I’ve never taken Buzzfeed’s test to see which Next Generation character I am, assuming they have one. I’d like to think that I’m Picard or Data, I’d even settle for Geordi. But, if I’m being honest, I know which character I would be:
Lieutenant Reginald Barclay.
Most of the officers aboard the Enterprise were as confident in their jobs as they were in their social lives. Riker gave me something to strive for; I wanted to walk around with even half of his swagger. As much as I wanted to be Riker, my reality was much more like Barclay.
Barclay lacked the confidence, social aptitude and personality of all his crewmates. He had the ability to do his job, but didn’t believe in himself enough to do it. He was awkward around the other crewmembers, which was reflected in how they treated him. He hated interacting with people so much that he often withdrew to the holodeck where he was much more comfortable.
I was Barclay when I watched The Next Generation in junior high and I’m still Barclay today. With all of the changes happening in our lives this week, the rhythm of my mornings has been completely destroyed. Instead of a quiet morning and a nice run, I spend my morning helping Alycia get ready for work and taking Clara to my sister-in-law’s. I haven’t even figured out how to have breakfast yet, much less go for a run.
So instead of eating breakfast at home, this week I’ve been getting breakfast before work. Yesterday as I was pulling into a local establishment to get some coffee and food, I noticed a couple I know walking into the same establishment. I like this couple; they are very nice people. For some reason, though, the thought of having small talk with them paralyzed me and I drove off.
What’s wrong with me?
They’re nice people with whom I’ve had many conversations. They would have asked about Alycia and Clara. They would have been genuinely excited to hear that she got a job teaching. These are good people who would have smiled at me and wished me well with the rest of my day. But in that moment, when I saw them walking into the restaurant, the last thing I wanted to do was have a short conversation and bask in their smiles.
In that moment I felt like Barclay retreating to the holodeck. Instead of engaging with the world around me I chose to withdraw. It’s easy for me to simply excuse behavior like that by saying I’m an introvert and it comes naturally to me. Natural or not, at some point I need to step out of my comfort zone and engage with those around me.
I wasn’t even engaging with a stranger I didn’t know; these were people I’ve spent plenty of time with who would want to hear about Alycia and Clara. If I can’t engage with very nice people I know, how can I ever engage with someone I don’t know who needs to know Jesus? How can I engage with someone the Holy Spirit prompts me to talk to, if I can’t even talk to people I know and like?
Since I’m not a pastor I no longer have to talk with people as a part of my job. Without the motivation of employment, I have regressed to become more and more like Barclay. I’m writing about this, but I’m not entirely sure I want to change yet. If I ever go back to pastoral ministry, then I know I’ll need to change. Heck, if I want to be an effective camp speaker I’ll have to figure out how to engage with students instead of running back to my room.
Barclay was able to get over his anxiety and social ineptitude, at least to the point of being an effective crewmember. I don’t think God wants me to completely change my personality, but he probably wants me to grow enough so that he can effectively use me even when I just want to run away.