Last night, unbeknownst to me because I didn't watch the Oscars, Matthew McConaughey won the best actor prize for his portrayal of Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club". This movie was about a straight man who contracted AIDS in the early 1980's and became an advocate for alternative drug therapies, opened his mind to be compassionate to others, and spent years fighting the FDA for the right to import alternative drugs.
I didn't see the movie, and I frankly didn't know anything about McConaughey's speech until I heard it in a clip on ESPN radio here in DFW Monday Afternoon. Since he is both a graduate of The University of Texas and a local celebrity, they were discussing his speech and its significance as it related to who his "hero" was.
Some have called his speech a "rambling discourse" which didn't really say or mean anything. However, what he did say I believe has significance and value. Basically, McConaughey said that when he was asked at the age of 15 who his hero was, he didn't have an answer. Finally he claims he stated his hero was who he wanted to be in 10 years. Who he would be at 25. Then when he was 25 he was asked again and he said his hero was who he would be at 35. Ultimately he said "My hero's always 10 years away...I'm never going to attain that. That keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing."
The debate on ESPN radio and in other places was whether this was just more self-adulation from an over-hyped star. And indeed McConaughey is known for being a bit of a goof (some of us in Austin remember a naked bongo incident in Tarrytown post-Dazed and Confused fame). However, I think his thoughts have real value.
Most people's heroes are other people. Folks who achieve great things and we aspire to be like them. That is great. However, you can never be another person. You are who God has made you to be. You are uniquely gifted as you are gifted. I wanted to be a great NFL Offensive lineman growing up and idolized Anthony Munoz, Erik Williams and Joe Jacoby. Yet I could not be them. My body, my mind, my being, are a unique gift of God and I was not to be them.
McConaughey hit on this in his speech last night, intended or not. He made a profound statement about being who we are called to be. A profound statement as we head into Lent. On Wednesday many of our tribe will gather to receive Ashes on their foreheads and acknowledge that they are dust and to dust they shall return. In so doing they will read the words of Psalm 51.
Reading this Psalm we will confess many things and yet have hope that what God wants is not for us to be something else than what we are, but to truly be who we are..."For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
God doesn't need us to be more than who we are. We are broken sinful beings. We aren't superstars. But neither were Moses, Aaron, Peter, Paul or Thomas. God wants us to be who we are. To confess the brokenness. To embrace possibility. Who can we be if we live into this? Can we be our own hero?Be the one to whom we aspire? Let go of trying mimic a hero. You aren't Gene Upshaw or Mike Webster or Matt Birk, deal with it. But can you be the person God is calling you to be in 10 years?
This is why I believe in the ministry of Coaching. It is a ministry that calls us to be who we are. To encourage us to think about who we might be in 10 years. Can that leader, teacher, pastor, custodian, lawyer, maid, medical tech, doctor, financier, nurse, engineer, mother/father/uncle/aunt/step-parent/god-parent/grandparent etc... ad infinitum be our hero? I think they can. And I think they should. But you will need a guide along the path. A friend, a coach, who can help you discern the markers for your journey.
I end with a quote from a great Gen X philosopher.
"Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N."
Be who God is is calling you to be. Confess, be free and live into that. L-I-V-I-N