It’s been the week of dreams, as I spent my two free evenings seeing both the movie “Inception” and the musical, “Man of La Mancha”. Both were great; well crafted and executed, drawing the audience fully into the story. Both had to do with with dreams and visions, with how we view reality. Both play with the question of what becomes of our lives when the lines between reality and our dreams become blurred.
Of all the nuanced considerations of dreams, reality, and the blurred lines between them, the thing I’m thinking about most is Don Quixote’s perception of Aldonza in “La Mancha”. He sees her through a different lens, utterly. His perceptions bump up against objective evidence, against the realists who taunt, against the woman’s own self-perception. In spite of everything, he sees her differently, and his seeing, naming, loving, in spite of all the contrary evidence, is what the story is all about.
It’s also what Christianity is all about.
1. We’re seen for who we’re becoming, not for who we’ve been or are . We’re ‘new creations’ in Christ. Jesus renames impetuous, cowardly Peter, calling him “The Rock”. He gives us all new names, moving us from shame to forgiveness, lust to love, failure and fear to completion and courage. Jesus is able to do this because he sees us as “complete in Christ”. Like Michelangelo’s “David”, the perfection is there already, with just a few rough edges needing to be chiseled away.
2. We’re called to see others through the eyes of faith. If God can see us as new and whole, by God, we’d better start seeing others that way too. ”From now on we regarding nobody according the flesh” is how Paul puts it in II Corinthians 5. We’d do well to take it to heart, because our default eyesight regards people “according to the flesh” all the time – putting people in boxes because of their wealth or poverty, fatness or thinness, beauty or ugliness, education or ignorance. God help us. People aren’t these categories, and we need the eyes of faith to see differently. ”La Mancha” reminds us of that.
3. We’re called to see the world through the eyes of faith. We’re told there’s a new kingdom here already, but the truth is that it takes the eyes of faith to believe it. Things look pretty old. Same old wars; same old greed; same old sins and failures, same old injustices scattered across the globe and our neighborhoods. It all reminds me of Jesus hanging on the cross, with taunters taunting, while His eyes of faith saw this very moment of darkness as the beginning of wholeness. Can we see with the eyes of faith, clearly enough to believe that God’s good reign has begun, as little shards of beauty pierce the prevailing shroud of darkness, allowing the light of hope to break through? We must see, in spite of the charges brought against us that we’re just “dreamers”.
Aldonza resists her new name, resists receiving love, resists believing. I won’t give away the dialogue, there’s a moment when she asks, in essence, why this man see her as he does, why he loves her. She knows her life, her story, her failures – knows that if it’s just a matter of public record, then this man’s insane, seeing things that nobody, not even she, can see. Dare she believe though, that what he sees in her is real?
Dare I believe? Dare any of us believe? It’s never just a play when I go to Taproot. I’m sitting there last night, weary from the day, and deeply aware of my own shortcomings. When she asks him about what he sees, he sings. The song melts the shell of my soul, reminding me of how often I pull myself back into dungeons of accusing, condemning realities, rather than believing in Another’s belief in me, believing in the assessment of the One who sees me, not for who I’ve been in my failures and shame, but for who I’m becoming. That moment – that song – was the best sermon I’ve heard all summer.
“If anyone is in Christ, they are a new a creature”. We could tear this little verse apart, and I could explain to you the difference between the two kinds of “new” in the Greek language, and what the implications are of these “new” words, on this text. I could explain how these words are used in classical Greek literature, and then suggest why Paul used one rather than the other in this letter. I could toss in a story about newness – maybe a poem too.
Or I could just say this: “Are you stuck in the land of accusation and shame this summer, or this year, or this decade? Go see “Man of La Mancha” – and dream.
“La Mancha” continues at Taproot Theatre in Seattle, through August 21st.