I recently had the honor of having a play that I wrote produced as a part of the Frazer’s annual musical drama production. It was a story of a family that is dealing with their Grandfather’s dementia, and each other, during the Holidays. While I did base certain quirks within my family on certain family members, It is a fiction story. The characters are mostly made up, and this family, though it has some similarities, is far more interesting than my family.
I have to say a huge thanks to Wayne Sigler, who directed the whole thing and did a great job (as usual). I also want to thank the cast who did a great job and make the script look better than I remember it being when it was just on paper. I also have to give a big credit to Ken roach who was one of my early critical readers and who basically wrote the whole sermon in the “Christmas Eve” scene. He also made suggestions that turned into some of the best jokes in the play.
If you haven’t had a chance to look at it you can check it out right here:
I can’t say why my play was chosen, but I can say why I wrote it. In the south where most people have grown up in church, people all think they know the Christmas story. People believe they know everything there is to know about it. So instead of telling them the story they think they know, I like to tell them the same story, but in a different context. The Christmas story is that of Christ humbling himself and coming to the world. This is the story of Christ coming into the life of a family. That way there is just more of a chance for those people who think they know the story of Christ to see it through a new lens.
My family is far more boring
Most people have assumed that the story is at least semi-autobiographical. The only Characters that I’d say are truly based off real people in my life are my grandparents. My grandmother is a spunky, caring woman, who speaks her mind. My grandfather, who we have been slowly losing to dementia, was a great preacher and man of God.
The truth is that my family isn’t quite as exciting as the people you see in the play. We don’t have any food fights at our table. We never had anyone yell at the family and storm out. No one in my family frequents bars, is loose with their dating life, or has ever owned a pink gorilla costume. Despite this we do have our differences, we do have our fights, and we do have bizarre and funny eccentricities that make us, well, us.
The one thing that is 100% factual is regarding the poem in the play. I wrote a blog entry a few years ago about my grandfather and what I’ve learned from him. You can read it here. In it I talked about the Sydney Lanier poem that is featured in the story. Until recently my Granddad would repeat the poem every time that we got together. This past week when we were together for Christmas, my dad suggested that we all say it aloud, (as in the play we’d heard it so much that we all have it memorized) and my Granddad, even in his current state, joined in and said it along with us. It was very meaningful.
The character(s) based on me
Perhaps the thing that people have been saying most often to me is that the character of uncle Charlie must be based on me. I can honestly say that I didn’t write it with that in mind. I think they would be pretty surprised to find that Charlie is not that character with whom I identify the most.
I suppose there is a sense in which I’m Charlie on my best days. But the person with whom I most identify is actually the character of Anne. No, I’ve never been that ostracized from my family nor have I behaved quite as callously or unscrupulously as Anne, but the thing that I really understand in her is the feeling of not being good enough. I am the youngest in my family and as Anne said when you’re the youngest you never stop being the baby even when you’re almost 30. In addition, I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough. Some might call this an “inferiority complex” I think that inadequacy is a better word.
It’s been curious to me to find out that this is a trait of many great performers and creative people. Comedians especially talk about how they’re driven by a desire to make people like them. The late Johnny Carson, the “king of late night,” was driven mostly by a desire to prove himself to his mother, who never told him that she was proud of him. My parents were very generous with encouragement and I’m not (nor will I ever be) anything close to Johnny Carson’s level of commercial success or fame.
What this tells me is this: no amount of success (including getting your play produced for a few thousand people) will make you feel adequate, only God can do that. Resting in Christ’s “enough” is far more than the worlds best “just a little more.” Because as Pascal first said, there is a God-shaped hole in all of us. And as Andy Stanley recently said, we all have an appetite to be known and the only one that can satisfy that need to be known is God.
Enough is enough
So, I got it half right; I’m not good enough and I never will be. Neither will you. Scripture tells us that we can do all things through Christ. We usually read that scripture as if “all things” means “great things.” What if it just means “all the things we face” Apart from him we can do nothing including waking up, breathing, and interacting with the world around us. I think it’s healthier to have a perspective that reminds us of how we can’t do anything without God, this kind of inadequacy can lead to a healthy sense of dependance on him. That is the best place to live: in Christ.
At this point I’ve come to see this feeling of inadequacy as a great blessing, as I realize that it’s the truth: I’m not enough, but God’s grace is enough for me. Because I realize that day-to-day, I’ll never be without a feeling for a need with God. I now see it as a loving way that God has drawn me closer to him.
In the wake of my play being produced I’ve heard story after story of people who identify with the family in the play. They see themselves as one character or another. Many people have gone as far as to make contact with their parents or siblings from whom that had been estranged. It’s been really cool to see what God has done with this play. I’ve heard it said that if you take credit for your failures that you’re going to be tempted to take credit for your successes when you need to be willing to Give both over to God. I really feel like that this play has been a means of grace for me, as it’s given me an opportunity see God at work in and through my life, so that he can show me that I don’t have to be good enough, I just have to rely on him.