A Page from the Stage

7:50 AM

She was really something, I thought, as she confidently walked toward the microphone on the stage. Her voice had that “it” factor every singer dreams of and a career reflecting that fact. She was a star of the West End and Broadway with the self-satisfaction to boot. She was rich, famous, and successful. She was everything I’d ever wanted to be and yet, as she stood there, diamonds glittering in the spotlights, my heart thanked the Lord I’d never been led down that path.

As a little girl, I read and reread the book series, “Tales of the Kingdom.” One of the stories is about a beautiful actress everyone comes to see perform. She is successful and admired, but still she finds something missing in her heart. During one show a stranger (who represented Jesus) came to see her perform. In the midst of the performance, he approaches the stage, and with a smile offers his hand to the beautiful girl. Taking his hand, she follows him out of the theater and into another life. She ends up looking after the orphans in the city street and finds a joy she never knew on the stage.

I’ll be honest, as a child I always considered this the worst ending of all time. Imagine, leaving a career on stage to go work with a bunch of dirty street kids rolling around in garbage! Often I would pray against such an outcome in my own life.  I’d done music and theater all my life. From the age of 5, I fell in love with it all: the nervous chatter while waiting in the wings, listening to the crowd finding their seats, the dressing rooms filled with busy actors, the feel of the spotlights hitting your face, and the applause of an audience for a role well played. It was my heaven and in many ways my home. On the theater door in our town were all the signatures of the famous actors who'd performed there. Time and again, I'd absentmindedly trace their names and tell myself that someday, my name would be on that door too.

In college, it was no different, only the stakes were higher, we were in the long game now. I studied music performance and honed my craft, competing with everyone for the ownership of the stage. Enter stage right: the bully.  She was beautiful, talented, and smart. The boys loved her, the stage directors favored her, and yet, in that feminine way, she did her best to tear me to shreds. She was winning the competition, but it seemed she wanted my soul. Every day for a year, she managed to say something quietly nasty to me. The slow dripping torment of those words destroyed me bit by bit. By the spring, I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown. By the summer, I was suicidal.

And in those days, when God literally saved my life, He also showed me His absolute love for me and bestowed worth on a wretched and miserable creature. I came back to college a changed person. The joy I had was overwhelming, barely containable, in fact! The bully was still there and she was as nasty as ever, but I knew who God was and I knew He, in His overwhelming greatness and glory had deigned to care about me; that gave my life worth. I felt adored in a way no amount of applause could ever give.

That year, our college band did a missions trip to China. It was in the midst of a terrible time for the Chinese people, as they’d just endured massive earthquakes that had killed thousands. Instead of singing in brilliant concert halls, we ended up performing on dirt platforms in refugee camps. It was incredible. I distinctly remember taking a picture with half a dozen Chinese kids who were so full of love and joy even in the midst of their trauma. I thought to myself, “there’s nothing better than this.”

During my final year, my friends and I hatched up a plan to move to New York. They would pursue their various careers and I would start auditioning for Broadway. That’s what I’d always wanted, wasn’t it? As we looked at apartments and tried to figure out how we could get there, a niggling thought crept into my mind. What if I gave God the first year of my career? What if I went into missions?

Before I knew it, instead of finding myself on the hurried streets of that metropolis, I was an ocean away working at a church in Belfast!  If I only knew then how significant that year would be.

It’s been nearly a decade since I made the decision to leave the stage and follow the King wherever He might take me. It’s been hard at times, sometimes harder than it would have been had I chosen to follow musical theater. And yet it’s been the most fulfilling and wonderful choice I could have made. He's taken such good care of His little sheep. As I sat next to my handsome husband, looking up at a woman dominating the stage, I smiled. That wasn’t my place anymore. And as the audience thundered their applause, my heart dreamed of a day when I would stand before Him and know His favor.

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