Have you ever been afraid that God really isn’t as kind as you proclaim he is?
When I lose heart.
Last night, I gave my first lengthy-version of Juan (Spanish-style) in Santa Lucia, Honduras. A tiny little church nestled high on a mountain, lit up by the Pastor’s personal power (literally I mean–he wired cords from his own home down the steep incline to provide some electricity). Having had a fuller week with the Micah boys than I had originally anticipated, I personally didn’t feel like I was connected to ‘the power source.’ Drained, weak current, flickering bulb… My inner theater critic was slightly dreading the performance. I knew God could work miracles, but why would he want to use me? Someone way ‘under-rehearsed’?
I’d lost heart.
When I was a kid–even a teenager–I loved theater. Performing was such a blast, and I thrived under the encouragement I received. Not fluffy words of amazement which secretly masked people’s negative opinions, but authentic words of support coming from those who loved me. Sure, my director would give me notes to help me improve, but it was more like playing rather than criticizing: “Try this! What about this? Think about things this way…” I would take the notes to heart with joy and readiness to work hard, always knowing that my director believed that I would ‘get there’. Because of that, I had the freedom to fail along the way.
But then I started living in “the real world”. Where I started taking theater seriously as ‘my career’… Slowly, slowly, I started to live by another voice (usually my own): the critic. “You’re not going to make it, you don’t deserve this role, you’re going to make a fool of yourself up there…” A voice that only increased as I moved into the professional world. Somewhere deep within I knew I had talent, but I kept burying it. Not that I wanted to, I just didn’t have a voice I trusted enough to pull that talent out of me. True or not, I didn’t sense an environment where I was free to fail. Or, rather, where I was free to play–knowing I would ‘get there.’ And so, in my self-criticism (which I would often blame on others), I shrank back. And so did my abilities. I was trapped.
And then John happened. I felt in way over my head, but I trusted my director’s ability as well as her belief in Jesus, which thereby translated to believing her belief in me. Even when all evidence of our seemingly-getting-nowhere rehearsals pointed to “failure”, we believed the Lord had called us to this–he would come through for us. She believed I would ‘get there’ and so did I.
And I guess you could say we ‘got there’, though I know we always have more room to play. A tree is still a tree even when we know it will keep getting taller. What I mean is, we both felt good about where we got, and so we keep going and growing (by the grace of God!).
And then… last night happened. The other voice started to creep back: the condemning one. “You didn’t practice enough in Spanish, you should have prayed more over this, your accent is going to throw them off, you’re not in time with the music, they’re going to be bored…” I started falling back into the trap.
And then… before I got onstage, they performed for me. The youth group had put together some dance to a poppy Christian song in order to welcome me as well as to introduce the evening. From a ‘critic’s’ standpoint: they were awful. They didn’t know their choreography, they kept looking at each other for what to do, bumping into each other, falling over, some were in costume and others weren’t… But the critic’s voice is not the one that was in my head that night… I loved it. I literally had tears in my eyes which flowed from a gushing heart. Their joy in performing was such a gift to me. “The hour is coming when you will worship the Father in spirit and truth…”
And then I realized, what if God were kinder than we ever believed possible?
What if God looked at us more like a proud parent at his elementary student’s recorder recital than as a snobby food critic in the newspaper? Shouting “That’s my boy!” as his son squeaks out a slightly off-beat version of “Hot Cross Buns” with all his heart, instead of some stranger tearing a five star chef to shreds when his fancy cuisine could have used a pinch more salt?
Yeah, that’s more like it! No wonder Jesus gets on the Pharisees for their intense law-keeping: it had no heart. Want to play the critic’s cap, guys? You’re only going to feel good about yourself so long as you keep looking down on others. No wonder they wanted to kill Jesus. No fun to look at him when you’re trapped by the critic’s voice. When you look at that kind of righteousness, you know you’ll never ‘make it’ and then you’ll have to start believing you’re the failure you thought others were… or rather, the failure you’re afraid you are… BUT when you know Jesus’ heart–his wonderful, loving, tender, encouraging, holy heart–then you’ll want him in the room! It’s not even that he gives us room to fail, per say, he gives us room to play. And as we look up to him, we start to ‘perform’ better than we ever thought we were capable. He’s a darn good director, and he wants us to ‘get there’ even more than we do. And as we find ourselves in him, we will. That’s a promise. Philippians 1:6 if you need a reference ;).
All that to say, last night was an awesome performance. Not because I was perfectly articulate, or got every word exactly right, or had my audience’s attention 100% of the time, but because I gave the performance to my Daddy. And he shouted, “That’s my girl!” And the joy from that didn’t just bless me, it blessed those watching me, too. I know it, because that’s his promise. John 15 if you need a reference ;).
Spoken Word Performer