Playing the Part 

I remember back when I lived in Virginia I used to go to Blackfriar’s Playhouse pretty frequently because of the amazingly talented actors and authentic rendition of Shakespeare’s many plays. (If that makes me hopelessly nerdy in your eyes so be it!)

One night during a production of the comedy “The Merchant of Venice” I remember being struck by one specific actor. He was not the lead of the play. In fact, he was the opposite. He drew my attention because I realized during the course of the show that he played at least 6 different minor roles each with a different costume and having only a few sentences of lines.

I was especially impressed with his ability to keep up with that many characters because I knew that in his shoes I would have made colossal mistakes. Being a very dramatic adolescent with a lot of insignificant child acting under my belt, I imagine I would have walked on stage in the wrong costume or forgotten when I needed to be on stage or said the wrong line…  In short, I realized that a mistake in that role could have dramatically influenced the flow of the play and the overall quality of the show itself, even though the parts he played we’re deemed so insignificant that they only cast one actor to play them all.

Yet in a moment of theater magic, I was touched by the realization that without every single role in that show, without each minor character to offer a line of transition or deliver a message or provide a moment of comic relief the show would not have been everything it was that night.

We live in a world that has the terrible habit of trying to elevate the best of humanity to Divine heights. We “worship” leading men and leading ladies, the most athletic, the smartest, the richest, most influential, or the best looking. We place them on pedestals and endeavor to be like them, holding them as our models of achievement with our purpose in life tied to the degree of what we attain of that “glory.”

Yet, as often as the pride of humanity is flaunted as the satisfaction of our desires and a vindication of our existence I can’t help but stumble once more over my minor character actor and the nagging truth he pointed me towards. A truth that convicts me that this towering pride blinds to the humble reality of life, that in the quest to exalt the individual self we are blinded to our part in the whole story. Just like the minor characters each had a part to play in order for the show to go on, so too do we.

You and I are absolutely unique. Not only were we made by God we we’re made for a purpose and a glory that we cannot yet know as the story is still unfolding in time.  And I think a lot of joy gets lost in a quest for mere worldly glory for two reasons. First, because worldly glory does not satisfy and leaves one ever restless. Second, because it steals the dignity we inherently have from being made in the image and likeness of God by making that dignity conditional.

But I propose that this set of actors are wiser than our media pundits, celebrities, athletes and other influencers because when the show was over they each came out and took their bow with a smile on their face. While I’m sure they were content in their hard work and dedication to their craft which made the overall performance excellent, I think their true joy was not in being perfect but in knowing that they had been part of something amazing together, something that would not have been possible without each and every person on that stage playing their part exactly as they were meant to.

I think the joy of heaven, and the joy of life on earth, is not in finding ourselves but in finding God and realizing that not only is He perfect love, but He makes each and every one of us a part of that love. That our glory will be not a monument like a towering tombstone but a reflection like a mirror of the love we’ve chased after and at last embraced, the love we became by being loved first by God.

And I’m sure that whether we were a lead or held the door for them, whether we were noted for our poetic musings or for sheepishly cracking a joke, we will be perfectly content with our part once we see it in the light of that final vision and behold the majesty of Heaven, because “eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

 

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The Music Man

So today I had a really nice sit-down chat with one of the guys on my company’s maintenance staff and he was sharing with me how he was teaching his son how to play drums. He is quite musical himself and plays drums for his church, but his love of music actually started with the guitar when he was around his son’s age, which is why he is so willing to oblige when his son asks him for lessons.

d2

So of course this warranted the purchase of a sweet set of drums for the both of them (he showed me a picture) and it was great to see his face light up while he talked about his passion for music. People with secret passions (within the bounds of moral and civil law) make me so happy. Like, here’s a guy who fixes things for a living and he is quite good at it, but now I can picture him playing music all the time. It’s his outlet, one of the things he enjoys most about living, and he practices regularly and with dedication. Even though he leads a very humble life with his family, I know many more affluent people who would pay to feel like that about something, to have something capture their soul like that. And it was sweet because this man admitted that he’s seen others turning to alcohol, drugs, and things like that but that for him, it’s always been music. And his smile was so sincere I could almost see the halo.

But I wanted to pay a special tribute to the music man, for reminding me on an ordinary Thursday afternoon what life is all about.

Christ’s the King

So a couple of weeks ago I came across a blog that is also Catholic (there are lots out there don’t let secular society make you think there aren’t!) and the author had a post encouraging her followers to be Christ-like. Now she seems really authentic and sweet, not that I’ve ever met her, and it is good that she is encouraging her followers to put their faith into practice. I can tell her intentions were good. However I just really hate the term “Christ-like.” I hear it used a lot and honestly I just think it’s a bit presumptuous. Not only that, it sounds stressful, like it would leave people always on edge, trying to be perfect all the time with God watching over your back every second of the day. I know I can never be Christ-like, even on my good days. My nature is the opposite of Christ’s. But that doesn’t stop me because I don’t want to be Christ-like, I want to be Christ.

I know, I know. If being Christ-like sounds presumptuous, being Christ Himself sounds blasphemous and unrealistic. But hear me out. During Jesus’s earthly life He consecrates Himself to God His Father. He prays in John 17:11 “…Holy Father, keep them in Your name that You have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” I honestly think He means by that that by the power of the Holy Spirit His consecration to God was so total that He and God were one, prompting Jesus to be so incredibly humble that He would take no responsibility for His good deeds and heroic feats on earth, giving all the glory to God. And this sentiment is echoed in Paul when he talks about the Holy Spirit saying in Galatians 2:20 “No longer I, but Christ lives in me.”

This is the type of thing I want. To be so on fire with the Holy Spirit that it is no longer myself, but Christ who lives in me and through me. I know in my heart that if I spent every day imitating Christ I could never be like Him. On my own I don’t have the holiness, the willpower, or the grit. It will leave me tired, frustrated, ineffective and maybe even spiritually dry. But fortunately, it’s never been about what I can do, but what Christ can do for me. I believe He can send me down His strength and His Spirit to accomplish the impossible. And He does, because He has this incredible capacity for love (at least that’s how I explain his enduring love for me). I think the world today is the way it is because so many people settle for being “Christ-like.” Some passive, comfortable Christianity that really waters down the beauty of the spiritual life. And I would wish better for you readers because, as usual with God, there is so much more to it than what meets the human eye. That’s the belief that keeps me moving forward.