A week later and part two of this two-part series now goes up. My apologies. But I do not apologize for the many spiritual revelations that have been laid upon me. I am bathing in grace and gratitude.
So, what happened two weeks ago at our mid-week Lenten service to remind me so much of that January essay? What broke me down to my very core after service as I sat sobbing to God in my car?
Weeks earlier, Pastor had invited me to portray Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Lenten dramatic reading. I was so honored and eager to dust off my greasy and underused acting wheels. I brought the pages home and glanced at them with baited breath. What would I find? A dramatist had written this monologue for Mary and for a contemporary woman - the topic was God never forsaking us and how this woman and Mary, both, had buried their children. Both women, of course, felt like God had forsaken them. God showed them that He had not.
I read the contemporary woman's monologue with interest, impressed with how dramatic it was. Wow, I breathed after reading how she described finding her baby dead from SIDS. That is some dramatic stuff.
I eagerly turned the page to Mary's part.
And what I found was one highlighted paragraph.
My jaw dropped. I read the lines. They were powerful, but the actress inside of me balked, "what can I do with this?"
Thankfully, I immediately recognized the pride and arrogance in that statement. Pastor had chosen me to portray Mary and I would do as good a job as I could.
Still, though, as I put the papers back on the counter, I felt this nagging I want more. I want to show them how good I can act.
I went to bed with conflicting emotions. I knew that I had it all wrong. I had stopped acting a decade before because, even if I didn't know it, God knew that my priorities were out of whack. I depended on those flowers and compliments too much. The sincerest You did wonderful seemed to define me.
I thought long and hard about it as I laid in bed to go to sleep. I would accept the meager paragraph of Mary's. In fact, I would rejoice in portraying her. Yes, I could feel myself becoming more at peace with the situation the more I thought about it and the more I put it into God's hands.
Heal me from my pride, O Lord, I prayed. Thank you for keeping me humble even when I trip over my ego-inflated head.
The next day I happened to be moving the papers to another part of the kitchen. And it was then that the most amazing thing happened. Husband and Stepdaughter13 were both in the room and I looked up at them with wide, unbelieving eyes. I looked down at the papers again, then back up at them.
"What?" they both inquired. I must have looked like a dope with that goofy and confounded smile on my face.
I explained to them both how I had only found one small paragraph of Mary's to read and how that, at first, had disappointed me, but how I had decided to do my best as Mary and to glorify only God, not myself, in my portrayal.
Then I shared the real amazing grace:
I stumbled upon a paper that had stuck to the others. It held a whole page of highlighted Mary lines. And what the lines said pulled on my heartstrings. They were of a mother crying out to God...her Lord...yet her son...why have you forsaken me? Have you forsaken me?
She tells of how Jesus had been by her side all of her life...and now she was by his side, looking at his wounded side, watching him die.
"When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home." (John 19:26-27 NLT)
I almost cried at how emotional this monologue was. How emotional this hidden page was. I explained with wild emphasis and high-pitched excitement that I was sure that God had kept the entire monologue from me until I could fully understand my undertaking. I was not going to use Mary's dramatized words as a way to show my acting skills. I was not going to pretend I was up on a stage.
I would pray, ceaselessly and with gratitude, that I would glorify God with my portrayal. What a gift this extra page was. Not so I could puff around with a big actor's ego, but because I knew I could put my heart and soul into it and that was a gift God had given me - even as a young child.
So the service came and I took my place at the pulpit while the other reader stood opposite me with Pastor standing in the middle.
My hands grew sweaty and my heart beat a mile a minute. I felt dizzy. I looked across the congregation while Pastor talked and the woman read her words and I prayed.
Then, it was my time.
After the reading, I walked down to my seat. Husband asked if I was okay. I had shed tears during the reading due to the emotional content. Because I had felt Mary's heart beating inside me for just a minute and I wanted to do her justice.
Husband squeezed my hand and smiled softly, said I did a wonderful job.
I couldn't look him in the eye. I sat down and felt a bit winded.
Once service was over, a few more people approached me with kindness and gratitude. I tried to graciously thank them, but say it was all God's doing.
It just so happened that Husband and I had taken two cars because he had to pick the younger two up from Awana. So he and stepdaughter13 left in his car and I sat in mine.
For some odd reason, I sunk into my seat and kept my car dark. Sobs escaped as I felt my heart and head begin to yell at each other. I still felt a longing for compliments, for those flowers from high school plays.
It was an attack. An attack of the ego and the enemy both. And the enemy knew my weakest point:
I started to mourn the fact that my mother, who attended every play with devoted regularity, was not at this service.
And I missed her. I cried with inconsolable grief.
But I shook my head out of the fog the enemy had settled around me and realized: she had been there. She is with God; she can see everything I do. And of course she is proud of me.
But I still beat myself up for wanting the limelight, the praise.
Easy, I heard myself saying. You're still learning.
So I am an addict. Once an addict, always an addict, I suppose. Alcoholics remain alcoholics, no matter how long they stay sober. It just means that they always have a weakness, a thorn in their side that makes them susceptible to falling.
An attention addict? A praise addict? I don't know.
I do know, however, that being an addict does not define me. I am not defined by my need - former or present - to feel praised by mankind.
For I know that
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
And, I strongly feel, that is all I need to know.
My identity is not an actress nor a writer, a wife nor a stepmother. Not even a motherless daughter or a victim of trauma.
I am a child of God.
And for God I live my life.
God is in the audience. He is the only One who is always in the seat, never leaving, never forsaking. God is my Audience of One.
other Bible verses about addiction I have found helpful:
"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
"God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death." (James 1:12-15 NLT)
What tempts you? Big or small?