“We would like you and Trent to do the drama for the Christmas Service. We need people who can learn their lines and act.”
With such flattering words directed our way, how could we refuse? Each year our church was the venue for the city choir’s performance of Christmas carols. Eager to grasp the opportunity to present the real meaning of Christmas to those who rarely stepped through a church door, the service had grown to include dramas and bible readings.
Script in hand, Trent and I set out to learn our parts. A well-known story, the drama explored Joseph’s reaction and possible rejection when Mary, his beloved fiancée, told him that she was with child and that the child wasn’t his but had been conceived of the Holy Spirit.
From the beginning we had problems. Trent complained that he had no concept of Joseph’s experience. “I’ve never been engaged or dumped for someone else. How am I meant to react?” I tried to explain that acting was all about putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes, but I too was struggling with the drama.
I went back to the person who had first approached us.
“This isn’t working. How can I, Trent’s mother, play Mary to his Joseph? We can’t make it work.”
“Don’t worry you look young.”
Not that young.
But we redoubled our efforts to learn our lines and make the play work. There was no time to find other actors who could learn their lines. We had no choice but to continue with the drama.
Our practices continued to end in giggles. Mutually we agreed that it was ridiculous. Here I was, a woman only a month away from her fortieth birthday, playing fiance to an eighteen-year-old who also happened to be my son. My husband made tasteless jokes but nothing eased our tension.
The day of the Christmas service dawned and we felt unusually nervous and scared. We had not yet had one practice where we had managed to deliver our lines without collapsing into laughter or crying out, “I can’t do this!” Convinced that we were going to look foolish, we were nevertheless committed to doing the drama during the Christmas service.
Running through our lines one last time in a room behind the stage, I noticed that Trent was pale and shaking. Knowing that he rarely showed physical signs of nervousness, I was concerned. Within minutes I realised that he was feverish and needed to be at home in bed. Wondering if I should cancel our drama, he insisted that he would be all right. Reluctantly I agreed to go ahead.
A few moments later, having asked several people to pray for us, my eyes fell on the words of Paul written to the Corinthian Church almost two thousand years ago: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses … For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).
I shared the verses with Trent and together we claimed them in prayer then waited for the service to begin.
The time for our drama came. Breathing another prayer, we stepped out onto the stage, nervous and tense. The very moment we spoke our opening lines, we could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit filling our hearts with peace. As my lips delivered my lines, my soul was rejoicing. I felt that I had only to reach out my hand and I would be able to touch Him. I could hear – and feel - the power in our words as they floated out over the congregation: words bearing God’s message of hope to a lost and dying world; words as powerful today as they were two thousand years ago; words that could only have come from God.
As the drama concluded, a silence breathtaking in its completeness filled the church. People wiped tears from their eyes; others bowed their heads in awe. The familiar story had suddenly become new to so many.
“I never cry,” one man told me afterwards, “But today I had tears in my eyes.”
As people commented on how moving they had found the drama we told them again and again that it wasn’t because of us but because of God. Only by God’s power had such a thing been made possible.
God moved on our behalf that day. We felt it and others felt it. God took our weaknesses and used them to show His power. It was exhilarating to step out onto that stage and know that God was using us, weak vessels, for His glory. It was exciting to see what God could do when we were willing to be used and to allow Him to move.
Our practices had shown us that we were unable to carry this drama off in our own strength. Trent’s illness on the day served to reinforce that. We were weak. We had nothing to offer Him except our weaknesses and our willingness to let Him show forth His strength and power.
When I am weak, He is strong.
Trent and I learnt that day just how strong we can be when we allow God to use our weaknesses. It’s a lesson I hope neither of us ever forgets.