Sunday, May 1, 2011

See How Great the Father's Love

My sister's play was this weekend.  Her theater troupe, CYT, just performed Phantom of the Opera but not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version.  No, their's was a version twisted by their fabulous director to present an allegory of the Church, sinners, saints, desires, faith, trust, Jesus and Satan, and all that lies in between.

I love this play, it is one of my favorites by far (though I say that about every CYT play) because of all the various characters that I can identify with.  Three brief examples:
1) Madame Soreli--the dance instructor.  She is being pursued by the the powerful and fabulously wealthy Comte de Chagny and cannot comprehend why this man would be interested in an older peasant with a murky past.  Throughout the play they meet, he woos, she pushes away and excuses her disbelief with variations on the theme of "Why do you love me?  What do I have to offer you?" He replies with "I love you because I love you" and does not give up lightly.  Here I see my own sin, my repetitive falling and turning away from God and allowing my faith in His unwavering Love to shake.  I have known my Lord for nearly twenty years now and still I am amazed by why He could ever love me.  And He always replies with "I love you because I love you."
2) Madame Giery--the house manager.  This is a woman scarred by unrequited love.  All through the play she hints that she once gave her heart to a man who scorned her and we later learn that it is the Phantom who has hurt her so.  She sees the love that Chagny has for Soreli and she longs for it, but she goes searching for it in all the wrong places.  Rather than look for a new love, she goes back to the Phantom again and again, believing his lies that he will give her satisfaction and in the end, he murders her.  In Giery, I see the lure of sin.  I think that it will promise so much, like a big fancy present under the tree on Christmas morning.  But the more I pursue it, the more I realize that it is all so much tinsel and ribbon and there is nothing of substance that can satisfy my soul.  Giery stands as a warning to me that all the broken cisterns I keep carving will end up killing me and all the promises of sin that Satan tempts me with are nothing but phantoms themselves.  They do not hold, they do not satisfy, and it is folly to keep pursuing that which burns me.  I do want love and the satisfaction of my soul, but it is not found in the sinful desires of the flesh.  It is found in the love and excellence and worth of God.
3) Christine Daae--the rising star.  Christine is the main character, a young dancer who is vaulted into the position of Prima Donna.  She is pursued both by the Phantom and by Roul, a child-hood friend and the future Comte de Chagny.  The Phantom offers her attention, fame, fortune, music, the praise of mankind, and a life of ease, "all she's ever wanted".  Roul offers only his love and his presence.  For much of the play these two men woo Christine and she wavers back and forth between them.  She wants Roul but she also wants what the Phantom offers and she clings to the vestiges of the Phantom's promises, even as she recognizes him for the evil monster that he is.  The end shows Christine recognizing that being with Roul is worth giving up everything.  This is the daily struggle of my life.  Who do I believe?  Do I choose the lies of the Deceiver, that my will and my desires and my flesh and my self are supreme and will bring me happiness?  Or can I relinquish everything that I seem to "have" that may, for a moment, make me happy and fulfilled to receive and experience the presence and the power of the ONE who really truly satisfies?

It all comes down to belief and promises.  God promises one thing.  Sin promises another.  What makes it difficult for me, personally, is that sin offers instant gratification where God's promises are often long term.  But sin's promises come with the condition of long term suffering and God offers a "light and momentary affliction" followed by an "eternal weight of glory".  Who do I believe?

Nominally, God, but in the day to day living, I choose to believe my own sinful selfish heart and run after instant gratification rather than holding out for something better.  That is why the exhortation I gave today is more relevant to me than anyone else.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
   a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
   He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

I read this and think, God how could you love such a sinner who keeps exchanging your truth for lies, who hews out broken cisterns and forsakes the fountain of living water, who keeps calling you and your promises lies and tramples on your glory?  How can you say you exult over me?  How is this possible?
And he answers with this:

"I love you because I love you.
You cannot escape my love.
You cannot break my love.
You cannot earn your way into my love
And you cannot sin your way out of my love.
You are mine, child, and I love you." 

And I stand amazed.

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