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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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Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

Trouble is universal. We bring it on ourselves. Others dump it on us. It seems to drop on us out of a huge vault in the sky. I’ve never met anyone who has not experienced struggles, often intense ones. So much so, each one of us could sing a duet with Louis Armstrong on his signature song, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

Feels that way doesn’t it? When we find ourselves in trouble, it feels as if nobody knows the depth of our disappointments, our troubles. And when trouble comes, the last thing we want to do is tell someone, admit our faults, failures, and fears. At best, people may not understand; at worst, they may blame and judge us.

Trouble is not only universal; it’s isolating. Trouble is a lonely place.

Is it true that no one knows the trouble you’ve seen?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Daniel 9:1-11:1

1 John 2:18-3:6

Psalm 121:1-8

Proverbs 28:27-28

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Here’s a scary thought. God knows everything. There is no hiding from God.

Daniel understood this. In his prayer in chapter 9, Daniel admits to God, “We have been wicked and have rebelled.” This does not mean all of our troubles befall us because of our sin. But Daniel knows that when seeking God’s help, a very good first step is to admit his failings. Full disclosure.

This only makes sense. Have you ever noticed the hardest people to help are the ones who won’t confess they need help? Worse yet are those of us caught living or telling a lie. Yet doors and hearts open wide when we confess who we really are and what we need, especially to a God who cares so deeply about us.

God does know the trouble we’ve seen and even the trouble we’ve been. And he wants to do something about it. God’s call for us to confess our wrongs does not mean he is some sort of sadistic voyeur. Rather God knows we are only as sick as our secrets. Nor is God only interested in judgement and punishment. God’s greatest desire for us is forgiveness. Forgiveness and healing come clothed in confession.

But confession is not just about admitting our wrongs. Literally the word used in the Bible means  “to speak the same thing” or to agree. So, in the case of our sins, confession is simply agreeing with God that we have done wrong and need help and forgiveness.

The piece of confession we often miss is that it is just as important to agree with God about how much he loves us. In the middle of his discussion of sin, John reminds us we are also loved children of God. Again this only makes sense. If my wife tells me she loves me, and I don’t “speak the same thing” or agree that she does indeed love me, I deflect her love no matter how freely given. I can’t receive what I don’t believe.

In other words, confession gives us the ability to live in the tense reality of how unlovable we sometimes act and yet how loved we still are. This is “knowing the truth” that John speaks of in his letter. The reality is that we needed Jesus to take on our sins on the cross. Reality too that he loved us enough to do it.

Jesus loved us so much he gave us the gift of moving out of isolation and into community with God, through confession. Like the song says,

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus”

And man, does he know.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. What did the four have in common?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.

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