The summer before I started college, I was lucky enough to work as an intern at a theater in Fort Worth.
I was planning on majoring in theater that fall at U of H, and my parents wisely suggested that I put in applications for any theater job so that I could see what I was getting myself into before I even took my first class. They were certain that I would learn a whole lot.
And they were right.
I spent the summer doing decidedly unglamorous tasks, hardly ever even glimpsing the stage during a real performance, and memorizing every word and song of each and every script while listening for cues to get props, costumes, and the like to the different actors and actresses that came through our theater that summer. The highlight of my summer was when people — yes, people in the audience! — saw me bringing down cups of wine right before the intermission of Godspell. I’d go up to the stage with the other interns, each of us with our libations in hand and all dressed in inconspicuous black, while the ensemble sang about being “the light of the world,” with us singing along, “we all need help to feel fine — let’s have some wine!” (Seriously. I can’t make this up.) As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I was also the lucky intern assigned to chaperone Jesus (or the actor playing Him, at least), who spent the first scene offstage in a hidden pocket of the lobby, singing about peace and grace on his headset while waiting for his big moment to walk through the audience and onto the stage. I was there to help him get his microphone on, prepare the way for him (like John the Baptist, I was), and to keep him company while he waited for his cues. Me and Jesus, tight even then.
As much as I learned about theater that summer, I learned even more about people. There were other musicals during those three months — Oklahoma and Mame — done by other directors and other lead actors and actresses. But the ensemble stayed the same throughout the whole summer, and even us lowly interns got to know some of them pretty well. I was a young Christian who was fairly shocked by their lifestyles and their antics, and it was a real wakeup call to what the real world looked like outside of the innocent, sheltered bubble I’d lived in throughout most of high school.
It was really providential to me, at the time, that Godspell was included in the lineup of musicals performed that summer. If you know anything about that show, you know that it includes several passages from Scripture and that it does, loosely, tell the story of Jesus and what He came to do. It falls short at the end because He dies on the cross and… well, that’s it. The director of this particular version had Jesus, now presumably resurrected, bound back onto stage for applause after all the other actors had taken bows. As if to say, “Oh, yeah, and then He was alive again! The end!” Even if that part lacked hope, there was still Scripture being sung and spoken day and night in that theater, and about halfway through the run of the production, something odd happened.
I was there doing menial, thankless tasks (seriously) when the director had all of the actors and actresses up on the stage for a rehearsal to correct some things. They were tired, and the show was lacking something, he said. So, he took the time to re-tell the story of Jesus to them, straight from a Bible he’d found, to get their heads into the action, so to speak, and to give them their motivation.
Here’s the thing about the Scripture. It’s powerful in and of itself, by itself, no matter where it’s coming from. It’s living and active, able to accomplish the work of changing hearts.
I eavesdropped as I was busy at my tasks, listening in on the words of Scripture, the words of Christ, given to this group who lived lives completely separate from its truth. And I could see it meeting resistance in some faces, apathy in others, and confusion in most.
And in the middle of a passage about Jesus going to prepare a place for those He’d come to and about how He was going to come back for them, one of the actresses burst into tears.
“That’s so wonderful,” she sobbed, as the others watched her with guarded concern. “Does it really say that?”
The director looked back down to see if that was really what Jesus had said and answered with, “Yes.” Then, closing the Bible, he said, “So, keep these things in mind. Jesus, He’s your friend, and you’re really sad to see Him go.”
Wow. Well, that conclusion left a lot to be desired. Scripture had done the work of stirring this woman’s heart, but there was no better explanation given, no true hope offered, and no grace shared with her.
I was so young. And it hadn’t been so long since I had been confused about these things as well, about why my heart ached at the words of Christ, about how He could make a difference for me, and about who He really was. I remember watching her wipe her eyes and go back into rehearsal, thinking that I was too young and not nearly spiritual enough to offer her any better explanation.
And so, I didn’t. I didn’t say anything, even when I saw her again and again that summer and had so many opportunities to revisit the conversation. She would have probably thought me crazy. She would have probably brushed me off. She would have probably been irritated to have her tears brought back up.
But I still should have said something.
I think about that summer all the time. And I think about that missed opportunity. And I think about how God’s Word was so powerful, how I saw it doing something incredible in an unlikely place, and how it was so much like that passage in Acts, where the Ethiopian eunuch is reading Scripture, experiencing heart change and needing so desperately for someone to explain it… and how Philip was sent right there, by God, to do just that.
How many opportunities do we have to do likewise? How often do we miss out on the blessing of seeing lives changed because we think ourselves too unspiritual, too unknowledgable, and too young in faith to speak truth?
Praying that I wouldn’t miss even a single opportunity from here on out…