Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Lesson on Stage

Tonight, I happened to re-read this true story that I wrote back in 2003 and included in a newsletter I would send out to family and friends. It brings back such a powerful memory of this lesson that I thought I'd share it with you, my blog friends...

I have been blessed to be a part of yearly Catholic dramas as a member of The Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club since I was 8 years old, and in June 2003 I had the incredible privilege of playing Joan in our play “Saint Joan of Arc”. That unforgettable experience, and a true lesson of grace, was forever imprinted upon me in a rather unusual, but truly Providence-guided, way…

At our play practices during the week leading up to the performance, I was really “feeling” and getting into the role, and was finding it wonderful. People were commenting that I had “found my part”. However, on the night of the last rehearsal, I felt strange. I couldn’t feel any of the emotion of my part and wondered what was wrong with me. After the practice I told our leader about my dilemma and she assured me with a saying that her mother – who used to be in the opera – always said: “Bad rehearsal – good performance…good rehearsal – bad performance”. I hoped she was right and that it was just exhaustion from a full week of rehearsals.

So I went home to bed, slept late the next morning, and kept praying throughout the day that, when the performance came, I would act well and for the glory of God. But that night, when we began the performance, I began to get nervous…because I felt too composed! It was too much like the night before…I wasn’t “feeling” my part. I know it sounds strange – nervous about being too composed! Now, I am usually not nervous when I’m acting. It’s such a fun thing for me that I just enjoy myself and can’t even remember a time when I felt “fluttery”. This was the first time. That was when I came to the realization that whether I felt the part or not, I still had to be Joan. Not just play her – be her. I had to re-live Joan for the audience. It didn’t matter if I felt like a dud or like a spark – I was Joan and I had to be her.

So what did I do? I prayed. Every scene, every wait, every pause between scenes, every time I was not speaking, I begged for the grace to really be Joan. And do you know what happened? As I went along, determined to give the part my all whether I felt right or not, the emotion just came.

But I was still slightly doubtful about the last scene. That was the scene where I had to be intensely dramatic and real. I kept praying, and as the stage crew prepared the scenery for the burning, I was asking everyone back stage to pray for me as well (which I was later able to look back on and recognize the gift of those friends lifting me up at that moment!).

Then it was time. The curtain opened. I was led out and tied to the stake. I could feel fear gripping my heart as I imagined myself really about to be burned, but inside I was still praying, praying, praying. And then the most beautiful thing happened to me. When I began to cry out the name of Jesus (Joan’s last words were “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over), the tears began streaming down my cheeks. There was nothing fake about those tears. And the emotion was unbelievable. It was the most wonderful mixture of pain, sadness, and yet joy and peace at the same time. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It felt, as I described afterward, as if I was let go…I was freed. I was really acting…I was really Joan. I felt like I had reached an intimate connection with her…with what she felt when those flames leapt around her. And my “flames” weren’t even real! (A scenery rig with fans, yellow chiffon, and lights was my “pyre”.)

People told me that I acted well. They said I made them cry. But I know that it wasn’t me…it was totally God’s grace working through me. It was an unforgettable experience of faith – of what the Lord can do for you if you rely on Him. I knew afterward that my nervousness had a much deeper meaning than just feeling “too composed”. It was all part of God’s plan to teach me to have more confidence in Him than I do in myself, and that when I beg Him to give me His strength instead of relying on my own, He will give me what I ask for and much more.

What a beautiful truth! If you ask the Lord to use you for His glory and not your own, if you put complete trust and confidence in Him, He will use you to do unbelievable things! Imagine what we could do if our entire generation realized this and placed their lives and energies in God’s hands. We could change the world! I challenge each one of you to hear and respond to the call - and above all, to trust Him.

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