I had the privilege of seeing the musical “Once” on Broadway this weekend. It’s something of a love story, but more importantly than that, it’s about a moment in time when one person is stuck at a dark, hopeless point and another person steps in and helps to pull him past that point. The musical is based on the 2007 movie of the same name. The movie and the musical have received highest critical praise and awards. While the storytelling is masterful and the music is unique and beautiful, I don’t think those elements are the main reason why the story is captivating. The story captivates us because it connects with a universal human experience of feeling that life has “stopped” you, but you decide to keep going, not because you realize yourself that you can make that choice, but because someone else reminds you that you can.
“Take this sinking boat and point it home. We’ve still got time. Raise your hopeful voice. You have a choice. You’ve made it now.”
The main characters in the play don’t even have names. In the playbill, they are simply referred to as “Guy” and “Girl.” I assume the omission of names is entirely purposeful, because without names, you can easily put yourself in the place of the characters.
The first line of the Chorus–“Take this sinking boat and turn it home”–stayed with me as I left the theater. I love that image… a boat that is sinking, and there’s nothing that the boat or the person in it can do… but someone outside the boat can turn it so that it makes it to land before it sinks… because there’s still time to make the choice to live. It made me think of people that have helped me reset my course when, left to my own efforts, I would probably drown. (Specifically, it made me think of three very important people I wrote about in my “Complete Package” series a few months ago–my doctor, my pastor, and my counselor).
A few weeks ago, I made a video with some of my students. The point of the video was to encourage the rest of the school to recycle. It went something like this: A girl is unhappy because she loves the earth but realizes how bad things will get if we don’t take care of it. Her friends take her outside and show her the beauty that is still there–the flowers growing, the birds singing, the fresh air in the wind, etc.–and remind her that we do help take care of our world when we recycle.
The video was supposed to be borderline cheesy and kind of funny, but it struck me later how the simple story paralleled a pattern in my own life. I get overwhelmed with pain and death and confusion and get stuck in the idea that that’s all there is and ever will be. Sometimes I need people to figuratively snap their fingers in front of my face and point out to me what is true and beautiful even amidst the brokenness of our world.
In a recent post, “The Freedom of Having Nothing to Lose”, I quoted Don Miller as saying, “How can the suffering you’ve experienced become an unintended blessing? What’s good about the pain you’ve known? Steal your life back.” As you consider those questions, add this thought from “Once” into the mix: “You have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It’s time that you’ve won.” You’ve still got time.