September 1, 2015

Always on Stage


Have you ever been on a stage? Usually a stage implies an audience. Stages are places where performances are done or where speeches are given and where audiences cheer or boo the one in the spotlight. There are very different responses among people when it comes to the reality of being on a stage. For some the idea of public speaking or being front and center on a stage is terrifying. Others crave attention and live their lives as though they are always on stage. I imagine there are some pretty unhealthy reasons for both drives. We all lean one way or another and must live our lives as best we can with that reality.

If you think about your own life as a kind of stage play you will realize that you have an element of your life that is lived on stage and another portion of your life that is lived behind the curtain backstage. You have a private life and then a public persona if you will. Depending on the kind of person you are you will choose to keep certain parts of your life private while other portions of your life are proudly presented to the public. Especially in the age of social media we are a people that are constantly creating personas or avatars that may or may not actually represent who we are backstage. All of us, if we are capable of honest reflection, know that there are many things in our lives and personalities that we are not exactly proud of. We usually choose to keep those things backstage while we often want everyone to know when we accomplish something or do something good and we proudly display them on our stages (never mind that Jesus encouraged us to confess our sins and then pray and fast in secret and when giving not to let our left hand know what our right is doing).

We make choices. We make choices about overcoming fears about getting on stages when needed or learning humility and stepping off of the stage at times too. The choices we make are important. It is important that we push ourselves to make good choices but more fundamentally it is important that we have the ability to make those choices to begin with. Could you imagine if this choice was stripped from you? What if you were forced onto a stage and had to live your whole life there, a perpetual audience watching and judging. Conversely, imagine you were forced to live the life of an invisible person? What if nobody saw you ever? Choice matters. Mankind was created to be free. Either of the scenarios above would be dehumanizing, in that they would strip a person of their human freedom. One would be turned into a kind of zoo animal while the other would be a kind of non-being.

Our friends who live on the streets often experience life as both. Because they have no private residence they are forced to live life on stage. Sleeping, washing, drinking, urinating, you name it, if nobody shares their space with you it must be done in public, on stage. At the same time these men and women that live their lives in full view of everyone are also treated as though they are invisible. People intentionally act like they don't see them and they constantly divert their gaze. On stage and invisible existence at the same time.

The other night a few of our friends who live in this perpetual tension had a particularly terrible and degrading experience. While they slept, on stage and totally vulnerable to anything, a car full of teenagers pulled up and proceeded to throw eggs at these brothers of ours. As they shared this experience with me in the morning and literally had egg on their faces I couldn't help but think of this stage image. We actually have a saying about having egg on your face which is a reference to having made an ass of yourself on a stage where a crowd booed and threw eggs and other items at the actors. These men live on a perpetual stage in a society where the audience who sees them either pretends not to or typically spews venom and hatred.

I wanted to share this for two reasons: One, to be a confession about our culture that dehumanizes and dishonors the most vulnerable among us. That thing which we want to ignore or hide should be confessed and put out on stage, because Jesus. Two, because I hope it breaks your heart.


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