Answering the curtain call

A wet snow fell outside today. It was an unscripted surprise performance by the understudy for a cold rain that couldn’t make the forecasted call time. Under the weather I suppose?

The end of the year is here, and already the demands of the coming year invade my mind. Our species seems doomed to only enjoy moments of respite bracketed by unrelenting fury. Just as we ease into the routine of rest, we are quickened by the necromancy of the urgent, of the schedule, of work and responsibilities. And so as I conclude this year I’m reminded of the practice of the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who famously wrote at the bottom of his manuscripts “S.D.G.” It stands for Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone.” And at the top of every manuscript he wrote, “Jesu Juva” Latin for “Jesus, help!” As I pen a postscript to this year, I am comfortable with Bach’s example, and as we enter a New Year I’m equally as comfortable with his prelude. Jesus help! Indeed.

Twenty-twenty has been a year of contradiction for me, and probably for most people. Self discovery and loathing, along with moments of joy and pride. There have been moments when I have been overwhelmed with ideas and thoughts that came to my mind so fast that I could barely get them down on paper, and other times when my mind felt arid and tepid. Nothing came to mind. C.S. Lewis and others use this word sehnsucht. Lewis described it as “inconsolable longing,” and even pointed to it as proof for the existence of God. I think we have all felt this in waves over the past year, I know that I have. It is that sort of feeling when you cry but you have no discernible idea as to why. I know that I’m living in a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy simultaneously. Scripted by an author who is still writing.

I do know there is an author and I’m not him, but at times this life feels like impromptu games of chance. And perhaps that’s how the mastermind behind all of this has set things up? The wise man in Ecclesiastes 9:11 muses “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” Maybe, God is like an honest croupier distributing bets and payouts for His own purposes. Originally that word croupier, described one who stood behind the gambler with reserves of cash in order to meet the needs of the unlucky. While God is sovereign and and ultimately in control, his policy strikes me as one of nonintervention. But like the House, He always wins, and sometimes He chooses to comp the players. Doesn’t life feel like this at times? And to further complicate matters it feels like I’m a gambler at a casino who has been inexplicably cast in the headlining show. I’m not ready for the MainStage!

I have been scripted as the lead character, with millions of possible outcomes to this story, know only to the playwright. I am tempted to remain quiet for fear of rejection, or fear of forgetting my lines and missing my cues. But if I don’t say my lines, if I don’t play my part, then of what purpose is my existence? What would be the impact of others playing out their stories that intersect with my own? The temptation is to keep searching for a safer stage where I’m never confronted with the insignificance of my own performances, and everyone always applauds. A standing ovation would be nice. Too much to ask?

Now as I find my mark for the opening curtain of this New Year, I am confident in only my leading line for the next scene. “I exist.” I’ll say it loudly and with feeling.

Join me and let’s break a leg. Shall we?

More on daring to live life without regret

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