Act As If…
Posted: 02 May 2014 04:00 AM PDT
What does acting have to do with your spiritual life? With the ways the Lord asks us to interact with other people? Drawing on her personal and work experience Justine links three acting fundamentals and New Church teachings to help us understand how we live life from the Lord as if of ourselves -Editor.
The particular details of faith on man’s part are:
1. God is one, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and He is the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ.
2. Faith leading to salvation is believing in him.
3. Evil actions must not be done because they are the work of the devil and come from him.
4. Good actions must be done because they are the work of God and come from Him.
5. A person must perform these actions as if they were his own, but he must believe they come from the Lord working in him and through him. (True Christian Religion 3, emphasis added)
Human reason may, if it will, perceive and conclude from many things in the world that there is a God, and that He is one. This truth may be confirmed by innumerable testimonies from the visible world; for the universe is like a stage on which are continually being exhibited evidences that there is a God, and that He is one. (True Christian Religion 12)
When teaching a theatre workshop, I often prompt my students to walk around the room and explore how different character types, emotions, and environments affect their movement. There are countless directives to try; act as if you are happy, sad, angry, old, young, cold, or hot. The possibilities of this simple “act as if…” prompt are limitless. We can “act as if…” almost anything using only our bodies, voices, and imaginations—three fundamental acting tools that we all carry with us in everything we do.
The “act as if…” concept extends beyond the realm of traditional theatre. We are often asked to “act as if…” in our daily lives—act as if you are in a good mood when you’re really not. Act as if you’re not sick so you can go to work. Act as if you are sick so you don’t have to go to work. Think about warm places to ward off a winter chill. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” These are just a few examples of “acting as ifs” that pepper everyday existence. We are constantly called upon to act in some form or fashion and some instances are easier than others.
In reflecting on my work as a theatre practitioner, I’ve come to appreciate the role that acting plays in our spiritual lives. There is an entire chapter of Married Love dedicated to acting as if… . In “Reasons in Marriage for Apparent Love, Friendship and Favor” (Married Love 271-291), we are taught about the merits of acting warmly toward our spouses when we are in fact feeling coldness towards them. Even as a newly married woman, I have observed the truth in this. While suppressing true feelings to the point of bursting is never healthy, it is almost always better to take a deep breath and react to a situation with patience rather than unleash our icy frustration. Sure, we might feel truly upset, but truth alone is never what we need. Truth needs love to temper it and that’s why we have to act with the warmth of love even at times when we might not really feel the truth of it. Besides, a moment or even many moments of upset only mask the deeper truth—I always love my spouse, even if it drives me crazy when he leaves the bathroom light on.
Of course, this need to act with warmth in times of coldness applies to relationships outside of marriage as well. We are told to always love our neighbors—family members, friends, strangers, enemies –regardless of how we might feel in a given moment or situation. This is no easy task. Lucky for us, the love contribution is only part of the equation.
The beginning of True Christian Religion (TCR) outlines the fundamentals of faith and states that we must perform good actions as if those actions belong to us, but of course, all good things really come from the Lord (TCR 3). In other words, the ultimate “act as if” directive comes from the Lord. He wants us to do good deeds to one another as if we are capable of loving that selflessly on our own. Furthermore, we are told that,
“God loves each and every human being; and because He cannot do good to them directly, but only indirectly by means of other people, He therefore breathes into people His love (True Christian Religion 457).”
This means that part of our role in this world is to be actors for the Lord. We are meant to carry out the acts of love that the Lord cannot perform directly without infringing on our free will.
Ultimately, our acting here is preparation for the most important role any of us could hope to play. We are angels in training. Even if we aren’t feeling particularly angelic in a given moment, the Lord calls upon us to act with as much love as we can muster (from Him) towards our neighbors and in everything we do. By exercising our acting abilities, we are serving the Lord. This world provides an excellent stage for us to practice actions that can be the “evidences that there is a God, and that He is one.”
The next time you feel grouchy towards someone else, try using the three actors’ tools that are inherent in each of us: our bodies, voices, and imaginations. We can use our imaginations to remind ourselves what it’s like to be pleasant even if we’re not feeling it. We can loosen our fists and relax our mouths into a smile. We can erase any harshness from our tone and then, with the Lord’s help, act out His will.
Justine lives with her husband, Jared, in Bryn Athyn, PA. She works as a theatre teaching artist, creating and leading theatre, acting, and improvisation workshops for young people in the Philadelphia area. In addition to teaching, Justine serves as the president of Bryn Athyn Community Theater and enjoys being a member of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral choir. If it has to do with performance, odds are she is or wants to be involved!