Freeing Yourself from the Curse of the Redshirt, the Expendable Crewman

“Nobody wants to be the expendable crewman,” my friend Mark said over the phone the other day. For some strange reason we were talking about how in the original Star Trek, when Kirk, Bones, Spock, and some anonymous crew member in a red uniform beamed down to a planet filled with hostile aliens, the crewman in the redshirt always ended up dead, while Captain Kirk scores the sexy alien who looks vaguely like a Victoria Secret model, only with green skin.

I loved Star Trek.

To ensure the story had conflict someone had to die and it could’t be Kirk, Spock, Scotty, or Bones (unless it was a show featuring time warps where the deceased Kirk, Spock, Scotty, or Bones comes back by the end of the show, but that’s another story). Trekkies dubbed this guy “the redshirt” or “the expendable crewman.”

And no one wants to be that guy.

But many of us get up each morning, don our redshirts, and beam down to a hostile environment with a sinking suspicion we are indeed expendable. That’s why I don’t wear red much. I don’t want to be the next target.

Do you feel expendable?

But seriously. There is always someone who can do our jobs better, is better looking, is younger, or older, or smarter, nicer, funnier, taller, newer, or just all around better.

For example, when I first decided to go into church planting four years ago, after over twenty-five years in the pastorate, a younger pastor–an expert in church planting–advised me that, at my age, I should consider church redevelopment instead. Translated that means, “Old guys like you can only handle dying churches. Leave the real, hard work to us younger guys.” I wanted to punch him, but he was considerably younger and I didn’t want to hurt him.

He saw me as a redshirt, completely expendable. I’m glad I listened to a higher authority on what I can and can’t do.

Have you been told you’re the expendable crewman?

God, the higher authority, doesn’t see you that way. 

I find it ironic that the Being who needs no one else in order to exist does not view us as expendable while many of us who desperately need each other in order to survive treat each other as disposable.

Is that because we’ve been conditioned by a throw-away, newer is better culture? Probably. But we created that culture.

The deeper reason for this attitude might be that we believe if we treat others as redshirts on our crew then we must be the indispensable James T. Kirk–or his equivalent. Treating others as expendable makes us feel as though we are not. Work-a-holism boils down to this.

“I must . . . make . . . myself . . . indispensable,” we groan under the load while our children, spouses, friends, and sometimes God himself wait out by the trash dumpster.

But doesn’t this only make us more insecure?

Thus we’re constantly looking over our shoulders for our replacement, creating a vicious circle. We know he or she looms there because we were once someone’s replacement.

The true source of our security.

This is why knowing we were created and loved by an Indispensable God is so crucial to living healthy, spiritual lives. It gives us a true, unmovable foundation to base our lives on.

God does not need you or me in order for the world to keep spinning, for the world to be healed.

Better! He wants us to play a part.

God is not waiting for someone better to parent your children, sing your song, love your spouse, do your job, pray your prayer, write your book, right a wrong, weed your garden, laugh with your friend, be a part of your community, or dream your dream. God chooses to love you and out of that love chooses to use you.  God’s choice makes you non-expendable, not your false belief that you can live without others, nor your IQ, fast car, job, or lofty, faulty self-image. So take off that damn redshirt and get busy.

Eugene C. Scott is non-expendable in part because he can perform the “live long and prosper” sign without glue or masking tape. Please join the Living Spiritually community by following his blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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One response to “Freeing Yourself from the Curse of the Redshirt, the Expendable Crewman

  1. Georgie-ann

    Matthew 6:27-29
    27 “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

    28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

    The world’s frame of reference, and God’s, can be two different things. God, like the sun, always shines His love on us — on each and every one,… it’s “equal opportunity” with respect to us to receive it,… what we do with God’s love, is up to us,… if we ignore it, it’s not God’s fault. Knowing how fair God is, means we needn’t be in competition for His Love,… He’s got plenty to go around. Paradoxically enough, if we move aside to allow God to bless someone else, we could end up being even more blessed ourselves:

    Matthew 6:1-4 [Do Good to Please God]
    1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

    God’s ways can be considered “secret” from the world’s ways. But we are so conditioned, programmed and indoctrinated, by our competitive external milieu, which surrounds us on all sides and at all times, that we “buy into” the world’s mythologies, more automatically than we “see into” God’s realm. And we become the stressed-out, competitive, on-going “losers” (in our own minds) as a result. No one can become the “Greatest” in the world for long — these are very ephemeral illusions,… and what does a flashy moment of “greatness” prove in the long run?,… sometimes (and maybe more often than not), the hidden story behind-the-scenes involves corruption that is sickening,… Much better to be content with finding and identifying our own particular, freely given, God-created essence, and bearing the kind of “good fruit” that will be a lasting and share-able blessing.

    God IS paying attention to His own,… are we paying attention to Him?,… after all,… HE IS the Greatest of All!,… and desires our willing and “happy”/blessed participation in all things godly,… from the simplest breathed prayer and smallest acts of genuine, sincere kindness,… to a lifelong commitment lived out faithfully through all the ups and downs, challenges and rewards, that are part and parcel of our shared human existence,…

    DOing is important and can be very exciting,… but BEing is the greater part,… a spiritual discovery, very much worth finding,…

    Luke 10:38-42
    38 “Now while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house.

    39 “And she had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching.

    40 “But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!’

    41 “But the Lord replied to her by saying, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;

    42 “‘There is need of only one, or but a few things. Mary has chosen the good portion [that which is to her advantage], which shall not be taken away from her.'”

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