Oddly enough, one of my favorite parts of doing live theater is waiting backstage to go on.
There’s a calm you experience when, just a few feet away, people are spouting lines in bright spotlights, but you are hidden away in dark solitude. It’s like the calm before the storm.
Anticipation is building, and yet I feel peaceful. I suppose that’s because the stage is a place I really love. It’s like a child going out to play, and my playground just happens to be in front of hundreds of people.
Backstage is not completely dark, though. They usually cover the backstage safety lights with dark blue gels that give everything an other-worldly appearance. So there’s just enough light for you to move around not to get hurt, but not enough to bleed onto the stage and attract attention.
The thing I love about theater is it is live—you never know what might happen. So when you’re onstage, you have to trust what’s happening backstage, even though you can’t see it. The person saying the next line is hopefully waiting in the wings to enter. The stagehands are ready to roll the next set-piece on as soon as the lights go out, and then you can proceed to the next scene.
But when it is real life, and you can’t see what God’s doing backstage, it’s quite a test of your faith…
…because at times, you feel stuck in a story you don’t like. It looks like no one’s back there operating the backdrop and the scenery is never going to change.
I’ve certainly never had it as bad as Job did, but I can relate to the way he searched for God in his trials:
“Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him” – Job 23:8-9
We don’t get discouraged just because we’re going through a hard time. More often, for me, it’s because I can’t tell where my story is headed. The plot changes in my life seem so random like there’s no purpose in them.
If I could only get a glimpse of the script God’s written for me, I’d feel so much better about things now. If I could see his stage crew getting in place to move the furniture in place for the next scene, I’d be okay with the scene I’m currently in.
But instead, I look to see how he’s working and see nothing. When you’re onstage, there’s little evidence of the preparation going on backstage. So our eyes and feelings lie and say he’s abandoned us. Maybe he realized we weren’t worth his trouble? Maybe we fell far too short of his plans for us? But for whatever reason, our story is swirling out of control and God’s nowhere to be found.
And yet, there’s a wonderful word to start off the next verse from Job: “but…”
“But He knows the way that I take. When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Oh, so it’s not really important that I know where God is or what he’s up to. What matters is he knows where I am and “the way that I take.” As the actor onstage, it’s not my job to understand his ways backstage. They are intricate beyond description, and beyond our ability to comprehend.
So just like the people working backstage don’t call out to me their every step, God works silently to my benefit behind the scenes. He expects me to do my job, which is to follow the script he’s written for me. That is, to act like Jesus in my daily life as much as possible. He wrote down my lines in his Word, so that I’ll know how to react in any situation.
On those occasions when I forget my lines and stray, his Spirit prompts me from the wings with cues of what to do and say next. Somehow, he manages to get me back on track, regardless of how lost I get from the script.
“When He has tested me…”
Yes, this is a test. It’s a test to see if we’ll trust him while he’s working backstage. To build our trust in his faithfulness when we can’t see his face.
“…I shall come forth as gold”
They say that in a good story, the hero goes through some sort of transformation because of the journey he’s been on.
In “Les Misérables,” Valjean goes from a cynical prisoner out for himself to a sacrificial saint rescuing the innocent around him.
In “My Fair Lady,” Professor Higgins transforms from smug bachelor to humbled lover who can’t go on without the woman he’s made into a lady.
Likewise, by going through our tests we, too, become something better than we were before. But God didn’t indulge our curiosity and doubt by telling us every single move he was making. If he did, we’d never grow to trust him. Our faith would remain weak and infantile.
But through the test, our faith grows stronger like gold. And we grow purer like gold because we’ve been through the fire of trials. All the dross has been melted away. And we become strong enough for each new adventure he’s been preparing for us.
I trust that a new adventure is coming any minute now. I believe my Father is even now working backstage, about to move the story along with an exciting plot twist.
The next scene is almost ready. Any moment now, the curtain will come back up, and we’ll see what he’s been working on hidden behind the scenes in the blue light of backstage.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.