Wednesday, October 21, 2009

That Ye Be not Judged... - August 2, 2009

Opening weekend at the Pirates of Penzance was incredible. Our audience was amazing, the jokes were funny, and the scenes were even funnier. We had people rolling in the aisles and even the actors watching backstage had to bite their tongues! I think that this show is the funniest one I have ever done, by far – and since it was written in the 1800’s, it’s all clean.

Opening night one of the actors told me I had gotten the “Show Saver” award. Right before one of my major solos, the music had suddenly stopped. It was in the middle of a really tense scene where I was standing alone in a spotlight, so I couldn’t really improv… and I knew that our sound guy wouldn’t be able to simply pick up where the music left off. After a short hesitation, I started singing a cappella, and sang without music for the rest of the song. The music turned on at the very end (at the perfect time) and it was perfectly in tune. Thank heavens for almost-perfect pitch! Saturday’s performance was even better than Friday’s, and we are excited for our upcoming performances throughout August.

Earlier in the week, after a dress rehearsal, one of the cast members fell down the stairs and hurt her shoulder. When I heard that she was spasming in pain and didn’t want to go to the hospital, I ran downstairs and tried to assess the situation. The girl’s dressing room was full of girls (duh) and it didn’t look like I would be able to even get close to her. So, after mustering some courage, I asked if she wanted a blessing. “I’m not LDS,” was her reply as she continued crying. “That’s ok,” I said. What she said next made me cry, “I don’t deserve one. God hates me.” Another spasm of pain hit her shoulder as my director walked into the room. After ensuring that someone was going to take her to ER, she asked me to come upstairs to finish the run-through I had left.

I cried for the rest of the rehearsal and all the way home. I had met people who didn’t believe in God, but to know that He is there… and to believe that He hates you? That sounded much more painful than anything she could have done to her shoulder. She apologized to me the next day and said that she had felt bad the entire time she had been in the Emergency Room, and I realized that perhaps the Lord was simply giving me a potential missionary experience. I felt prompted to give her a copy of my book. Strangely, for the last few weeks I’ve been carrying a copy of Watching Cookies in the Oven in my backpack. I asked her to read it and give me feedback after our performance on Saturday. We’ll see what happens.

At the same time, I realized that at least a few of the other cast members simply lived different lives. One of them got a call from his bishop asking if he was still planning to bless his newborn at Church… and I realized that I had passed judgment on some of them based on only a few things in their lives – their language and their conversation topics. Since some of them swore and chose somewhat crude topics, I assumed that they couldn’t be active members of the Church. That they could be has made me re-evaluate how I look at the people around me.

I’ll admit that I’m probably over zealous when it comes to the Church. I feel left out when I’m not involved in the planning, publicity, or at least the preparation of every major activity that comes around, and I attend two different wards and hold callings in both of them (close to 10 hours of meetings each Sunday). I volunteer close to 30 hours each week at the Provo Missionary Training Center. I’m not willing to use any type of overly passionate language – whether it’s a “real” swear or not, I actually read the Sunday school and Priesthood lessons before Church, and my idea of a great date is to do something simple, then have a long gospel conversation.

For some reason I thought that people were either as passionate as I was… or lacked passion for the gospel entirely. And while true commitment is black and white, there are so many people in the world who are struggling – people who want the blessings of keeping the commandments of God, but who, for one reason or another, can’t seem to break bad habits. They struggle with swearing, or road rage, or keeping the Word of Wisdom… but, deep down inside, they know the truth and just need some help remembering.

In reality, all of us struggle as we travel the pathway of righteousness. Only Christ lived a perfect life, which means that each of us has turned away from the path, even when we knew what was right. But we can each also press forward, leaving behind our trials, our temptations, and our sins. We can become better each passing day.

I don’t know what I will do at the Pirates of Penzance to be a better missionary, but I know that, if I am willing to follow the guidance of the Spirit, He will help me to become a better person and to influence the people around me. My challenge for you this week: first, identify and work on one of your own personal weaknesses. What is something that you do that would cause an outsider to doubt your faith? Second, lay aside the flaws you see in someone close to you, and try to see him or her as a struggling child of God who needs your help. I promise that as you strive to bless the lives of others, the Lord will tell you what to say and do to help them come unto Christ.

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