I was never a Trekkie. I had friends who were Trekkies. They could quote lines from episodes and the films. I’m afraid I have never watched the films either. I can almost feel a twinge of guilt, perhaps even shame, at making such a confession. Apologies Trekkies, I’m just not as cultured as you might have thought. Unfortunately my knowledge of quotable quotes from Star Trek can mostly be found in the 1987 spoof song Star Trekkin’ Across the Universe.
Still, despite my lack of appreciation for Jim Kirk, Mr. Spock and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise, they did cut out a place for themselves in our cultural history that will outlast many other sci-fi series or films. Not many will ever discover new worlds or split infinitives the way the Star Trek team did.
Back in the real world, the phenomenal success of Star Trek left its actors with a very big problem: they became typecast. Apart from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (Kirk and Spock), most of the cast became so associated with the series that they found work hard to come by forever after. Even the good captain and his Vulcan deputy struggled. They had become so unhelpfully identified with the roles they played that it was hard to imagine them as anything or anyone else.
Typecasting isn’t just a problem for – ironically – successful actors, anyone can struggle with a kind of conscious or subliminal typecasting that associates them with certain behaviours or attitudes.
In the book of Chronicles, in one of those long genealogies, lies tucked away a character called Jabez. Jabez was so named because of the painful way in which his mother brought him into the world. Pain. His name was associated with pain. Mr. Pain. Mr. Painful. Mr. Pain is a pain. You can begin to imagine the wordplays and send ups on his name. Not exactly the most auspicious start in life. It’s one thing for people to put labels on you as a consequence of your own actions, but to be born with a label firmly embossed on your forehead is another thing.
Somehow, by the grace of God, Jabez refused to be typecast. Here’s what we are told about him:
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4.10)
The preceding verse explains that Jabez was more honourable than his brothers.
The Message translates:
Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honour.
He was honourable and he cried out to God. He didn’t allow himself to be defined by what his mother – no doubt in her pain – had put upon him.
Typecasting doesn’t become insurmountably restricting until you typecast yourself. By cultivating personal excellence in our relationships with those around us and crying out to God for Him to write the script of our lives, we can permanently break out of the restrictions imposed on us by others.
To do that takes faith. It takes courage. But if you are prepared to boldly go…well you know.