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Friday, September 9, 2016

The Act Part 2

 Sometimes, as actors and actresses, we pull double duty. Not only do we play the part, we want to write the part as well. We don't just want to recite the lines, we want to be in control of what the lines say. In short, we want to be the screenwriter also. 
 As a writer and blogger, I understand the satisfaction that comes in being able to set the plot the way you want it to be. For many years, I lived my life with this in view. I pictured my world looking a certain ten years: I would still be living in Alaska, and the friends I'd always had would be around forever. I was going to go about life the way I wanted to. The trouble came, though, when God threw a wrench in my plans. Life started to take twists and turns that I wasn't expecting: some of those friends moved away; my dad went to the hospital; relatives died... Someone else was messing with my script! 
 The lines weren't supposed to read like that! 
 I cried. 
Just as I'd never liked others critiquing my written words, so I sure didn't like it when God was changing my unwritten script. I was so angry, and I wrestled with my rapidly-changing situations. For the next several years, God and I played a game of tug-of-war: who was going to be in charge of the script? 
 I later came to the realization that, try as I might, I was not in control of anything, really. I had failed miserably in my role as a screenwriter because, no matter what I tried to write, it kept changing. And I could do nothing to stop it from doing so. 
 I often look back on my years as an actress and screenwriter, and one thing really stands out: the feeling that only when I thought nobody was watching could I completely fall apart and acknowledge my darkness. I was just too afraid that my confession of weakness and fear would result in others' judgment or rejection. And so, when the door closed, so closed the acting. And darkness flooded in. 
 Behind the fake charm of our act, we hold fast to deep wounds and insecurities that are more a part of our true identity than we want to admit. Only when we think no one is looking can we give ourselves permission to let go. Though burdened with pain and loneliness of the soul, we continue to tell others, "I'm good; Iv'e got it all together." And nobody knows the real story except us. Through our denial, we build walls around our insecurity and tuck it all away as if to pretend like nothing ever happened... 
 But oh! The heartbreak behind our smile! In the shadows of the deepest recesses of the human soul, we hide in agony. As we shut out the world from our misery, our tears soak the sheets at night. Perhaps we pick up a bottle or light a cigarette. Maybe we turn on the TV or the iPod and try to drown out the steady beat of our despairing heart. The silence is too much to take. The clock ticks away the hours. We fight the battle until we wake again...and go out to the set once more. 
 How well I recall such lonely nights. The dichotomy was striking really: how I wanted to be alone, and yet I couldn't stand being alone. Being left alone in the darkness protected me from the perceived ridicule of others but left me to navigate the solitary road with no one else. Putting on the act may be a temporary solution, a cover-up, but it doesn't solve the real issues that lie festering within. The old wounds still sting; the heart is cold, removed from the warmth of love and Divine light. We become a riddle to ourselves. 
 Lost in our own false reality of life, we throw our best foot forward and attempt to put on the best performance we can muster. But eventually, we run into a quandary as the act carries on: once the act has ended, then what? Where do we go after that? For us, the stage is all there is. We can think of no other life beyond it...but, after awhile, we begin to wonder how long we can keep this up. It's started to wear on us. It isn't as easy as it once seemed...and yet, we can't seem to let go of it either.
 Then...the penetrating gaze of God pierces through...
We soon discover that, even when we thought no one was watching, Someone was. The One in whose image we are made. The One we are created to reflect can see everything about us, regardless of what we try to cover up. We realize that, while we can hide from other people, we cannot hide from Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Our lack of honesty has been discovered, and we've been found out. He comes to the stage and stops the show mid-act. In fear, we tremble. Will He also judge us? Is His rejection on its way too? 
 Why the acting? He asks us this question as He takes our flushed faces in His nail-pierced hands. We try to look away. 
 Do you know that you've traded in your real purpose for this self-created reality? Your stage was meant to house an alter. Your life was meant to be a reflection of Me. You were meant to worship. I am not in this, He says.
In a spotlight of compassion, He shines His eyes down upon us. We know we're hiding under a false image. We know we've been caught. The fear drives lower. We cannot answer. We admit we're broken. We know we possess a longing that just can't seem to be met. But what holds us back, what keeps us in denial of the truth, what shakes us most is this: the fear of being exposed. 
 And so the act goes on. 
 We tell God, I can't do it. 
 We turn Him away and take the stage again.
 Flash bulbs fling an empty light. And we carry on...into the depths of the darkest night.