Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Dangerous Undertaking!

Lately reading the Bible has become a dangerous pastime for me. Now, reading the Bible should always be looked at as a dangerous undertaking because the Word has the power to unsettle us, to mess us up, to cut us to the quick -- if we'll let it. And that is a very big if.

For many, reading the Bible is just a rote activity where we re-read the stories that we already know to remind ourselves what they say but without really making any new discoveries or without allowing those stories to make us question our thoughts, attitudes, and the very foundations upon which we've built our lives. We have to be careful to make sure that we don't allow this to happen.

For me, over the past few months, the Bible has become dangerous for another reason. You see, lately I've been reading it much more from the eyes of an actor. Rather than reading to get the facts, I put myself into the mindset of the characters involved. I ask myself, "What were they thinking when they said that? Why did they do that? Who were these people? What did they want out of life?" In my acting training, my theatre professor taught me the most essential question that the actor must answer in every play, every scene, every moment that they portray on stage. That question is: "What do you want?" We are never just talking or just doing things. With each breath, we are trying to get something,and everything we do is either taking us closer or further away from getting what we want. Yes, there is a driving force behind us -- our desires.

My acting teacher was fond of stopping our scenes mid-sentence to say, "What do you want? What does your character want in this very moment!?" Usually, we'd give some lame-brained answer, like, "She wants to know that she is loved by her dad." And our teacher would say, "How will she know that?" We'd stop and think and say, "I don't know. Maybe if he gave her a hug?" And he'd say, "Okay, so she doesn't want to know something. She doesn't want words from him! She wants a hug! So, continue the scene and say your lines -- and the whole time you're saying them try to get that hug from him. The lines are just part of trying to get what you want!!"

Now, I hope I haven't lost you. You may be thinking this is a little crazy, but stick with me please! :) At any rate, when I read the Bible this way -- trying to answer the questions of what the people want and what they will do and are doing to get it, it really comes alive to me. I've come to the conclusion that if you can't act out what's happening on the pages of the Bible than you probably don't have a full understanding of what's going on -- myself included. There are so many layers, so many characters, so many attitudes, emotions, and things happening in one little scene.

The story of Blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10 is a good example of this. It's just 6 verses, so it's easy for us to read it quickly and think we've understood it. But I've been teaching this scene to the kids in my drama class and I used this same scene to illustrate the effectiveness of dramatizing the Bible this weekend at the Arts conference, and I've learned so many things that I didn't realize were there.

My kids have shown me the desperation that Bartimaeus must have been feeling. He could hear what was going on around him as the people ran toward Jesus, but he wasn't part of it, couldn't get close to it. When I saw one of my somewhat awkward high school students doing the part, I realized that he completely understands this story because he knows what it's like to be in the crowd but not part of what's going on. He understands what that feels like and how much it hurts!

A group of adults modernized the story in our workshop. In their scene, Jesus was a business executive. The disciples and crowds were following him telling him all of the things he had to do, meetings he had to attend, papers he had to sign, calls he had to take. All the while his cell phone kept ringing. And there, at the perimeter, was a seemingly insignificant woman trying to get his attention to get his signature for a homeless shelter for women that needed to be opened. Their scene made me realize how busy Jesus must have been, what demands must have been placed upon his time, how hard he must have had to work to keep balance.

In yet another scene, a woman in the crowd pushed her way forward to Jesus and then said to her friend, "Quick! Get my picture with him!" This made me realize the celebrity status that Jesus had attained. People didn't want to get close to get to know him necessarily. They wanted to get close because He was bigger than any American Idol. I can just picture a bunch of teens screaming at a concert in complete hysteria because their heart-throb has entered the arena. Certainly, Jesus had acquired such a status with certain people.

And so, every time I open the Bible, I find myself inspired to create something. Something that will help us to see the Word anew, as if for the first time. Sometimes I have to hold myself back. I have to say, "Whoa! First just take the time to be with the Word, to hear God's voice." It's almost scary for me to read any books or pick up the Word because I know something is going to hit me and will stir in me the desire to create -- which is a good thing, but like any good thing, requires balance.

Today, unexpectedly, Galatians 1 opened up to me in a way as I'd never seen it before. It's a letter. And I could just picture the people of the Galatian church gathered around the letter, eagerly waiting to hear what their friend Paul had written to them. And then after the nice introduction finding out that he was writing to rebuke them!! How that must have changed their attitude towards the letter from excitement to dread! From wanting to continue reading to thinking, "No thanks. I'd rather pass." And then I pictured Paul writing it to them, recounting his journey of faith all the way up to the last line of the chapter -- "And they gave glory to God because of me." I didn't hear any pride in Paul's voice, but rather a deep sense of humility. Realizing that you have been used by God that others might give Him glory is an overwhelming and humbling thought. The work of this early morning was turning the words of Galatians 1 into a skit that captures all of those feelings and the emotions and attitudes of all of those characters. Galatians 1 is alive to me, and I hope to have the chance to share that with others someday soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment