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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Those People Who Call Everything an Adventure

Recently I read something somewhere that was complaining about people who call everything an adventure. The tone from the author was a sort of mocking and directed towards, “those people who call everything an adventure and by that they mean going to get ice cream at 1 am”

I don’t know what the rest of the world was doing while in college, but that is an accurate description of many of my Friday night adventures with friends and I loved every minute of it. Moreover, I still fail to see the problem or why she felt the need to address this in the first place. I could tell her words were meant as a sort of loving critique but I feel like critiques are baseless if the alternative is not something better but something worse.

One of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, once said,

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

Chesterton defied his realist, naturalist, and materialist contemporaries by seeing adventure everywhere, even in the most mundane moments that strike others as insignificant, and his reward for living with the adventurous enthusiasm and curiosity of a child was a wisdom and a joy that far surpassed that of his contemporaries.

The fruits of the seeds planted in Chesterton’s age, the turn of the twentieth century, are fully grown and blossoming now and despite the pleasant picture such a metaphor may conjure I do not necessarily mean that as a positive thing.

The problem of realism, naturalism, and materialism is not that they are inherently bad but that when practiced to such a narrow and exulted degree they are confining. I know this to be true because their more zealous subscribers lose the very thing Chesterton had and the very thing I seek to have also: the mysterious and sublime adventure that can be discovered veiled amid the ordinary routine of everyday living. And the charm of the adventure comes not from knowing all the answers but seeking them and discovering them more profoundly as one goes about his ordinary life. The sense that there is more to the eye than what you can see with your eye.

And it almost saddens me that we live in a world that discourages silliness and imagination in favor of “growing up” into people who see but don’t see, hear but don’t listen, and live without living.

Play Time

So the other day I ended up babysitting my second cousins (that is the unspoken glory of a large extended family, your cousins bring their kids over and you end up watching them while they catch up with your parents/the rest of their immediate family). This would be far more annoying I’m sure if my second cousins weren’t completely awesome. I genuinely do enjoy spending time with them, even though it leaves me with an exhaustion I haven’t felt since I taught Pre-K. Anyway, I think I like hanging out with my second cousins because, while I am the responsible adult who makes sure they don’t play with fire, it also gives me a chance to be silly and play in a way that is much harder to do with adults.

What I mean is, I don’t know when the world became such a serious place- when people lost their sense of whimsy. Because a good majority of us in the United States work 40 hours a week or more, and when we are not working we are encouraged to fill up our time with things that are “cool,” exercise related, or relaxing. Things as seen on TV like going to expensive trendy restaurants, drinking until we lose our minds, going clubbing to dance in ways that we would be ashamed to own up to in front or our parents, exercising to keep ourselves sexy, fit, or both, Facebook/social media, watching Netflix… the list goes on. And it’s all so material that I find it unsatisfying and, if I’m being honest, more than a little confining. I want more to my life than that. And that’s why I like to play and be silly with my second cousins. It’s nice to get absorbed into their imaginations, to infuse life with a little adventure again, to be surprised by the little truths they reveal about life’s mysteries with their child-like wisdom.

And I almost encourage societies not to join the first world, because it gets lonely here. Because everything that once used to give the soul time to breathe, such as playing and being silly or taking refreshing walks by yourself just to remember that this world is bigger than you are, is not considered a priority and takes a back seat to these empty and meaningless distractions (the ones as seen on TV). And the worst part is we lie about it. We play this elaborate game of pretend like we’re not running on empty, denying that our soul has needs and afraid to genuinely pursue them. Because pursuing those needs might mean admitting that we have enough, and sometimes it’s still not enough, because our hearts still long for something more. Something like God,  although in mainstream society admitting to a belief in God and confessing how that gives purpose and satisfaction to your life is on par with admitting you still believe in Santa Claus,  and your critics will tell you as much.

But I can’t take that criticism seriously. Because I don’t think the world would be such a bad place if it allowed for more children and more child-like hearts.

WD