As green turns to gold, the start of autumn is also marked by the return to our screens of TV competition shows.
This year, broadcasting Reverends Kate Bottley and Richard Coles have been adding clerical spice and panache to Celebrity MasterChef and Strictly Come Dancing.
Perhaps the allure of these shows is in how they allow us to share in the excitement that comes from the discovery of an unexpected talent. As creative beings made in the image of an infinitely creative God, our hearts are warmed when the swimming star discovers that she’s baked the perfect ravioli, or the vicar dances the perfect foxtrot (no pressure, Reverend). Shows such as Strictly alert us to the possibility that we too might be capable of achieving things unexpected of us if given the chance – or an expert dancing partner.
They are a showbiz reminder that identity and potential should not be prescribed by role, profession, or by any other label that we may wear. It has been cruelly common for people’s ‘station’ (class, gender, race, place of birth, family trade) to be used to shackle their identity and constrict their life choices. Jesus, however, looked beyond the labels of his day: when he spoke to the woman at the well, and as he drew the outcast and marginalised into his community of disciples.
Seeing beyond labels today looks like a company recruiting talent from disadvantaged groups rather than exclusively from top-flight universities, or showing genuine diversity in the backgrounds and perspectives of its leaders.
If we’re not careful though, we can find ourselves wearing so many labels that we risk losing sight of the individual beneath them. We assume one persona at work, another at home, and perhaps another at church. The fact that individuals assume varied roles and responsibilities is nothing new, but in the modern ‘dancing-vicar’ world the building blocks of identity are perhaps less stable than ever before.
For this reason, we need to be even more assured of our foundation. To thrive in multiple roles, wearing many and varied labels over our lifetime, we need a very firm place to stand. For followers of Christ, this firm place comes from the knowledge that we are wonderfully made, known inside and out, precious to the Father, and with nothing able to separate us from his love.
Only with this knowledge can we step confidently out onto the dancefloor.
Nick is an HR consultant