Monday over Coffee: Bravo!

Bravo!

In seventh grade at Pin Oak Middle School, my son Hank chose Theatre as an elective. Ok, I thought, he’d get an introduction to the arts, learn a classic or two, and improve at public speaking. While I wasn’t surprised to learn he would be appearing in a play the school would present later in the semester, I wondered how he would do--as he had never shown interest in drama before.

 

On the way to school one day, I asked Hank what part he’d be playing in the upcoming show, but the early morning hour and his early teenage temperament conspired, and no useful data was obtained. As the date neared, Kelly—usually better at gleaning such information—hadn’t found out anything either, and we finally reconciled ourselves to going in fresh. 

 

When the big night finally came, we nestled into our seats near the back of the middle school’s small theatre and opened our programs. My eyebrows and Kelly’s too raised up when we saw that Hank was playing one of the leads. Looking over the synopsis of the play, we gathered it was set in depression-era rural Kentucky, and he’d be playing the villain. I sat up in my seat as the lights went dark, then a spotlight opened on two actors sitting in rustic chairs. One—wearing a tweed cap pulled low—was holding a guitar. With his hands checking the strings and his head down, he began to play the opening chords to Tom Petty’s Free Falling as the other young actor began to mournfully sing the words. 

 

Kelly looked at me surprised, and I turned to her quizzically. “That’s Hank,” she whispered. I looked more closely. We’d gotten him a guitar the previous year and he’d taken a few lessons, but his interest in it seemed short-lived.

 

The song ended, the lights changed and the play, entitled, The Kentucky Cycles, began. Though it was set in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, the director dropped in a few more modern but well-selected songs at different junctures in the show. It all worked. Despite the youth of the cast, the play’s profound and melancholy themes came through with poignance. Hank’s role was meaty— alternately hostile, then sorrowful. His defeat and personal loss at the end of the play was touching, producing a complicated sympathy for his character, surely magnified in us, his parents. At the end, the audience rose to their feet.

 

As we waited outside after the show—and this would happen time after time when we went to see his plays over the next several years—the cast would bound out of the backstage door, laughing, stumbling around, carrying their school backpacks; excited, awkward teenage kids once again rather than the mature, complex characters we’d just seen on stage.

 

Hank had always been a good student, but having never expressed any prior interest, much less enthusiasm for acting or continuing with the guitar, we were exceptionally pleased and genuinely surprised how well he’d performed before a live audience. Though effusive about how impressed I was, I found it difficult to fully express the depths of my admiration and pride. I simply didn’t have the words. Bravo!, I said, trying to sum up.

 

Have you ever wondered if we surprise God? I suspect that much of the time, God sees us stumbling, bumbling around, awkwardly moving through life with all the dumb stuff we insist on carrying around on our backs. To this end, there are certainly plenty of episodes in Scripture where God is less than impressed with men and women’s behavior. However, there are also moments which suggest God was so pleasingly surprised by heroic or righteous actions of human beings that God’s own mind was changed about doing something previously planned out.

 

Like a writer whose characters sometimes light out on their own, the possibility we could pleasantly or even stunningly surprise our all-knowing Creator is a remarkable notion to consider. Might it occur someday when a marathoner finishes in under 2 hours or when we reach Mars? Does it happen when a composer layers notes and instruments in a beautifully unforeseen way? Or when a thoughtful chef combines unexpected spices and ingredients in an unprecedented dish? Is God surprised when mismatched pairs become soulmates? Might God’s eyebrows rise (so to speak) when a young White House aide tells her boss she won’t be working on the Sabbath anymore? Or when someone who has disparaged immigrants all his life decides to help a refugee in desperate need? 

 

Think. What would it take to go beyond what God thought you were capable of, to pleasantly surprise, even stun your Creator into suddenly rising to exclaim, Bravo!

 

God—Might I bless You in a completely unexpected way.

Amen. 

 

—Greg Funderburk


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