Events in my personal life often hand me balcony seat tickets to watch Faith’s understudy, Fear, perform at Brain Theatre. Fear is a clever, high maintenance actress who shows up with great eagerness to dominate my life’s stage. While she’s incredibly talented and seasoned, she is also deeply insecure; she never shows up alone. When Fear takes center stage, she always brings with her a few props for safety: anger, doubt, and anxiety.
Fear projects her voice from behind these props in such a way that it completely upstages and drowns out the other key characters such as Reason and Trust. As things begin to quickly get out of control, I find myself running down the stairs from the balcony, behind the curtain, in order to convince Faith to go out and upstage Fear. I know I can’t pull Fear off of the stage completely but surely, at the very least, Faith can get her a bit more under control.
To my devastation, I realize that Fear has gotten so loud from behind the props of anger, fear, and anxiety that Faith has shrunken back and has given Shame her role instead. This entire internal show has quickly become overwhelming for me. Panic stricken, I frantically look around for an exit sign. There are none. I can’t overthrow Fear and I can’t leave. The walls begin to feel as though they are caving in on me when I see Lust, out of the corner of my eye, standing in a shadowy edge of the theatre.
His eyes meet mine and he motions me over. Relieved, I run to him, hoping that he’ll help me find a way out. Lust gently confirms that there is no exit but he cups my face, pulls me close, and assures me that he can help me leave for a little while. In a moment, I’m caught up in his captivating smile, and it feels as though I’ve been transported away from the unstoppable chaos as his embrace drowns out the voices from the stage.
Then, something distracts me from my rendezvous with Lust and I pull back for a moment. He looks at me with disappointment in his eyes and begins to change shape. This new form grabs me hard by the arms and a familiar feeling takes me over. Where Lust once embraced me with his warm smile, Guilt now holds me tight with a harsh smirk. Fear, with its anger, doubt, and anxiety, Shame joining her, have begun to scream in unison from the stage.
I can’t get out of Guilt’s grip. I can’t stop the voices. There’s only one way out.
Held in Guilt’s firm grasp, I begin to cry out: “God, I just need to die. I can’t silence Fear, and I can’t escape her screams. Take me down.”
I come to, lying in the middle of the stage floor. Shame is gone. Fear is gone, and she has taken her props with her. The screaming has ceased. I look over to find that Reason and Trust have returned to their respective places, they smile back at me. I feel a warm embrace as I am lifted to my feet. The words, “I love you” wash over me and I begin to sob. Guilt is no longer clinging to me. Faith reaches over and wipes the tears from my eyes and takes her place, center stage, once again.
“Theology of the cross is a bizarro theology, everything gets turned upside down. It says that God is most reliably present, not in our strengths or our successes or the things we like best about ourselves, rather God is present and working in the world exactly in the place where you are falling apart. Where you are discovering the limits of your power, not its possibilities.” – Curt Benham, 2016 Mbird NYC Conference