|Not playing it well. I’m the far left of the herd.|
We are led to believe that the Author will have something to say to each of us on the part we have played. The playing it well is what matters infinitely.
C.S. Lewis, The Last Night
I’m not sure if the role was wrong or if I just played it wrong, when I played a donkey in the pageant back in third grade. A donkey was a step up from white-tight, cotton-ball sheep or a gaudy, gold cardboard star. But it was nothing compared to Mary or even to a shepherd.
At least shepherds were people. Donkeys were just beasts. Plus, I resented the fuzzy brown hood and those tan, straight-leg, corduroys. I was a sulky donkey. I did not play the donkey part well.
When Uzziah Played The Wrong Part
Around 750 B.C. Judah’s King Uzziah wanted a new role. For the first 40 years Uzziah played the king part—his God-given role—like a pro.
He set himself to seek God…as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper (2 Chronicles 26:4-5).
God helped him against his enemies and he became very strong. Engines on towers, irrigated farmland, and his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped. But Uzziah wasn’t content to be king. He stole a part not given to him. He took the role of priest.
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense…But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests and they withstood him and said, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense.’ (2 Chronicles 26:16-17).
They were right. The fragrant, smoky offering part was assigned to Aaron’s priestly line. It was not in God’s script for his kings. So the 81 confronted Uzziah and said,
“It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”
Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. (2 Chronicles 26:18-19)
Because King Uzziah stole a role not his own, he lived leprous and alone for ten years until he died.
Don’t Let FOMO Ruin The Show
It sounds extreme. But Uzziah is a type. His sinful overreach—incited by his fear of missing out on a better priestly part?—was written down for our instruction, that we might have hope (Romans 15:4). Uzziah warns us to master the FOMO that tempts us to take a role not assigned to us.
“The fear of missing out,” writes blogger Jon Bloom, is “the Thing”-or the part- we think we need to be happy. In a word, it’s coveting. And coveting isn’t limited to material “things,” making it so illusive.
It’s a shape-shifter that assumes whatever form matches our current vulnerability to feeling like we’re missing out. Today it might be coveting someone’s income, tomorrow it might be coveting someone’s achievement, the next day it might be coveting someone’s harmonious family, next week it might be coveting someone’s opportunities or church or advanced degree or capacities or interior design or . . . you name it.
This is why we often experience Facebook and Pinterest as purveyors of “missing out.” They point out all the things that we don’t have. They remind us of what we are not. They show us where we have not been.
But the root problem isn’t social media or marketing. The root problem, says Bloom, is deeper. It’s “our active sin natures that tell us that idols satisfy. That fear that we are missing out is coming from inside us” (James 4:1-2).
So how do we fight FOMO?
Stage Tips: Play. Your. Part. Well.
That’s simple. Stay in your lane, on your stage. Focus on playing your assigned role well.
1. Play-work, take- an active part in salvation’s story. It’s on stage at this second in you. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12b-13
2. Play your. Not my part, or your best friend’s, or your fantasy role. Play your actual, factual, realio-trulio God-given part. Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. 1 Corinthians 7:17
3. Play your part. It’s not a one-man show. You’re only part of this grand play. But it is an important part. God picked you for this role. God arranged the parts in the body, each one of them as he chose… there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
4. Play your part well. Not grudgingly, but cheerfully; not half-heartedly, but whole-heartedly. And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing you will receive the inheritance as a reward. Colossians 3:23-23
But what if you’re in a role you didn’t want? If you didn’t tryout for this part?
But I Didn’t Tryout For This Part
My friend Jenny was new to her 50’s and working her way back to university when brain cancer hammered her husband. The youngest of their three sons was still in school when Phil went home to Jesus. Then her oldest married married a lovely lady with a lovely young daughter and suddenly Jenny was Nana frosting sparkly pink princess cakes.
A few years ago Christian author and speaker Nancy Leigh DeMoss, also in her 50’s, shocked us with this announcement:
No one could have been more caught off guard by this turn of events than I. In recent years, I have found myself in the most settled, contented, healthy, fruitful place of life and ministry ever. I did not have the slightest inkling that He was about to call me to step out into a whole new realm of faith and service…
For decades, I have [served] as a single woman, wholly devoted to Christ and His kingdom. Over these months, it has become clear to me that the Lord wants me to continue telling that gospel story . . . as a married woman.
Like Nancy, and Jenny, we’re often caught off guard when we find ourselves playing parts for which we didn’t tryout, and in roles God chose us to play.
Play Even The Little Parts Well
Brother Lawrence lived in a French monastery in the mid 1700’s. The Practice of the Presence of God tells of his “great aversion” to kitchen work and how he prayed “for grace to do it well.”
He is King Uzziah’s antitype. After fifteen years in the kitchen, Brother Lawrence wrote:
Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; I rise happier than a king.
The Author of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2), and the Director of our hearts (2 Thessalonians 3:5) wrote us into this grand play with just the right part. He casts each role, to the praise of his glory (1 Corinthians 7:17, Acts 17:26-27). He placed us on the perfect stage to make God look great.
Even if sometimes we fail.
About That Donkey Part
I’ve cameoed in that donkey part more than I care to admit in the years since third grade. I’ve written before about how brutish I’ve been—with infertility, church conflict, in relationships that try me. My FOMO on other roles, roles I would have chosen for me, gives me some sympathy for King Uzziah. l do not always play my part well.
But always if I look back to the Director, his grace frees me to play my part. But there’s more. In every act, He holds my hand and guides me
Please know God picked you for your part. He is with you. He wants to guide you through.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.