Friday, October 16, 2009

TV Snapshot: What do you want to be when you grow up?

In “The Core of It” episode of Lie to Me, Ria Torres, an employee of The Lightman Group (a private company that assists in investigations using psychology, particularly the science of deception detection) and Dr. Cal Lightman’s protégé, is trying to process through a recent case during which she experienced a lack of confidence in her abilities.

Torres: Why did you put me on this case? You knew I wasn’t ready.

Lightman: Far as I can tell, you nailed it.

He pauses.

Lightman: Look, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Torres (indignant): I am grown up.

Lightman: Terrific. What are you?

The question throws Torres, and she struggles for words.

Torres: I’m a—I’m a—

Lightman: You’re on your way to becoming one of the world’s leading experts in deception. But up here—

He points to his head—

Lightman: —you’re still a baggage screener at the airport. Til you change that, you’ll always think you’re not ready.

Torres takes in his words and then sits down across from him.

Torres: When I was 14, my boyfriend robbed a convenience store. I was in the car. I knew he was going to do, didn’t know he’d have a gun. Nobody got hurt, but somebody could have. So for me, baggage screener was a big step up.

Lightman: Well, keep steppin’ then.
I resonated with this conversation between Torres and Lightman because it reminds me that how we see ourselves has a huge impact not only on how we think and act but also on those around us—and how powerful it is to have someone remind us who we are called and enabled to be.

Torres was given a remarkable new opportunity when Lightman spotted her skills as a baggage screener and offered her a job at Lightman Corporation. But Torres is stuck; she still sees herself as a baggage screener rather than the gifted deception expert she already is and is becoming.

But Lightman sees Torres as she is, someone who already possesses an incredible gift and skill—and who’s on her way to becoming one of the world’s best deception experts. He understands it’s a process, but he confronts and encourages her to keep moving her identity in that direction—to grow into who she is. Essentially, Lightman is challenging Torres to rethink how she thinks and grasp the new opportunity that he’s given her.

And this makes me think of the opportunity Jesus presents to us and his invitation to, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, to “review your plans for living and base your life on this remarkable new opportunity.” He invites us to, as Mark Scandrette puts it, rethink our thinking. And, amazingly, when we trust that God is who he says and can do what he says—when we rethink our thinking, turn from our old way of thinking and grasp the new opportunity Jesus gives us—we find new life. Our relationships with God, others and the world are changed—we are now enabled to live as we were created, both with God and others.

But like Torres, we get stuck in our old ways of thinking about ourselves. We need voices telling us that we are no longer who we were but who we are now: new creations, freed, found, children deeply loved by the Father, and those so steeped in that reality that they can’t help but love deeply because of how they are loved.

And like Torres, on this side of eternity, we must grow into all that. As Dan Stone puts it in The Rest of the Gospel: When the partial gospel wears you out:

In the unseen and eternal realm, God has already perfected us. In the seen and temporal realm, God is bringing that perfection, or completion, into view.

That’s why we can say we are complete and a new creation while simultaneously, in the seen and temporal realm, a process is going on. From God’s point of view, in the unseen and eternal realm, we are a finished product. At the same time, in the seen and temporal, He is continuing to work the truth deeper into us and conform us to His image.
In exploring this, Stone uses a helpful analogy of "above the line" and "below the line." And Stone challenges us to think about how we think of ourselves: Do we get our identity below the line—where we fail, sin and fall short—or do we get it above the line “in our spirit” where we find “the identity God gave us at our new birth”?

Because who we think we are—and who we think we’re becoming—will deeply affect how we think about God, others and the world around us.

For what it’s worth, I found the theme of identity throughout this episode thought-provoking (you can watch on Hulu), but I particularly appreciate the God-talk this scene brings into open spaces—and the challenge it presents to us to keep on steppin’ then.

(FOX via Hulu)

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