Our starring role

I had the great fortune of being “introduced” to Sr. Clare Crockett of Derry, Ireland yesterday. This full length film available on YouTube, called “All or Nothing”, shows the incredible story of one of the most approachable and heart-warming saints I’ve come across…I confidently use the word “saint” because after seeing this I have zero doubt Sr. Clare is in Heaven, regardless of our Church’s canonisation process. If you haven’t heard of her, I promise you will be glad to also have been introduced – like me, wishing that the 90 minutes didn’t end.

Our life is a movie

Prior to recognising her call as a nun, Sr. Clare was set on being a famous actress – on a path to Hollywood – and may have actually achieved that. She had a hard time settling on whether she wanted to be famous or a nun – ultimately deciding she’d avoid the choice and become a famous nun. In watching this film, not only did she achieve that but she did so playing the starring role in an incredible movie – that of her life (and, of course, in “All or Nothing”).

Do we view our lives the same? Do we realise we are starring in our own movies, one scene at a time? There are stories of near-death experiences where the individual talks about reliving their life as if watching a movie. Today, this minute, is part of your movie and it will continue until the end.

We are not the Directors

One of the biggest myths that today’s society wants to convince us of is that we can direct our lives – we are in charge, we have control, we have the power. We can certainly try to make our own plans but inevitably we’ll fall short. Not because of our own failings, but because we couldn’t write the script in the first place. All it takes is a big event, natural or caused by others, to force us back into the realisation that so much remains out of our control. Put more bluntly, so little is actually in our control!

If we are not the Directors, who is? Atheists or secularists (the “no religion” view) may argue that no one is, it’s all just up in the air. Things just happen, a series of accidents. I’ve seen too many cases where things came together almost too perfectly to put me on a particular path for me to believe that this was just another example of a series of random accidents. When you watch the movie of Sr. Clare, you can clearly see this being the case in her life, and how she responded to those coincidences. It’s all too clear to me that God is the Director of each of our lives, and He does so in a personal, individual and loving way.

He has designed each of us to be loved by Him perfectly and with the calling of loving Him back, (eventually) perfectly. The “script” of the movie, then, is being directing by Him to this end.

We are the actors

Our job as actors in our own movies is to pay attention to our Director and follow His directions. This is easier said than done. Too often we either fall back into believing that (a) we are in charge, we can go make it happen, or (b) it’s all a random collection of accidents anyway, just make do with what happens. We may pray in the morning and at bedtime – yet everything in between is driven by either (a) or (b).

It’s crazy when you think about it – we tell God in the morning we love Him and want to do His will – then we ignore Him and go through the day on our own – and then at night we go back to Him with requests and perhaps thanksgiving. Keeping with the movie analogy, it’s like the actor showing up to the film studio and ad-libbing the entire scene as if the Director wasn’t there (yet acknowledging the Directors role when they arrived that morning and left in the evening). This clearly wouldn’t work for long in the film industry – thankfully God has infinitely more patience for us.

Keeping Him in the “everything in between”

The first thing we need to work on is not leaving our time with God for just the start and end of the day – we need to include Him and listen for Him during all the moments between. We may never get the crystal clear “go do this specifically” message, but we may get a lot more than we expect when we turn to Him more. The simple prayer of “Jesus, please direct me now” may stir your heart to what it is He wants you to do.

The more frequent you do this, the more often we’ll find that the thing we did next felt perfectly right. He may not have answered us in words – it may have been in the desire or motivation that entered our hearts, or the idea that our minds took hold of and ran with. As you pray in the evening and reflect back on the day, these moments will stand out and you’ll gain the clarity that He did, in fact, direct you. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. That prayerful hindsight that you, as the actor, asked for direction and He, as the Director, gave it to you will lift you up to where you’ll inevitably want to do that over and over again – day after day after day.

Acting out today’s scene, not tomorrows

Another important role of the Director is to know where the movie should go. Importantly, this is NOT the role of the actor. There have been many highly-anticipated films where the actors were never actually given the full script. The Director and writers wanted to keep the storyline a surprise until the movie was complete and released, only giving the relevant scenes to the actors. Note that this doesn’t prevent the actors from putting in a terrific performance – they don’t need to know the full script to act out each scene. They just need direction for that scene to play their role well. Interestingly, this allows them to be fully immersed in just that scene as there’s no temptation for the actor to play out what’s to come. They are fully “in the moment”.

The same is true for our lives – God has decided for His own reasons to let the script of our lives remain a secret. Only until the movie is complete will we see how it all comes together. We can’t change this but we can choose to embrace it or fight it. How we live out our days reflects this graceful acceptance or disgruntled resistance. The actor that throws a tantrum from not being let in on the full story is probably not in the right place to act out their scenes nearly as well as the one who puts their focus on delivering each scene to the best of their ability, regardless of where the story is going.

We get to choose which kind of actor we want to be. Having made the choice to leave the story in our Directors’ hands, we can put our whole focus on the current scene and – with His direction – act it out the best of our ability. Later, with the help of our Director, we can reflect on our performance and grow so that tomorrows’ performances are even better. This is the relationship He designed us for – one where we trust Him and simply do our very best during each “today” of our lives.

Playing it out

As you watch “All or Nothing”, you will be moved by how incredibly Sr. Clare played her role under her Directors’ guidance. Regardless of our different vocations, this is a beautiful example of not only “how to do it”, but also a depiction of how joyful it can be when this approach is embraced. Her progression of joy, peacefulness and radiance can clearly be seen as you watch her grow.

Take a minute today to reflect on your own movie that’s happening right now.

Speak inwardly, “Jesus, please direct me” and just as Mary told the waiters at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” The more often you repeat this short, simple process, the better aligned you are to the beautiful movie that God wants to direct through your life.