There was a little girl I once knew whose entire life was an empty stage, and she knew in her heart she was the one meant to fill that space. The hall echoed with waiting spectators, but she couldn’t see who they were, for the glare of the spotlight left her blinded. So she shielded her eyes and stood center stage, waiting for her cue.
She waited a long time, and the more she focused on the auditorium, the better she was able to block the glare of the spotlight until it sort of faded into her periphery. That was when she realized – the seats were all empty.
She stood on a barren stage, in an empty performance hall, with nothing but a spotlight to keep her warm. How terribly downcast she felt about the whole ordeal.
Dejection tried to push in, but the girl quickly convinced herself that she had only to begin performing, and then people would come watch her. So she started, loud and bold.
“COME LOOK AT ME!” She cried out in her most dramatic voice, each word inflected with a sense of purpose.
“YOU WANT TO WATCH ME, BECAUSE I WAS MADE FOR THIS! THIS IS MY STAGE! ISN’T IT GRAND?”
And a few people trickled in. Some sat in the front row – they were her family – and they clapped the loudest and most enthusiastically. She liked that.
A few more came, and the girl squinted through the spotlight to see a seat fill up here and there, and so she raised her voice again.
“I WAS MADE FOR THIS STAGE! IT’S MINE! I WANT TO BE UP HERE, SO IT MUST BE MEANT FOR ME!”
As she shouted her monologue, more people came, but some also left. It seemed they were a fickle crowd, willing to come and go, and so the girl pulled back and looked around. And that’s when she noticed hers wasn’t the only stage in the room. In fact, the auditorium was filled with stages.
Some were quite large, much more so than the girl’s. And the ones who stood on those large stages had lights, and music. Some had lasers, and even back up dancers. The girl felt very small and inadequate next to those large stages.
But there were others, she noticed, who had smaller stages than her own. Some of those on the small stages stood nearly motionless with arms pinned to their sides, timidly speaking, their whispers drowned in the noise.
But some on the small stages spoke quite eloquently, and the girl noticed that people were listening and watching those speakers. They were illuminated by nothing more that the spotlight, and she felt compelled to incline her ear toward these strong speakers on the small stages.
The girl looked back out toward her own audience, and suddenly realized they all looked bored. Well, all of them except those sitting in the front row. They always looked proud.
And then the girl couldn’t remember her story, or why she stood on that stage in the first place. So she sat down, put her head in her hands, and began to weep. No longer a girl, she had grown into a woman, and she found that being on the stage wasn’t where she wanted to be. She was tired of trying to be heard.
She wanted to be in the audience, comfortably choosing which speaker to follow. So she pushed to her feet, and decided to leave.
Only she couldn’t leave, for the stage had grown around her. It wasn’t a cage, but she found there were no steps on which to descend. She was meant to stay up there. But why? And for what?
Turning circles on the platform, the girl tried to make sense of it all. Finally, she turned back toward the audience, but she couldn’t see them, the glare of the spotlight having grown increasingly bright. For a brief moment, she quit looking for the people and allowed herself to be warmed by the light. And that’s when she knew.
The stage wasn’t hers – it never had been.
And the story wasn’t really hers to tell. All of it belonged to the Light, and in the Light. She wasn’t there to be seen, but to reveal the Light. The audience wasn’t warmed by her performance, or her words – they were warmed by the Light alone.
So she stepped forward, this time more humbly, and with much more trepidation. Lifting her chin, she turned her face toward the Light, and with a smile she held her hands wide.
“Come see this Light,” she cried, in a hushed and hallowed voice. “I was made to show you this Light. Isn’t it Grand? This Light is for you, too.”
I understand that, for the most part, people who shared my post also shared my views. And the people with whom they shared the post, also held similar views. So it is grace that a post that could have received much negative feedback was, in fact, met with hundreds of positive, encouraging comments.
There were some who disagreed, but they did so respectfully. I watched as hard dialogues took place in comment threads, and I was so proud of this community of believers on the internet. These people who stood up and boldly shared a societally unpopular opinion, and who then respectfully dialogued with their friends and peers on their differences.
This morning, I read a post from TED regarding Monica Lewinsky’s recent talk, and the hateful, vitriolic comments that she faced on social media platforms because of it. The post made me sad, because it shows that there really is still so much anger and hate out there. Not every circle provides a safe haven for hard conversations, and that’s so unfortunate, because where is grace when there is hate?
How do we discuss hard things if we don’t have grace, forgiveness, understanding, and a willingness to accept that someone may not share our opinion?
If we can continue to walk down this path of tough dialogue with respectful discourse, what could possibly happen? If we could show grace to those with whom we so desperately disagree, what could we work out?
Sometimes grace is simply knowing when there’s no point in talking. I refuse to fight online with someone I’ve never met. If it’s obvious that my worldview is completely opposite of the one providing negative feedback, I will simply statement my disagreement, then walk away.
If it appears we can have reasonable dialogue, I’m up for it, but only if it’s acknowledged that we probably won’t change one another’s minds.
Grace can go a long way. Grace in the face of disagreement is a powerful tool. Thank you to my community for showing me that Grace is alive online. We can have these hard conversations, my friends. And we should.
Six weeks ago, we welcomed our fourth child into our family. It’s been a whirlwind month and a half as we’ve adjusted to having a baby in the house once again. I forgot how much work small babies are. Mother’s amnesia is a real thing, and it is the only reason that the human race is still alive, because bringing a baby into this world is insanely difficult.
I was actually surprised how fully and completely I had forgotten that.
When we found out we were pregnant, I began to pray that the Lord would reveal his mercy and grace to us through this child. My heart was still in a place of tenderness after the terminated adoption, and I laid a fervent prayer before Him each morning as I fought through morning sickness, through discomfort, and through the insane heat of the summer months.
“Reveal your mercy through this baby.”
As Lee and I batted around name ideas, I continually returned to “Annika.” Every time I said it out loud, I felt a swell of joy move through me, and when we found out we were having a girl, I just knew that was supposed to be her name. Once we’d settled on the first name, we moved to the middle name and I suggested such options as “Hope,” “Grace,” and “Joy.”
None of those felt right, though, and we ultimately decided we wanted to honor Lee’s grandmother by giving Annika her name. Annika Rachel immediately felt right, and we were able to pray for her by name.
And still I prayed for mercy and grace as the Lord continued to heal my heart.
Shortly before Annika’s birth, I decided to look up her name to see what it means. I probably should have done that first, but I didn’t. I just loved the sound of the name. I didn’t even think to look up the meaning in the early months.
It didn’t matter, because the Lord in His goodness gave us the name we needed most for this daughter of ours. The name Annika means “Gracious, Full of Grace, Mercy.”
There is not doubt in my mind that this child was meant to join our family for such a time as this. Her arrival has brought the sweetness of God’s grace and mercy into our lives, and each night as I feed her in the quiet dark, I pray that the Lord will reveal His grace and mercy to others through her.
We are tired these days. Life is crazy, and somedays (most days?) I am entirely overwhelmed with it all.
But I’m covered under the banner of mercy and grace, and each time I pick her up, I’m reminded that God is so very good.
He is Gracious.
Full of Grace.
And I am thankful.
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