For Good…


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpXm_sXcc_Y

(Elphaba):
I’m limited
Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you
For both of us – now it’s up to you…

(Glinda):
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

(Glinda):
Because I knew you

(Both):
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for

(Glinda):
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

(Both):
And none of it seems to matter anymore

(Glinda):
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

(Elphaba):
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood

(Both):
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

(Glinda):
And because I knew you…

(Elphaba):
Because I knew you…

(Both):
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

Wicked – “For Good”

There is something about light that fascinates me. The interplay between light and shadow is just beautiful to me. A few moments ago, I walked outside onto my patio, and noticed a beam of light that somehow worked its way through the branches of a tree and then caressed the side of a long strand of Spanish Moss hanging on the side of the trunk. The light was softened by it journey through the prism of branches, and it landed on just the outer edge of the naturally hanging plant. It was beautiful in its simplicity. The sight reminded me again about how wonderful the human eye is, and how frustrated I become that although I can see such subtle beauty with my eyes, I have a difficult time capturing the beauty with my camera in order to share it with others. I guess that means I just need to take more pictures, in order to get to know my camera better. Capturing and sharing beauty takes time, effort, and vision. And yet, there are times when one captures beauty, and the means of its capture isn’t relevant to the deep luster. The imagination takes over, and the warmth of the interplay between:

light and shadow…
reality and romance…
true and false…

pales in the moment as the Heart hears another Voice and sees another Brilliance.

The video and song above captured my imagination the other day. I was introduced to it by a friend on Facebook. A short version of what I have deduced to be at least the surface story behind it, is that Kristen Chenoweth from time to time brings a voice from the crowd onstage to sing with her. Supposedly, it isn’t staged. Although this seems a little far-fetched to my rational mind, and the manner in which they choose the “guest” vocalist is hazy to me; my romantic heart hopes it to be the truth. Sometimes grace just happens.

For those of you that don’t happen across musical theater in your daily lives very often, or don’t have a daughter who spent much of her adolescence immersed in it; Kristen Chenoweth is a growing, Broadway musical legend. She was one of the leads in the initial troop of “Wicked”, a musical which tells the backstory of the good witch and bad witch of Oz-fame. For those fans of musical theater, Kristen Chenoweth is a star. But stars, at least the more honest and humble ones, know just how blessed they are; and that there is a multitude of talent in the world around them… talent that has been either overlooked, or isn’t particularly what the funders of Broadway want. Maybe the body-type doesn’t quite fit the hypocrisy of our times.

Sometimes, a star can step away from the light, or rather share the light.

For me, the video shows just such an event. It is a reminder to me of just how deeply the cultural expectations of beauty have delved into my perceptions. When Sarah Horn was led onstage, I saw a tall, rather frumpy looking woman. As she stood next to Chenoweth, who is petite and dressed for the bright lights, the dissonance was startling. Then she began to sing… A lump formed in my throat and tears began to well up in my eyes in response to absolute beauty. Sarah took charge of the moment. She became for us: the observers… Chenoweth included… more than our expectations. She took off the mask we…I…had placed on her, and allowed the Light to reflect off her in a fuller way. She was a reminder to me that you never know what beauty there is beneath the façade’ we create for others, and ourselves for that matter.

I have been reading “Immortal Diamond” by Richard Rohr, an exploration of the journey we each take to unearth the True Self we were created to be. Rohr, along with other, more ancient writers, distinguishes this Self against the manufactured False Self:

“Your True Self is that part of you that knows who you are and whose you are, although largely unconsciously. Your False Self is just who you think you are—but thinking doesn’t make it so.” Pg. vi-vii

It must be said that our True Self is more than just our talents…as Horn so beautifully shared. It is innate to who we are, and who we were born to be, and contrasts with our False Self, which is largely manufactured. Rohr mentions the process as beginning with a pursuit of the question: “Who am I?” Curiosity about where we fit in the world:

“This curiosity about ourselves grows more intense in the teen and young adult years as we try on a dozen costumes and roles, and we surely covet any recognition or praise of our most recent incarnation. We quickly grab it and try it on for size, as if to say, ‘This might be me!’ Some never take their costume off. A too early or too successful self becomes a total life agenda, occasionally for good but more often for ill.” Pg. 8-9

That may be why so many talented people get lost within the role their talents have created for them. Or, I might ask, “Does the talent define the role, or the audience?” We may continue to live incessantly in the False Self, because we perceive the people around us to care for us based on our performance, rather than who we truly are…and sadly this may be true. Surely there are people who rely on us for our performance, but are they the ones we hope to be most intimate with?

