by Joanie Butman
Fall/winter is my favorite season. I adore ‘sweata weatha.’ Along with the cooler temperature, fall ushers in the Broadway season with a host of new shows. I saw a fantastic one last week – free of charge. My parents’ assisted living community (The Farm) sponsored a talent show for the ‘inmates’ as my parents refer to themselves. It may not have been Broadway, but it was better than some of the shows I’ve seen recently. A musical comedy of sorts. You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed nonagenarians doing the cupid shuffle. They were fabulous! The best part of the evening was the joy of the participants. They may not be eligible for America’s Got Talent, but they were having a ball, their joy contagious.
The excitement and gaiety surrounding the show suffered a near-fatal blow the day prior, as one of their stars died unexpectedly with no explanation. You wouldn’t think a death at a retirement home would come as a surprise to anyone, but this resident showed no signs of imminent departure, as he was laughing and joking at rehearsal just hours before. The cast was heartbroken and stunned, wondering whether the show should go on. A meeting with the chaplain was scheduled to discuss their options.
One man expressed his belief that they should proceed as planned in Ed’s honor because if they waited, they would lose their passion to memorialize him. He felt they had a responsibility to carry on with the show in remembrance of Ed. Not only that, it was quite possible, given their age, they might lose someone else while waiting to reschedule – a morbid but bona fide concern. The cast unanimously agreed. The performance would move forward with an added prologue eulogizing Ed and his contributions to the program.
As I listened to their discussion, I thought of the grief-stricken, fearful apostles hiding in the upper room after they lost their ‘Star.’ Though Christ told His followers what was going to happen, His death was definitely not their expected finale of His visit to Jerusalem. I’m certain the feeling of ‘we can’t go on without Him’ permeated the hearts and minds of those present, along with the inevitable question, “Now what?”
As we all know, with the promised help of the Holy Spirit, the apostles did forge ahead with renewed passion to honor Christ by carrying His message to others. Their work continues to this day as we read about their lives in Scripture. Their performances weren’t always perfect, and their finales were just as tragic. Nevertheless, despite the hardships they encountered, they lived out their roles with a joy that could only be Divinely inspired. How else could James declare, ”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
We’ve all experienced our share of Now What? moments when a loss rocks us to our core. It could be the loss of your health, your youth, a loved one, a marriage, a job, a home, a dream – the list is endless. It is at these times that we are faced with the choice to give up or give it up. Whatever difficulty we face, we can always surrender it to God and let Him redeem our pain, giving us the will and ability to go forward with the help of the Holy Spirit. The manner in which we answer the Now What? query can inspire others by being a testimony to God’s grace.
The residents of my parents assisted living community must ask themselves the Now What? question every morning, wondering whether their lives still hold purpose and meaning. I firmly believe the key to happiness is choosing to adjust your expectations to your circumstances. You don’t have to be on top of your ‘game’ to have something to contribute. Your performance may not warrant a Tony, but if you can infuse joy into the lives of others even for a moment, you deserve a standing ovation. With or without a show, the residents (and staff) I’ve had the privilege of getting to know at The Farm inspire me every time I visit. I never leave there without a smile on my face and a song in my heart – maybe because my dad never stops singing. It’s his own ministry of sorts, bringing a smile to everyone he encounters.
As Christians, we all have a part in God’s show. There’s no aging out of His unfolding story. We may not always get a choice in our assigned roles, but we always get to choose how we will perform it. Why not choose to live yours out joyfully – it’s contagious!