If you are a baseball fan, you know that Derek Jeter retired this past Sunday after playing for the New York Yankees for the past twenty years. In those twenty years Jeter earned great respect through how he conducted himself both on and off the field. He was an ethical person the entire time and was never once involved in any sort of embarrassing incident. When asked about what influenced his high standard of on an d off field behavior, he replied, “I always have tried to treat people with respect, the way I want to be treated. I’ve always been very cautious with what I do. You know, that started at a young age. I always had the approach that I never wanted to embarrass my parents.” Jeter will be remembered for two things–the role he played for twenty years on the New York Yankee team, and for the soul–the character and values, he embodied while playing that role.
A dear friend of mine, Rick Oberheide, retired this past week after serving in ordained ministry for thirty-five years. The church from which he retired this week was one he has served for ten years, the last of many places around the world where he has served through the years. There was a wonderful celebration of his ministry this last Sunday at which people of the parish expressed their gratitude for the role he had played in their lives and for the soul–the character and values that he embodied during the ten years he lived and served in community with these people.
Just today I spoke with a mother who was sharing her grief around her last child leaving home this fall. She spoke of her grief knowing that while her role as mother was not ending, it was certainly shifting. She beamed as she talked about how much she has loved the role of mother, feeling that she was “made” for that role. In her own way, she was saying that her soul was made for that role.
One of the great delights in life is when our soul and our role are connected. We are blessed, when we truly love what we do and when what we do genuinely aligns with our soul, with our character and values. When we have been blessed to experience this alignment in a role, then it can be especially hard when that role ends. We need to take some time to grieve this type of transition, the loss of a beloved role, as Jeter, my friend Rick, and the mother I spoke with will surely do.
The good news is that although roles change throughout our lifetime, our soul endures. A beloved role may come to an end, but the soul will continue to whisper to us, guiding us toward new paths and new roles. We are wise to listen to those whispers, because when our role is aligned with our soul, not only will this serve us well, but it will serve the world around us well, too.
I wish Derek Jeter, my friend Rick, and the mother I spoke with today well as they let go of one role and begin to be open to potential new roles that will most likely emerge at some point for them. There is indeed grief in letting go of roles that we have loved, but at the same time there is great joy in following the soul’s guidance to as we discover a new role in this wondrous life we live.
What new role might you be being called into today at home, at work, or in your community? New opportunities are all around us to connect our souls to important roles that only we can fill.
If you would like to read more about “soul and role,” I highly recommend Parker Palmer’s writing on this subject, especially his book A Hidden Wholeness.