Everyone we meet has a story to tell.
Some stories are a series of anecdotes, which unfold as we get to know them. Others need to be coaxed into the confidence to share their unique contribution to our world. Still others simply insist on pushing on conversational doors that are clearly marked Pull, with the deep conviction that the whole world will collapse unless everyone else hears every dreary detail of how important they are.
Finding any exodus from people like this can be difficult—though I do recall a classic rebuttal from the movie Shenandoah, when the late Jimmy Stewart as farmer Charlie Anderson told a bothersome character, “Right now, Ah cain’t think of anything else Ah wanna hear you say!”
But it’s a pleasure to be drawn into the aura that radiates from people whose integrity needs no embellishment. One such person is Roger, who fell into conversation with me just a few weeks ago.
A first glance gave no indication of anything dramatic, for a slight stoop appeared to age him beyond his years. This was emphasised by a sense that his hair—like mine—had endured the trauma of a deep-seated dread of heights. Yet from beneath his extended forehead, there was a warm twinkle in those deep blue eyes.
From further below, his voice expressed an effortless strength and resonance that invited anyone nearby to pause to listen to him. This was the kind of voice that could make reading out telephone numbers could sound like the directory had been penned by Shakespeare himself.
With years of experience in drama, both in secular performance and in Christian ministry, Roger regaled me about the plays he has performed, and about others who have performed with him. Ever with a slight touch of self-deprecation, as he confessed – with a wink, “Steven Spielberg is always telling to stop all this name-dropping!”
Self-deprecation broke out through one of his stories; one that I will dine out on for some time to come.
His dramatic reading team had once visited a church to bring to life the miracle where Jesus healed ten lepers, with only one leper returning to express his gratitude. Roger’s part in the script was to be that leper, and his line was a very simple one: “I returned to Jesus, and I fell on my face at his feet.”
Staging or scenery, or any movement by any of the cast, were unnecessary, for their vocal communication skills had become so well-honed that they could depict the dramatic energy from any scenario within congregational imaginations.
“We were clustered in the sound booth at the rear of the sanctuary, and we were really sizzling. There was an almost tangible rise in people’s emotions as they progressed through the script with us, for they were being drawn into the whole atmosphere of this event. I felt such a powerful build-up to my line…”
Then as he paused briefly, a flash of unmitigated horror relive itself across his features—leaving a contorted, ashen grimace in its wake…
“Until I heard myself saying, ‘I returned to Jesus, and my face fell off at his feet!’”
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