The director and the actress

As I posted before, I usually don’t write allegories. But then one came along and pretty much wrote itself. Every now and then, I’d re-read it, maybe tweaking a word or sentence here or there. I’d think, “I really should add a part where the actress talks with the director.” And that’s as far as it got until recently.

I hope it means something and is a blessing to someone else besides me.

Of course none of this will make any sense whatsoever unless you start reading here.

The director looked across the table at the actress and smiled. He had such high hopes for her — and for the actor, especially now that he’d begun to get through to him — and he was looking forward to finally being able to tell her of some of his plans.

She smiled back. It had been a year since the actor had begun to have his change in heart about her, but that didn’t really explain the dramatic growth she had gone through in that time.

“This has been my best year ever!” she enthused, as if reading the director’s mind. They began reminiscing together.

“What made the biggest difference for you?” he asked, fully knowing the answer, but never growing tired of hearing her tell of it. He loved how her eyes lit up, how excitement, joy, and wonder filled her voice.

“It was…well, everything you said to me that day that I came into your office, wanting to quit,” she began.

He would never forget that day. She was discouraged, frustrated, hurt, angry, at the end of herself. He had listened patiently as she poured out all her feelings, until she dissolved into desperate tears. “I can’t do this anymore,” she had finally managed to choke out. “I’m tired of failing. It’s hopeless. I’m hopeless. I can’t go on like this.”

He had found himself telling her the most hope-filled story that he knew. “Remember, I was friends with your parents, and I was there when you were born,” he said, “I got to hold you right away. I loved you then. I held you close and whispered a secret in your ear and someday, when the time is right, I’ll tell you what it is. On that day, I also told you what your real name is, the one you were meant to have from the beginning of time, the one you will not hear again until you are ready.”

When he had said this to her, she had wiped away her tears and looked at him as if he was crazy.

So he reminded her of their history together, the parts she could remember, and even some parts she had forgotten. He reminded her, over and over again, that he had always loved her as a father and a friend.

“Your problem,” he told her, “is that you don’t believe that. You don’t believe me. You’d rather listen to the actor, even though he will never love you the way I do and, all too often, he does not even speak for me. When will you realize that? When will you seek my approval more than his?”

Those final words had stung her. She had protested and argued, and then dissolved yet again in frustrated tears. Finally she had walked out.

“That was the turning point,” she said now. “Once I sat myself down and thought about everything you told me, all the things you reminded me — it all made me realize that you knew me longer and better than the actor did — and that you love me more than anyone else ever will. Plus…well, you’re the director, and he isn’t.” She flashed a relieved grin at that last sentence. “That’s why I came back.”

Now he looked at her more seriously. “So you finally believe that I love you and want what’s best for you, right?”

She nodded. “Of course! You’ve proven that time and time again but I was too blind to notice! You’ve always been there, my one constant, my most loyal friend. I’ve lost count of how many times you rescued me…how many second chances you gave me…how many times you let me start over…how many crises you helped me through. You’ve changed my life.” She paused for emphasis. “Now I think I really do believe that you love me as much as you say you do.”

“You trust me.” He said it as a statement of fact, calmly. She nodded again, but she looked slightly apprehensive, wondering if she was about to be tested.

“I have a new script,” he announced simply.

She looked excited. “Really? Tell me about it!”

“It’s the kind of complex, demanding role that you were born to play. It’s tailor-made for you, but it will also be extremely challenging. Extremely.”

“What about the actor? Is he in it?”

“Oh, you’ll still both be playing your same basic roles, except I’m developing your character much more fully than before, and expanding your part in the script a lot. Focus on your role and let me worry about the actor. The changes in the new script will require your utmost concentration, and you and I will have to work together more closely than ever before.”

“Great!” she said.

“One more thing…the new script also requires that you dance.”

“Dance? The actor hates dancing! He will never agree to it.”

