Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Stage of Life


The stage has been a part of my life for a long time. At four, I spoke my first line on stage as a  little firefly in a children's Christmas program. At six, I played a cute lamb in another children's musical. That was just the beginning of my performance record. From drama groups to high school musicals I always found room for theater in my life. I literally loved the life of performance.

Not only is performing on a stage one of my strong interests, but performing, itself, is a dominating aspect of my personality. A large portion of my mental struggles center around performance-based questions like "How am I performing for the people around me?", "How do others perceive me?", or "Am I appealing to the people around me?".  I tend to make every scene in my life a part of a series in this climatic, theatrical performance which is merely life, not the stage.

It goes to show that I tend to view the world as a stage. William Shakespeare said it best in the monologue from his play, As You Like It, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players". That, my friend, is the way my brain inclines to think.

As a young teen, however, I began growing in my desire to follow Jesus and to do His will while simultaneously continuing to pursue my love for drama. The problem that I faced is that the stage usually is about the actors and actresses, fame and the limelight. How can you act on stage for Jesus? It seemed to be a rather selfish profession not a very humble, holy one.

During my junior high years, I believed I found the answer to: "How do you act on stage for Jesus?" Three words: Audience of One. God is your audience, not men. Do everything for Jesus. Well, that sounded like a biblical way to justify the life of theater. I mean, Colosians 3:23 even says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men", so it must be okay to perform as long as you do it for God and not for selfish reasons.

In more recent years, the life of the theater has become somewhat a distant pasttime--my glory days. Rather than peforming on stage, I perform everywhere else: at home, at work, at church.  Whenever I find myself analyzing other people's perception of me and worrying about how I am 'performing', I go back to what I learned as a seventeen-year old and recite the three-word phrase: "Audience of One. I have an audience of One! Audience of One", that way I can realign my motives with a godly attitude to stop being so concerned about pleasing people but instead, refocus on pleasing God, and God ONLY.
 The Light:
Very, very few times have I known that God spoke to me, but a few weeks ago "I saw the light" and I am sure it was God speaking directly to me.

I had been worrying about disappointing someone, I felt like I let someone down, and the world was disapproving my actions (ever felt that way?) and so I told myself (like I have for the past fifteen years), "Rebecca, you have an audience of One. It doesn't matter what other people think about you. You are not performing for people, you are performing for God...." A jolt stopped me in mid-thought. God interrupted my rote lines I had articulated perfectly for years and He clearly said, "I am not the audience, YOU ARE THE AUDIENCE, Rebecca."

BAM! My belief system that I had constructed about my relationship with God, suddenly began to unravel before my eyes.

View from Center Stage
Immediately, I flashed back to just a few short months ago when I was alone on a retreat away from home at an outdoor ampi-theater. I stood center on the empty stage before empty seats and my heart painfully longed to be right there, in the limelight of life doing something spectacular. Overcome with the grief-stricken truth of my reality, I dragged my heels and hung my head sadly knowing I had become the girl backstage. I never wanted to be backstage; I wanted to be the star of the show, not behind the scene doing the unmentionable, overlooked work of the offstage crew. Sucking it up and rising above my immature, pity party, I attempted to accept my lot in life, but could not ignore the discontentment that swelled within. Backstage was my future.
View from Backstage

Two months after that experience, God used those images from my retreat to clarify the message He wanted me to hear. I was not backstage, center stage, or even stage right, I was in the audience!

View from the audience

My mind, suddenly flooded with light, was set free -  the burden I had carried for so long had been vanquished. No longer am I held captive by the pressure of performing for ANYONE, not even for God! I am in the audience and all I have to do is respond to HIM and to His work that He is doing.
Philippians 1:6 says,

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Take heart, friends! God does the work. Therefore, it is really hard (impossible actually) to fail when He is the One doing the work. Life is not a stage, but rather an audience watching God at work. What a relief! All we have to do is take a seat, watch God, and respond to Him. Thank You, Lord.

          Revelation 1:12-13,17-18a: 
"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the MIDDLE [center stage] of the lampstands I saw one like a Son of man... When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me saying, 'Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last and the living One... "

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