Thursday, January 25, 2007

You're the One that He Wants!

I know I shouldn’t laugh at reality shows. They involve real people, being scrutinized and often humiliated on national television. Really, I don’t crack up over the contestants themselves. I laugh at the overall cheesiness with which certain segments are presented. Take for example, Sunday night, when I stumbled upon Grease: You’re the One that I Want. For those of you who missed out, here’s the premise: America gets to choose the leads for the next Broadway production of the musical Grease.

The nice part about this program was 1) there wasn’t a “Simon” among the judges and 2) most of the Danny and Sandy hopefuls actually had singing and dancing abilities. But I couldn’t help howling over the selection process. At one point they needed to cut a group of 50 down to 24. Suspenseful music crescendoed as everyone filed into the gym, where they were required to stand in rows singing “Tears on My Pillow,” over and over and over again, while the original Grease creator walked up and down each line, listening (as if he hadn’t already decided who would stay and who would go home). If a singer didn’t make the cut, the director touched him or her on the shoulder. The shoulder touch, of course, coincided with a musical thud, resembling the drop of a guillotine blade or the platform on the hangman’s gallows. The rejected actor then hung his/her head and walked out of the room, looking like one about the face the firing squad. It was that over-the-top dramatic. Later the camera zoomed in on whoever happened to be sobbing on the shoulder of a family member, singing coach, or friend (I didn’t find that part funny—couldn’t they grieve without all of America watching?).

The lucky remaining 24 then began rehearsal for a musical showcase, which would be presented before an audience of former Grease cast members. Groups of four potential Sandys and four potential Dannys took turns performing songs. This time they were all good! Only twice did I catch myself thinking she’ll probably be cut or he’s not as good as the other guys in his group. But they had to get down to 12, so half of those gifted kids had to go. Once everyone had performed they were called to the edge of the stage where they heard their fate.

“Kelly,” the announcer said, as if delivering a sentence in a courtroom (camera cuts to a room where the judges are discussing that contestant. “She’s too young. I don’t think she’s ready for the pressure of Broadway.” “But she does have that innocent, girl-next-door look that we’re aiming for.” “True. And she did really shine tonight. But . . .”). Music intensified as they zoomed in on Kelly’s hopeful face and the announcer continued. “You . . . are not Sandy.”

Fighting to hide her disappointment, Kelly gave her fellow Sandy wannabe a gracious hug before walking off stage and letting her tears spill with a kind-hearted coach from the show.

Next, it was Allie’s turn.

“Allie . . .” (drum roll) “You’re . . . the one that we want!”

Allie screamed with unbridled joy, hugged everyone within arm’s length, and made room for the next contestants.

As I watched these young actors respond to “You are not Sandy/Danny” or “You’re the one that we want!” I couldn’t help aching for all of them. Eventually all but one guy and one girl would hear “You are not . . .” As laughable as the musical thuds and theatrical build-ups translated on the screen, I knew that the moment of rejection felt that dramatic—much like a guillotine blade falling, decapitating their dreams. Each pictured herself or himself as the next Broadway star and now that role would go to someone else as they returned home to wait tables.

I know how they feel. I once dreamed of acting professionally and do not miss the audition experience. The writing life has provided even more training in the truth behind some annoyingly on-the-nose clichĂ© like “Life is full of disappointments” and “There can only be one winner.” I love how we try to lessen the pain with more tired out platitudes. “It’s not about winning, it’s about having fun!” Or my all-time favorite, “Try not to be disappointed if you don’t make it.” Sorry, but I can pretty much count on feeling disappointment when I go for something and don’t get it. It hurts something fierce to hear “We don’t want you.”

This may sound as cheesy as the musical guillotine-like thuds or the feel good statements that we use to lighten the blows, but it’s comforting to know that, in those moments of rejection, I still have a Father who wants me. No matter what the judges of life say, I will always be the one that He wants. In His eyes, I’m talented enough, pretty enough, good enough. If I’m “not Sandy” (or whatever) it’s because He honestly does have something better waiting around the corner. I may have to wait a year for it and feel more pain in the process, but when I finally get there, I’ll see how He used all the hard parts in-between to help me grow into the child that He created me to be.

Remember this today as you face the highs and lows, yes’s and no’s, joys and heartbreaks. No matter what others say, you will always be the one that He wants!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). And this comes from One who always means what He says.

Blessings and Hugs,


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