“No, not that kind of dancing. You won’t need a partner for the dances I want you to perform.”

“But…but…” Tears filled her eyes and she bit her lip. “What about my leg? I can’t dance. You know that. I’ll stumble and…and…I’ll fall down. Besides, who wants to see a cripple like me try to dance?”

“I’ve choreographed the dances, and I’ve taken your leg into consideration. I will teach you myself. Trust me: you will dance more beautifully than you can possibly imagine, even if it feels awkward to you. Are you forgetting that I’m also a doctor — the very one who attended your birth and took care of you after your accident? The dances I’ve created for you are therapeutic and healing — they will strengthen and restore your leg. Eventually your limp will disappear.”

She looked incredulous. “Seriously? You mean that?”

“Of course.”

“I never dreamed I would ever dance…” she whispered in amazement, as if afraid to speak the words aloud.

“That’s not all,” the director said. “The script I’ve been writing — it’s based on the stories you used to write as a little girl, and the stories I used to tell you. It’s based on your fondest hopes and dreams, the ones you’ve long given up, even forgotten. I remember them all, every desire of your little girl heart and, in the script I always meant for you, they all come true. Well, except for some of the silly or dangerous ones.” He smiled. “But the good ones all come true.”

Her tears flowed freely. “But…why?”

“Because it’s the role you were meant to play all your life.” He paused to let the words sink in. “You just weren’t ready before now. I think that now, finally, you truly want those things again — all those long ago hopes and dreams — more than you want anything else.”

She sat there in stunned silence, trying to process it all. Finally she spoke, “So, despite everything, all my failings, all the ways I’ve messed up and disappointed you, I get to play my dream role? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Yes, it does,” he countered gently, “if you remember how much I love you.”

“But what about the actor? Does he get his dream role too?”

“Leave him to me. After all, I love him too, far more than you ever will. But your role — this new script — is far less about him than it is about you. Promise me one thing: always look in my eyes instead of his, and never forget that I am the director, not him. He’s just another actor, like you, and he has his own script.”

He paused and grew almost stern. “I have to caution you about something. You finally stopped believing his criticisms and stopped veering off the script in reaction to him — right about the time he was becoming less negative and critical. But now he could pose an even greater danger to you, if you become used to and dependent on his kindness and praise. You’ve longed for him to approve of your performance so much that I’m afraid his positive words might have more power over you than his negative ones did, and you might become willing to do almost anything for them to continue. You must never forget that he is not the director. My approval must matter far more than his. Look to me only.”

She nodded.

“Always, always act as if I’m your only audience.”

She nodded again, and he thought she had never looked more beautiful and more strong. He thought her face could have lit up the darkest room. “This is amazing…too good to be true…I must be the luckiest actress alive!” she burst out.

“I think it’s time.” he said abruptly, standing up.

“Time? Time for what?”

“This.” He beckoned her to stand and, leaning down towards her, spoke softly in her ear. “It’s time you finally heard what I whispered to you so long ago, on the day you were born. And, after you hear it, you won’t just dance. You’ll fly!”

“Fly?”

He didn’t answer, didn’t explain. Instead, he whispered a sentence, the secret he had told her the day she was born…words she hadn’t realized that she had longed to hear all her life, words that explained everything, words that set her free, words that frightened and exhilarated her, words that were both healing and challenging, soothing and provocative. It was as if she was hearing his voice, his real voice, for the very first time.

She gasped. Tears flowed. And she threw back her head and laughed. That’s how powerful his few, seemingly simple words were. What he spoke wasn’t just a statement — the truest words she had ever heard — but a glorious invitation.

He was calling her forth into her destiny.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, yes, yes — ” the words tumbled out in enthusiastic agreement to the new script, to the director being her audience of one, to everything he wanted her to be, and to everything he would help her become.

In return, he held her closer, in a fatherly embrace…and spoke her name: her name he had whispered to her at birth, her real name, her beautiful, beautiful name that no one else but them had ever heard.

