There it was, my worst nightmare: The ugliest face in the dramatic presentation was not the devil’s. It was . . . Mine!
It all started like this:
Our church was sponsoring the program, “Heavens Gates, Hell’s Flames” for Easter weekend, but during the Good Friday service, it was announced that if more participants didn’t come forward, the production would have to be cancelled.
Now I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a ham. I love drama, and though I’m not great at it, I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of being on stage, and the next morning found me awaiting assignment of my role.
Lots of angels were needed, but since angels didn’t have speaking roles, I didn’t particularly want to be one. I wrestled with this for a few minutes before God gave me victory, and it was with honest conviction that I could then tell the director I would do anything he needed me to do, including being an angel.
Sure enough, I was assigned to be an angel, but when one of the actresses begged to be relieved of her speaking role, I am happy to say that it was with all humility that I accepted her part.
Then I received my lines. Four simple ones. Hey, no problem! No need for outside help here! I’d have this down in a matter of minutes!
Sunday afternoon rolled around. Two complete practices were schedule before the first performance, and after the first one, I was feeling smug. This was definitely within my comfort zone!
The lights went out for the beginning of the second practice, and strains of Via Delarosa filled the auditorium as our pastor, playing the part of Jesus, stumbled down the centre aisle under the wooden cross. Then the strobe lights came on, and the cast charged, running wildly forward as screams of “Crucify Him” filled the air. And I was the most enthusiastic one in that crowd.
But halfway down the aisle, I tripped, cracking my forehead and ribs against the corner of a church pew.
As I later sat with an icepack to my forehead, it struck me that I could no longer play my role. I was dizzy, I had a headache, my side hurt, and my eye was fast turning into a beautiful shade of purple. There was no way I could stand up on stage like this!
That’s when I finally did what I should have done in the first place: I went down on my knees before my Lord and maker, and weeping, I confessed to Him that I couldn’t do it on my own, and I had been wrong to think I could. Oh, how I needed His help!
The play went on that night. A little make-up on my other eye made me look like I was wearing purple eye shadow, and even my 17 year old couldn’t tell I had been injured. The production was a huge success, and more than 20 people came forward in the altar call. Now that was God!
But God had only begun teaching me lessons. By the next day, my face was so swollen and purple that I could have played the devil in the production without make-up. How was I going to do the next two shows? It was too late to make changes in the cast!
That’s when God again spoke to me, this time, through the story of Jacob.
Jacob, the trickster, had always relied on himself, giving himself credit for the blessings God had given him. But now Jacob stood facing the threat of an angry brother coming at him with 400 armed men.
What did Jacob do? He gave it to God!
But then he took things into his own hands, dividing his family up into two groups, sending huge gifts to his brother, and during the night, he even sent his entire family over the river, thinking they would be safer there.
Talk about faltering faith!
But then, Jacob was used to figuring his way out of problems, wasn’t he?
Then a “man” appeared and wrestled with Jacob until daybreak: “Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” (Gen 32:25-26 NKJV)
Wait a minute! We know that the “man” was God Himself: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'” (Gen 32:30-31)! Why was it that God couldn’t prevail over Jacob? Was Jacob stronger than God?
Friends, the “man” couldn’t bring Jacob down because Jacob was too self-reliant for God to be able to do a good work in his life! God didn’t prevail against Jacob because Jacob was too full of himself!
Isn’t that exactly how I had been the previous day during play practice?
But now, in much the same way that the “man” had touched the socket of Jacob’s hip, throwing the hip out of joint, I had been touched, bringing me to the place that I could do nothing on my own.
Friends, I thank God for that black eye. I thank Him for this reminder that I cannot do anything of Kingdom value on my own! Only when I empty myself of me can there be any hope that any of my efforts will have Kingdom results!
The play went on for the next two nights, and with a few God-inspired script-changes, I continued in my role. And between the three showings, 50-60 people gave their hearts to Christ. That’s what can happen, friends, when we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us with Him!
As Easter approaches this year, let’s remember that Jesus died on that rugged cross and rose again the third day, not only to become our Savior, but also to become the Lord of our lives! Will you join me this Easter in emptying ourselves of us, so that we can be more completely filled with Him?