When the Walls Come Down

When the party ends, what will be left?

I watched them tear down my dreams today…

Well, it wasn’t really as devastating as it sounds. It was actually just the set for a musical I was performing in.

We had auditions about 3 months ago. I hoped and hoped I’d get this particularly fun part – one of the leads with my own huge production number, singing and dancing. It was everything I’d dreamed of since my childhood, as a fat little 8 year old kid putting on plays on my front porch in Huntsville, Alabama with my stereo system strategically aimed out my front door at the unwary pedestrians on the street outside.

The good news is I won the part and spent a glorious month onstage doing my dream role 4 times a week. The production was unmatched to anything I’d seen locally, with a level of excellence far beyond a normal community theater production. A professional live orchestra played in the pit beneath us, and as word spread our auditorium sold out night after night.

For an incredible ham like me, it was pure heaven on earth. And now it’s over.

I showed up at the theater this morning, hoping for one last look at the gorgeous set our volunteers had constructed. But I was too late. As I walked in, all that remained were planks and waste baskets strewn about the stage. They’d managed to take it all apart in just less than an hour.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not mad. It was the way things work, in theatre and in life. One thing ends, and you clear the way for the next.

I simply wasn’t expecting it to be gone in an hour, but that’s just about how long it takes for life to change on us…

One phone call – an accident, a lost job, a doctor’s test results – and something that brought us joy is done. By comparison to the big issues of life, my little play is trivial. But the randomness with which our lives can suddenly be deconstructed can be brutal. 

We think we have a little time left, only to find that everything is already gone before we had a chance to say goodbye.

I walked around and peered through the racks of leftover props. “Where was that wallet I used in that one scene? The prop folks had created an FBI business card that looked so real. I’d love to have it as a keepsake.”

Nope. Already gone. Probably in someone’s waste basket. No one’s fault, but still…brutal.

Yeah, I know I’m pretty over-the-top here. I guess it’s no surprise I’m making this is so melodramatic – I’m a creative person. We tend to be wired a little differently, to say the least. And sure, I’m reading a lot into a simple set coming down. And yet…

This is the ephemeral, transitory nature of life. And its brutality can harden you, even make you cynical. It can make you want to protect your heart and love carefully…if you’re not careful.

Some performers are known for getting the “post-show blues”. The camaraderie they felt with fellow performers – that feeling of “family” when you’re all focused on a common goal – that’s gone now. And to try and meet up and reminisce afterward would seem like a lame substitute for what you had.

You avoid that, almost out of respect for the sacredness you feel for the shared experience. That’s why I almost never go to cast parties when the show closes. It’s just sad because you’ll never get back what you had in those fleeting moments onstage and backstage. Life has moved on, and something precious is gone. Best not to linger.

*The survival “key” I’ve discovered, not just for show closings but for the constant “endings” of life, is to be sure you’re getting your greatest joy from something that can’t be taken away.

Most of us set our hearts on things destined to die. We love wealth or fame, only to see it eventual deplete. But others of us put our full weight on good things, like family and friends. We think we’re smarter because people are obviously more intrinsically valuable than things.

But then the ones we love leave. The show is over. Your friend moves away. Your loved one dies. The kids move out. You retire. Brutal.

And once again, before you get one last look, someone has dismantled your dream. You look now only to see the broken pieces of it littering the stage of your life.

*So what was that “key” again? What is it that no one can take away from you, that never dies, never changes?

Simple…it’s God. And you and I were meant to treasure Him and prioritize His place in our lives more than anything else. Why? Because He is the only one who never leaves.

The story He’s writing never gets dismantled.

Everything else you love will die. I know that sounds harsh, but facing that truth surely will set you free. Nostalgia for the past will eat at your soul, but life will still irrevocably change. You will never share the same space with the same people on that stage again.

Except…if God is first, when the show is over you’ll actually be OK, like I am today here licking my wounds in the Starbucks down the road. Sure, I’m a little sad. But I’ve taken the advice of a pastor-friend of mine, who once advised me:

“Hold on loosely to the things of this life.”

That way, when they are taken from you (as all things other than God will be), you’re not torn apart trying to hold on to them.

And when they’re gone, you still have the one thing that truly brings meaning and purpose to your life. You have God – not in just a symbolic way, but in a very real friendship that comforts you in loss and fills up your days after the other joys have faded.

Thankfully, I don’t have to pine away for my lost “glory days” on the stage. Nor do I have to start looking forward to “the next show”. What a sad way to live, moving from experience to experience, knowing each one will never last forever.

But this one Friend, He will walk with me into the next performance, the next trial, the next victory, the next crushing loss.

And one day when the remnants of my life are nothing more just the dismantled pieces of the final play I’ve acted out, He will still be with me.

He will then smile at me, take my hand, and lovingly lead me onto the next role He’s written especially for me. And in the bright lights of that stage, I’ll perform for Him – an audience of One…which is the very thing He created me to do in the first place.

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