When God Spoke to a 7th Grader
Because of the teaching and discipleship of a youth intern at Cottage Hill Baptist Church, the previous summer had proven to be a turning point in my relationship with God. I started reading the Bible on my own, praying regularly, taking notes in a journal about what I was learning, and coming to the realization that my life was not really my own.
Theatre and sports were the primary competing passions in my life, but no one was playing ball in Mobile in the winter (though I'm not sure why-- the weather is the same then as in June), so Christmas season always offered a flurry of theatre opportunities for me to consider:
I was heavily involved in the Playhouse in the Park, where a young director named Laura Wilson cast me in my first show and helped me discover and develop my love for the art. So I considered auditioning for their Christmas show.
The multi-hundred voice youth choir at my church would be preparing for their annual Mobile Christmas Spectacular, so I thought I might audition for that.
Then I learned that South of the Saltline Regional Theatre was producing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The decision was made. In my opinion, the role of Imogene Herdman was the most coveted role for any 12-year old girl. But my new decision quickly turned after a conversation with my parents as we considered the wisdom and the dangers of my stepping into the world of "adult community theatre." I reconsidered, did not audition for the show, and found myself back at the drawing board.
It was at that moment that it dawned on me that God might have something specific in mind about how I should invest my time during that fall/Christmas season. Church show? Or children's community theatre show? For the first time I can remember, I honestly and genuinely wanted to do what God wanted me to do. I prayed. I listened. I read. Nothing. It was a little disappointing to truly seek God for the first time and receive a resounding silence in response. Audition dates for both shows came and went while I listened. So I came to the conclusion that perhaps God simply wanted me to simply "be" and hang out with him during Christmas 1986.
Then the phone call came. It was Laura Roberts, who cast me in my first show at Playhouse in the Park a couple years previously, "Hey Heather, I don't know if you are aware of this, but I am directing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at South of the Saltline Regional Theatre and I need an Imogene Herdman. Would you be interested?"
Would I be interested?! I about shot through the ceiling. Had my family known Laura was directing the show, there would have been no question in our minds about auditioning. It would have been a no-brainer. But I didn't need to know. God knew. Evidently, I didn't even need to audition! And I learned several important lessons in the process.
Now, I realize this story may not seem like a big deal at all. But for a 7th grade kid, it was monumental. I learned that God hears and answers prayer, but it usually isn't in the manner or the timing that we expect. I learned that God knows the desires of our hearts and they are important to him. I learned that God wants to get us where we need to go even more than we want to get where we need to go. And I learned that waiting in the silence is the place where God is working behind the scenes. I also learned that God loves the worst kids in the history of the world (for that one you need to know a little about the story of the Herdman kids).
Tonight, I'm in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever again. This time, I'm rolling on stage as the cantankerous Mrs. Armstrong. And I'm still seeing the fingerprints of God at work.