I was Charlie Brown. I used to have the yellow shirt with the jagged black stripe to prove it.
My other acting experiences in High School were minor characters (putting it generously) - I played the Barrister of Munchkin land (which I felt like was just one step up from playing a banister in munchkin land!), a singing tree, and an unnamed character whose costume reminded us of the Jack of Hearts. So, when my fellow classmates found out that I would be playing the role of Charlie Brown in a student directed play, the most common comment I heard was - "That part is perfect for you." (I still am not sure if that was a compliment!) It was a fun experience but more work than I expected, having to rehearse those lines every day to keep them fresh on my mind.
I'll contrast that experience with the time our choir put on a dinner theater and I sang 'C'est Moi' from the musical Camelot. I happened to be singing just in front of my parents' table and my Dad, realizing that I was having serious trouble with the lines, put down the video camera, stood up, joined me in the song and we finished it together. Most of the people in the audience thought it must have been planned, and we got a rousing round of applause. In that case, I had not rehearsed my lines well, and I quickly lost my way. Since then, I have really appreciated the irony of needing my Father to come to my rescue in order to finish singing a prideful song of self-sufficiency!
I shared these two stories with my friend Mario a couple weeks ago. Mario is one of my closest friends. I have probably spent more time with him than any other Mozambican. He and I have been all over northern Mozambique together. He is my parents' age and jokes about being my "Mozambican Dad." He likes pushing the limits of my knowledge of the Makua language, coming up with increasingly obscure terms to expand my vocabulary. We have literally been stuck in the mud many times together. We have planted churches together. And I was there the day he buried his mother.
But, Mario is a recovering alcoholic. He will go through stretches of time where it is not a problem. But, then he gets pulled back into drinking. A few months ago, after an incident, we had a delicate conversation about it at his house and I told him I would not be able to take him with me to the villages north of town - we agreed that he would be on a sort of probation.
A few months later, I walked to his house and found him completely wasted. The next time we met, he laughed it off, but I insisted that we needed to take it seriously. And that is what finally led us to the open and raw conversation that day about how alcohol keeps capturing him. We talked through everything that happened recently. He shared how some days it is easy to walk past the group of his old drinking buddies. He talked about how when he declines, they mock him... calling him 'Amwara Yesu' - 'wife of Jesus.' He shared how some times the pull from alcohol is too strong and he gets sucked back in again.
And finally, he asked me: "How can I break free?"
My response: "I don't know."
I have never dealt with alcoholism, so I encouraged him to talk with my teammate Jeremy who used to work at a drug and alcohol recovery center.
But, then I borrowed a tactic from Jesus' playbook and told him a couple stories.
In ways that fit his context, I told him about having to rehearse my lines in order to play Charlie Brown well. I also told him about being seriously under-prepared to sing at that dinner concert and needing my Dad to step in and save the day.
We talked about the importance of 'rehearsing truth'.
It is a powerful phrase (that I have blatantly stolen from Rachel) that has been helpful for me in re-framing the importance of spending time each day in prayer and Bible study. There are times (many, many times) as I stumble out of bed, get the coffee started, and try to jump start my brain that I wonder if having a quiet time is worth it. But this concept of 'rehearsing truth' has helped me re-imagine what 'quiet times' are really about.
Quiet time is about rehearsing my lines for this day's improv. play. It is about reminding myself of the truth I need to say that day. It is about rehearsing lines so that I remember the character I have been called to be in God's story.
So, I encouraged Mario to take a few minutes each morning to 'rehearse truth' - spending some time in the Word and in prayer, making sure he has his lines down pat. I told him that I had no allusions that this would be the 'magic bullet' to deal with his alcoholism. But it certainly could provide him with ample ammunition, and be a layer of bricks in the wall between him and the life he wants to leave behind.
My hope is that by 'rehearsing truth,' Mario and I can both be well equipped to play our roles in God's drama here in Mozambique.
Grace and Peace,