Text: Acts 27:1-44, Acts 28:1-10, Luke 12:4-7, Mark 16:17-18
I don’t think Gladys and Ragamuffin #3 would have been friends. In fact, I don’t think they even knew each other existed or had anything in common, except for the fact that they were characters played in the same production of 42nd Street by the same actress—me.
They were polar opposites. Gladys was a seasoned Broadway showgirl, singing her heart out while teaching the lead how to tap dance. Ragamuffin #3 was an unnamed beggar, wearied by the Great Depression. I’d love to know what was running through the director’s mind as she cast the roles. When she spread out all of the submitted headshots and stared into those hopeful faces, I wonder what made her point to mine and think, Gladys! and… Ragamuffin #3.
Backstage, my dressing room had two separate racks. Gladys’ was all sequins and show, while Ragamuffin #3’s was bare and battered. During the show, I’d shuffle behind the curtains to apply or remove lipstick, change and adjust wigs, and look down to make sure I wasn’t wearing tap shoes with my beggar’s clothes. Any small change could poke holes in the audience’s perception of the story, so it was up to me to make sure Gladys and Ragamuffin #3 didn’t meet during the show.
Isn’t it funny how even the smallest details can create or destroy our perception?
If I take a seat in the audience of my own life, I begin to cast myself and my circumstances in the leading role. When I get a new job and move to a new city, I’m bathing in sequins for days. But when I’m tossing and turning, worrying about my relationships, I’m costumed in tattered old rags.
I wonder if those aboard the ship in Acts 27 felt like they were auditioning for forgotten, unnamed roles. The ship was seemingly built to wreck, the storm to destroy, the disease to kill, the crew to die. Any audience member would assume they’d been cast and chosen for the role of suffering. And yet, our circumstances don’t write our story; God does.
The ship crashes on the island of Malta and the turning point is seemingly nowhere in sight, when Paul breaks out of character, shedding the costume of suffering, and healing those around him. Now, the curtain could fall here and tell the wrong story, encouraging us to serve from our suffering and applaud the go-getter.
But what if that’s not what God has for us here? What if Jesus wants to meet us backstage and between the curtains, past the crowd and the circumstances? I don’t think God spreads our faces across a board, separating His children into categories of “suffering” and “celebrating.” Instead, He just claims us as “His,” over and over again. We are a chorus of His beloved sons and daughters.
When we let His truth about our identity create our perception, the focus is no longer the role of suffering or serving, but the One who combined the two on the cross. We need Ragamuffin #3 just as much as we need Gladys; but just as they are cast to tell a story, so are we.
May we renew our faith in the Director, and assume our appointed roles in the truthful pages of His gospel. Amen.