This time she shouted — shouted loud — with joy, throwing back her head as if she wanted the heavens above to hear her. She lifted her hands high in the air and shouted with triumphant eagerness, “YES!!”

And then she danced.

Why I changed my mind about the confederate flag

I was going to stay out of this whole hooplah. It hits close to home, and I didn’t want to offend people that I love and care for on either side of the debate. At the same time, I decided I should, at the very least, show respect to both sides by listening. I read articles online. I watched, while it was being live-streamed, the rally held recently in South Carolina, demanding that the flag be removed from the state capital. I realized that I had never really listened so carefully before, and that I had only heard misrepresentations of the “anti-flag” arguments.

After that, I thought I understood. Now I realize that, because of the huge holes in my education — especially about the Civil War — I really didn’t understand the half of it. It was time for me to hear from the leaders and founders of the Confederacy, rather than from its modern-day spokespeople. It was time that I allowed history to speak for itself.

From the “Corner-stone” Speech delivered by Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, in Savannah, Georgia on March 21, 1861:

 The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

I felt it only proper to quote in its context the part that was enough to convince me:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not proud of that.

When people whose opinions shouldn’t matter so much tear us down | Monday Motivation 

I wrote this to myself over a year ago. Here’s hoping it will be an encouragement to someone else.

Chase God. He made you and He wants you. Just because He thinks you’re fearfully and wondrously made doesn’t mean sinful humans (e.g., everybody on earth) will agree. Lots of people think you suck. So what? In Heaven, it won’t matter. Don’t worry about them; they are His responsibility. Don’t worry about what they think about you. Their opinion is so flawed, ignorant, and inconsequential, that it is meaningless. Remember that: meaningless.

They do not know you. They do not define you. They are hell-bound sinners, dying for grace, just like you. You aren’t a step-child. They aren’t ahead of you in line. They can’t make Jesus love you less. 

He wants your extravagant worship. They aren’t capable of that. Because they think they haven’t been forgiven much. But you know. Pour it out; don’t be afraid of wasting anything…give…pour…toss it all at Jesus’ feet…tears and blood and brokenness and beautiful scars…don’t be afraid to be scandalous because His grace is scandalous

They will never get it. Not until they see Jesus face to face, and then…don’t envy them those first moments.

When you see Him, it’s doubtful you’ll need a smackdown. Keep it that way. Look forward to running into the Throne Room and jumping into Abba Father’s lap, but don’t take it for granted.

You have beautiful scars. You are a redemption story. You know reconciliation first-hand. Don’t forget that. Never forget that. Rejoice. Celebrate. Until He comes. Don’t expect them to do it. Do it…and celebrate. Celebrate — with wild abandon…with extravagance…with every breath…

Even though some days I’m still not so sure about not needing that heavenly smackdown…

A rough day

It was already, for various reasons, not the best day. Then evening came and a Facebook post I read, meant to be a helpful source of information for people leaving and healing from spiritually abusive churches, sent me into a tailspin. Actually the post did nothing of the sort — it was my own reactions to what it triggered inside me.

If you followed my previous blog, you may remember the series I wrote about my “fall to grace”. Let me emphasize that the church we ended up leaving was not spiritually abusive; they were dear, sweet brothers and sisters in Christ, and much tears were shed when we realized that serious doctrinal incompatibility made us no longer at home in that fellowship. The legalistic burden I had placed upon myself during the time we were members was far beyond any they would have placed on me.

So, when I read the Facebook post, I thought, escaping my legalistic prison was hard enough without having to exit a controlling church group.

But then I remembered the group I was involved in during my early teens. It was supposedly just a Bible Study — only we called it a “Bible Rap” because it was the early 70’s and the group had a real counter-cultural hippie flavor to it. There were no obvious older adult leaders that I could tell, just a bunch of young “Jesus People”, mostly new converts, and an older guy everyone held in awe, even though he was rarely there. They were a zealous and serious group of kids, but misguided.