In my life, I was late coming to the table of intimacy. A number of factors in my early years stunted my growth in learning how to develop positive, intimate relationships. I became very adept at presenting a good, outward impression, and hid from anything that would signify…to me at least…weakness. Yet, I DO have weaknesses, and the development of my False Self was a means of living mostly in areas of talent and performance. As Rohr mentions:

“Your False Self is not your bad self, your clever or inherently deceitful self, the self that God does not like or you should not like. Actually, your False Self is quite good and necessary as far as it goes. It just does not go far enough, and it often poses and thus substitutes for the real thing. That is its only problem, and that is why we call it ‘false.’ The False Self is bogus more than bad, and bogus only when it pretends to be more than it is. Various false selves (temporary costumes) are necessary to get us started, and they show their limitations when they stay around too long. If a person keeps growing, his or her various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light.” Pg.27

(Maybe this is why Kristen Chenoweth has begun to share the spotlight in her concerts. Maybe she is transforming from being concerned with only HER performance, and more concerned with introducing others’ talents to the world.)

In my view, our True Self is accessed through a process of humility, dying, and resurrection.

I define humility as being honest about our Self, both in recognition of strengths and weaknesses. Intimacy with people that are cognizant of and accepting of both is an important part of the journey to resurrection and the uncovering of the True Self.

In, The Lazarus Life, Stephen W. Smith writes about this process by using the death and resurrection of Lazarus, taken from John, chapter 11, as a metaphor for our journey towards the True Self. Smith emphasizes the importance of human relationships in this process. He mentions that Lazarus’ re-entry to life after the tomb, was restricted due to the presence of graves clothes, which were part of the early embalming process. Long strips of cloth were wrapped around the body in layers with spices in between the layers to preserve the body.

(This was outside-in preservation of a corpse. Today, our embalming methods consist of inside-out preservation. The body’s blood is drained, and replaced by chemicals to retard the natural process of decomposition. No matter which process is used, dead is dead… no matter how life-like the corpse may look in five years.)

In our process of resurrection from the death of the False Self, into the uncovering of the True Self, we have grave clothes which hide the True Self, and restrict its movements. In order to remove these clothes, we need the help of intimate, loving relationships. People that are willing to get naked:

“Vulnerability means a certain kind of soul nakedness. Sharing your own stench (of death) allows others to share theirs. Who feels safe in the presence of perfection? Feeling safe leads to being real. It requires mutual sharing, not just one-way listening or talking.” Pg.165

So…if you’re gonna get naked…make sure the other person is getting naked too! Getting naked is a very self-conscious, humbling, and sometimes dangerous undertaking. (As I get older, I find this especially true!) It requires people that are trustworthy, and committed to their own process of growth. People that have been wounded, not willing to deny it, but are seeking to embrace it in order to move forward. Holding on to the False Self may feel comfortable…like being fully clothed in a room full of people getting naked…and may even seem to be prudent; with answers to all of life’s problems. (“Just put more clothes on, Mildred…. Please!”) Ultimately, though, holding on to the False Self restricts growth, resurrection, and becoming truer representations of who we were meant to be.

I am still struggling with the process. I get in my own way more often than not. I have a strong suspicion that if I were given the opportunity to share the light with Kristen Chenoweth, the very least of my screw-ups would be to forget the words! Being able to accept the reality that I will make mistakes, and letting go of the comfort of my False Self takes an assurance that I am loved.

Mistakes are ok…
Risks are ok…
It is ok to be playful…
These are forays into both discerning the True Self and an expression of it. The confidence to do these needs an inside-out transformation. It is easy to go from one community to another in search of a “safe” community, all the while expecting the community to “take care” of us:

“What God has reminded me is that in every group, every family, and every church, people are wearing their own graveclothes. So am I. But I forget this so often, hoping that this group could be the place where I can finally deal with something important in my life, and all my needs will be met—finally.” Pg. 158

As in a marriage, if we expect people to meet our deepest emotional wants and needs; we will be disappointed. Only God can resurrect us on the inside. We want to be loved…

Deeply…
Intimately…
Unreservedly…

Only God can give that kind of love. God can break through the hardened shell of the False Self to introduce us to the Immortal Diamond within each one of us, and the Light reflects off each cut surface to reveal its beauty.

“Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
(Elphaba):
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood
(Both):
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
(Glinda):
And because I knew you…
(Elphaba):
Because I knew you…
(Both):
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…”

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