need the approval of the crowd. The crowd, after all, was never the intended audience.
Myself? Folks, it’s a work in progress. Some days I’m properly differentiated from the crowd and can perform out of love for God and people. Other days I find myself on a different stage altogether, rising and falling with the cheers and jeers of the ever-watchful and often critical peanut gallery (either real or imagined).
How about you? Have you figured out whether you’re a performer like me, or a non-performer like my wife Sharon (see post #1)? If you are a performer, chances are your inner Wonder Woman or Zoro flashes on the stage and you are simply unstoppable (temporarily).
But as a performer you’re probably also susceptible to failure, that is, to performing for the wrong reasons or the wrong audience. Take it from someone who knows.
Finally, if you and I embrace the created self as a gift from God, and the re-created self as renewal in Christ, we can properly manage this volatile ability called performer.