Once upon a time, there was a wealthy theatre owner who said, rather inauspiciously, “well, the show must go on.” The actors had learned their lines. The sets were complete, dazzling in their allure and exactitude. The news was spread far and wide of the coming of this great spectacle. All was ready. But, if this was so, why the hint of shrugged shoulder skepticism in this phrase?
Anyone who has ever had the delight and electricity of live performance knows the unspoken pressures of day-to-day rehearsals against a backdrop of innumerable unseen dangers. What if the lead takes ill? What if her understudy also takes ill? What if the set designers or lighting coordinators or musicians’ union decides to picket the whole affair? What if the venue goes into receivership three days before opening curtain? What if? What if? What if…?
But then the lights dim. There is a moment of silence. The air is palpably more solid and we struggle to breathe, awaiting…something. Then, the orchestra swells with timpani crescendo as the first characters stride onto the stage. The thing we had been waiting so long to see unfolds before us in an explosion of color and swirl and dashing costumes. If only for an hour or two, we become pirates, animals of the forest or gods of mythology. For us, it is worth the wait just for these spine-tingling moments when our simple, cardboard lives are invited into a larger than life story.
As an enthralled audience, we often have little idea of the many strange and stressful tornadoes that beset the stories that move us. All we know is that we love what we see. We tell our friends. We are all a-twitter (yup, pun intended) about our experience that becomes ever greater in the telling thereof.
We are often spectators of our own lives. We give ourselves stage cues and arrange the sets for maximum impact. We choose our characters and assign actors carefully lest we become less than believable. We resign ourselves to a show-must-go-on attitude and then, against all odds, burst onto the stage where others get caught up in our orbit.
But we’re left empty somehow. Our post-performance lull in the backstage dressing room can boast nothing more than a tired, sweaty, makeup mess on a face we do not know. We’ve acted well. We know our lines. We’ve become one with our character. But the character has become symbiotic with what lies beneath it. The mirror shoves back a stranger in our face.
What kind of story have we constructed for our own audiences? Who have we hired to perform the most admirable parts of our stage-play characters? From where do we glean our deepest inspiration to shape our personas? A story is an ongoing pleasure, one meant to reveal ever-deeper treasures of delight, surprise, awe or fear with every turning page. But unless we have a commitment to unmask and expand our story beyond the stage and, with courage, risk the critics’ page, we never make it out of our dressing rooms.
A new year has dawned. The curtain has opened once more upon a new stage with different lights, an updated script, actors both old and new and an audience that awaits us. We alone are aware of the maelstroms that have brought us to this place. We are the ones who now stand before our audience and decide whether or not to remove our makeup, leave our script behind and let the lights show us for who we really are. Said that greatest of all playwrights, Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts….”
But if we are willing participants in the Kingdom narrative, we’re given help with our lines, the cast has been selected to shape our character for maximum delight and impact, hope and excitement can replace dread of opening day and our only real audience already knows how great this performance will be. He has used us to write the script. We are in fact co-writers.
So, in spite of everything, let the show go on. Our audience of one will be cheering. The critics have little to say on this one.
Dates on a calendar do not determine our stories.
Stage pictures from www.zimbio.com