Anyway, I remember being surrounded by older girls (I was probably the youngest kid, by at least a couple years, who attended) and they were demanding me to confess the SECRET SIN in my life, because there had to be some, it was obvious, or my spiritual experiences would match theirs exactly. I remember week after week of confessing everything that I could think of, “real sins” like the cigarette I had smoked with my brother, or my chronic sins like being “lazy” (undiagnosed inattentive ADHD) at school, having a “messy” room, etc., etc. I was far from perfect, but I was basically a good kid. However, the way I was being questioned, one would think I was a hardened, bank-robbing, murderous young harlot just pretending to be a junior high kid. Those weekly interrogation sessions were only one aspect of how controlling and pushy and borderline abusive they were.

My first thought at this memory was, What idiots they were. There was no secret sin! and then I suddenly remembered that there was “secret sin” in my life, only it was not my sin, but it was a secret I felt forced to keep.

That was what hit me: Aha, they were right. There was secret sin in my life. And, stupid as it sounds, I felt like collapsing in a heap on the floor, buried under an avalanche of decades worth of junk. Suddenly I doubted everything because they had, in my mind, been proven right…which meant the sin of others was my fault, which meant all sorts of other awful stuff was true after all…

I didn’t collapse, but I didn’t cope in the healthiest way either.

Now, in the light of day, I’m amazed that this ragtag group of ex-hippies could still have such power over me all these years later.

But, most of all, I’m saddened at my response to these confusing, disturbing memories. I don’t expect to be so “healed” that I have mental clarity over every memory, or that I won’t momentarily get sucked back in by the lies that tormented me for so long. I believe there is a turf war raging over my very soul — not because I’m so special but because there is a war raging over all of our souls.

I need to stop running away, and stop hiding.

Yes, it’s the only way I knew how to cope for years upon years, but I know better now. As long as I respond on auto-pilot, I will never form healthier habits. I am tired of being kicked around by my past.

It wasn’t until morning that I thought to pray about how I felt so beat up by the rabbit trails of false conclusions my mind went down the night before. It wasn’t until morning that I shared my struggle with my husband and my “tribe”. Those things need to become my first line of defense.

Pray. If need be, call in reinforcements.

It’s time I stopped trying to carry burdens I was never meant to carry. “Come unto me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. But I keep piling burdens on myself…guilt for things long ago forgiven, false guilt for the sins of others, shame I didn’t deserve, rules God never intended…and there are people who would hasten to add yet more. It’s time to lay all that down and ask for help when I need it.

Voices held captive

On another blog, someone asked poignantly how long my voice had been held captive. This was my reply:

Robert, it was in college that I somehow got up the nerve to send up a desperate cry for help to a therapist I was seeing at the insistence of a concerned friend. Rather than asking questions, or seeking better understanding, my therapist seized on one of the things I’d stammered, and made a blaming statement. I walked out and never returned. I remained silent for about 30 years, telling myself that the long ago sexual abuse was “no big deal”, just “that weird thing we did”, and that it had no impact on the rest of my life. That’s if I thought of it at all.

After college, I was raped by two neighbors. My initial intent was to tell no one but my doctor; however, that didn’t work out. I wasn’t completely silenced, but close to it. Very few people knew, and I dealt with the aftermath of my ordeal pretty much on my own.

Time does not heal wounds. Most of the time, I thought I was OK. The thing is that I had no frame of reference for “OK”. Five years ago, the whole house of cards came crashing down. This time there was no more propping things back up and pretending all was well.

I didn’t “find my voice”. Desperation and anguish drove it out of me in agonizing shrieks of pain, wracking sobs, and frightened whispers. It has been a difficult road out of captivity, but so much worth it.

May God bless you with freedom and joy.

May God grant us all the powerful, unrestrained voices He always intended us to have.