There is a natural and good tendency in most of us to identify with some of the characters in a story that we read or hear. Thus as a child (yes, I still remember my childhood) I found myself drawn into the stories in such a way that I was Superman or the heroic cowboy, etc.
This natural tendency, given by God, also works when we read scripture, of course. So it is that we become Abraham or Sarah, Deborah or David, Peter or John, the Apostle Paul or Barnabas, as we read Bible stories. There is much that is good about this. The Bible itself tells us that the stories are there as an example for us, and identifying with the characters helps move the example past our head into our hearts. And certainly as we read the Gospels it's powerfully compelling to place ourselves in the story as we read or listen to them. And Paul says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ," something that isn't possible without some degree of identification with him.
But there is also a little danger involved in identifying with someone like Moses or David or Peter or Paul, I think. It's the danger of so identifying with a "larger than life" figure like these that we lose sight of our calling to become our own unique but not-so-visible expression of God's image. In other words, if I am called to be me and not Paul or Peter or John, then I must be careful not to try to walk in a path that only they were supposed to walk. It will only frustrate me to try to be a "five talent man" like Paul when in fact I am one who has been given 1/2 talent!
What I am getting at is that I have met oodles of believers who are frustrated because they try to be just like Peter, etc., when in fact they are not Peter. Peter was the only one of his kind! And as one of the 12 chosen by Jesus, he was a rare person indeed! Jesus had hundreds of followers (over 500 of them saw Him after His resurrection according to Paul), but only 12 of them were chosen to be in that original apostolic band. What if I am more like Zacchaeus, or Lazarus or Rufus or Rufus' mother? Can I give myself permission to be more "ordinary" but just as important in the overall scheme of things? Is it okay to go down in God's history as the one someone else simply identifies as "chosen in the Lord"? Or for you ladies, is it okay to go down in God's history as someone "who was a mother" to others?
I am not suggesting that we shouldn't aspire to become all that God has meant us to be. Rather I am suggesting that I allow God to be the one who defines that. For me that has meant taking a longer look at some of the less visible people in Scripture: one of the unnamed 300 men that went with Gideon, the unnamed servant girl who told Naaman's wife about Elisha, the unnamed prophet who anointed Jehu (see 2 Kings 9), and yes even Rufus! It has also meant giving myself permission to learn from great men and women without pressuring myself to measure up to the huge calling they had. And finally, it has meant "reading between the lines" to discern the wonder of the uniqueness of every person's role in God's unfolding story. That helps me be more comfortable in my skin, yes, but even more importantly it helps me honor each person I meet as an equally important part of the journey, whether or not they are visible or seemingly"important."
Tom, aka "Rufus" one of God's less visible children