Funny people enjoy having me around because I will laugh at almost anything.
When my girls were in high school, they were both deeply involved in the theater department. Because dramatic teenagers are my absolute FAVORITE, I took my role as drama mama seriously and spent almost as much time as they did hanging around the performing arts hallway at Chantilly High School. Delight is not a strong enough word to describe the way I still feel about the kids, parents and teachers who were part of that season of my life.
In spite of the fact I proved quite useful to have around for selling tickets, gathering costumes or locating a full size coffin for a prop (true story,) I was occasionally run off the premises during rehearsals because I could not contain my laughter. During the final stages of preparation for their performance, although the student actors appreciated my encouragement, their teacher accused me of hampering the process by laughing at their antics too soon.
“They aren’t funny yet! Quit laughing at them!”
In case you feel sorry for me, you will be happy to know that when opening night arrived, my obnoxiously loud laughter was once again welcome, encouraged and appreciated. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Mrs. Johnson, we could hear you laughing!” as I congratulated students on another fabulous show. I’m not sure it is a marketable skill, but having a distinctive laugh has served me well as an enthusiastic drama mama and head cheerleader for the artsy kids.
Performers thrive on the positive reaction of their audience. Whether tears of tenderness, a gasp of surprise, a hearty belly laugh or the coveted standing ovation at the final bow, when the cast and crew experience evidence they have connected with their audience, the many hours of hard work are worth the time and effort.
This morning, I was reading Galatians and came across the following familiar verse about choosing our audience:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
Since my youth group days, I have heard repeated counsel to “perform for an audience of one” instead of seeking to win the approval of people. As a person who thrives on the accolades and affirmation of others, I often find this easier said than done. My love language is words of affirmation and sometimes I find God’s voice to be frustratingly quiet. Like many of the teachings of my faith, I understand and acknowledge the wisdom behind Paul’s advice to the Galatians, but find I often struggle to translate what I know into how I feel or how I choose to act.
However, one of the gifts of middle age is a gradual lessening of the hold other people’s approval has over me. Perhaps this progress is due to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life, but I suspect from talking to my other fifty something friends that it is also a function of exercising my “I just don’t give a ____” muscle. (Feel free to fill in the blank with whatever word makes you feel a little sassy and irreverent.)
As I revisited the verse from Galatians I referenced above, I saw it differently through the lense of time and experience. Instead of a sigh of frustration over how far I fall short of this ideal, I thought instead about my drama mama years and what the word “audience” means for me now.
Yes, I am about to compare enthusiastic, incredibly biased drama mamas to God. Work with me here…
Is there a more perfect audience than a delighted parent?
In case you have not had the distinct pleasure of sitting in a middle school, high school, college or professional theater watching your child do what they love best, the answer is an emphatic NO, there is no more perfect audience than a delighted parent. A whole auditorium of delighted parents is even better.
What if God is just that crazy about us?
What if the God who created the universe is sitting on the front row as we bravely step out of our comfort zone into the spotlight of our passion holding His breath, leaning into our every word and silently cheering us on until the moment He can jump to His feet cheering?
What if God wants us to succeed with every fiber of His being?
Perhaps we are encouraged to play to an audience of one instead of to the masses because the writers of scripture know God is our absolute, unabashedly, unashamedly, completely biased biggest fan. God knows how hard we worked. He knows how nervous we are. He knows how much we want to succeed. God sees us and He is so FOR us.
Without meaning to do so, I think I used to see God as a skeptical critic waiting for me to fail rather than a delighted parent wanting me to succeed. Scripture is full of evidence to the contrary, so I have decided to change my mind.
There is no more perfect audience than my delighted Abba Father. He is crazy about us.