I suck at most things in life, but the one thing I can always pride myself with is picking magnificent friends. I decided to share some of the genius of my friends on this blog. Here is a guest post by the lovely Monica Rizkalla who blogs at seek-know-love.tumblr.com.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
-Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Act II, Scene VII)
Whether he knew it or not while writing, Shakespeare imparted to us one of the wisest themes of life in his excerpted poem above. Not only is life temporal—the world is a stage—but its inhabitants are mere ‘players’, or actors (and actresses).
On this stage, people take on many roles; one man may be a brother, father, friend, uncle, nephew, doctor or teacher. There is no one role that sets the entire stage, but the roles are simultaneously at work: “one man in his time plays many parts.”
On a more practical level, looking at the jobs of actors/actresses will give us a better idea of Shakespeare’s wisdom. A full-time actor is trained to assume a role and fulfill its duties; the gentlest and kindest of people may be hired to portray a tyrannical, ruthless dictator (Hitler, for example). And so, for 8-10 hours everyday, our kind actor must follow the protocol and do what a typical Hitler would do (besides actually killing an entire population). But after the allotted work time, our actor goes home and is himself again. He has taken off his role as one takes off a jacket; it was never a part of him, but merely something he did. Although our actor gained a lot of skills from playing such a role and thus, could not remove himself completely, he was never transformed into the dictator he was hired to portray.
A human being has many roles. My mother, for example, is simultaneously a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, doctor, servant, aunt, niece, child of God and much more. Yet these roles never define her and they should never define us.
A couple of days ago a question was raised during our church’s annual camping trip about why it is that God deprives us of good things sometimes. We all pray for our jobs, careers, relationships, etc. Why is it that were sometimes left with nothing—no second option, no third option, just nothing.
Pondering this, I’ve come to realize that God’s silence has a very sublime purpose. It helps us refocus on the purpose of life and where we fit in.
First and foremost, we are God’s creation. We are, very literally, made up of him. He is our breath and our life. And so, very literally, we are nothing without him.
After being his creation, we are the many roles that social and communal life grant us. We can be mothers, fathers, friends, siblings, teachers, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, students, etc. But these are all roles. Before you were a professional, you were a creation of God. Before you were a friend, you were a creation of God. From the dawn of conception, you were a creation of God. Being a creation of God is not a role; rather, it is the core of our identity because it is the only thing that does not depend on human achievement. A mother without kids is no longer a mother; a wife without a husband is not a wife; a friend without friends is not a friend; a doctor without a degree is not a doctor. However, a person with nothing and no one is still and always will be a creation of God, fashioned after Him. Everything and everyone else are mere accessories to this great reality.
If everything in life is an accessory, then not having a job right now or not being granted the good things you asked for is, likewise, an insignificant detail to this great and sublime reality.
Life is never that simple for us because our reality is distorted. For us, being a creation of God is the accessory and everything else is the bulk of who we are and why we’re here. And in this distorted reality, we are subject to the whimsical nature of circumstances, the fickle kindness and imperfect love of others, and the potentially all-consuming darkness of this world. Plunged in this imperfect world and allowing the circumstances of our lives to determine our happiness and purpose, it becomes very easy to slowly ease into a perpetual state of depression, anxiety, unhappiness and despair. As Henry David Thoreau once observed in his memoir Walden, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
And so when we stand before God with an earthly request, it is important that we understand ourselves as mere creatures of His. In the sequence of events that characterizes the creation account in genesis, God creates man in His image and likeness, breathes life into Him, and then puts him in the Garden of Eden so that he would till the garden. Putting him in the garden was the last step.
The purpose of our creation is not to merely till the land—mere robots without souls or spirits could have done the job a million times better than we do. Our purpose is, first and foremost, to be creations of God—to become united with Him the way a creator and a creation should be. Tilling the land is just something done in between; so whether or not there is land to till does not matter.