Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why Auditioning for the Mesa Easter Pageant Was a Terrible Idea

by Andilyn Jenkins

This year our family is in the Mesa Easter Pageant. We auditioned in October, received the cast list in December, and began rehearsals the first Saturday in March. In October when I first heard about auditions, I was hesitant to bring up the idea to Aaron. I know the time commitment a play takes, and I wasn’t confident our young family could handle the stress that late nights cause. But a friend of mine encouraged me, promising me that anything we sacrificed would be replaced by immeasurable blessings. So I took a step of faith, spurred by my own burning desire to be back in a show, and brought it up with Aaron expecting resistance; after all, he’s been a show-widower before and knows probably even better than I do what kind of sacrifice theatre is on the family.

I researched the show, read the requirements, checked the dates, asked lots of questions, and then presented the idea to Aaron, prepared for any response.

“Aaron, auditions for the Easter Pageant are next week. I think it would be an incredible opportunity for our family if we all auditioned together now while we don’t have any kids in school,” I said, waiting for his fact-gathering-mode to kick in.

“That sounds like a great idea.”

“Oh. Well,” I said, unprepared for that response, “yes. It is. Cool! Let’s do it, then!”

And that’s how we got to rehearsal on a sweaty Saturday in March in front of the temple standing on the stage with a crying 15-month-old and a four-year-old swinging from my arms whining, “Mom, when will we be done? This is so boring!”

And I kept wondering . . . where are all those blessings?

The weeks leading up to and following the first practice, my patience was thin at-best, Evan the toddler came down with a fever, and Evelyn was obstinate and moody—reflecting my own mood like a big, whiny mirror.

This pageant was a terrible idea. Look what I did to my family. We are all stressed; I have no energy left to deal with kids, and I have fifteen other things that need my focus beyond this.

So I prayed. I prayed for patience. I prayed for sleep. I prayed for strength. And I prayed for optimism. And nothing changed. Until that Wednesday night. We left Evan at home with my mom while Aaron, Evelyn, and I went to rehearsal to block the “Jesus with the Children” scene.

The scene felt so familiar. I’ve been at many playgroups where Evelyn’s quiet first impression leads to invisibility, and she watches from the wall while the kids play a game. Rarely, a kind child notices Evelyn and includes her. And so it was here: all the young children circle around Jesus Christ and dance, and Evelyn lacks the courage to be included. She stands and moves closer to me instead of meeting Jesus. And my heart breaks because I know what she’s missing, but this time it’s not Candyland. She’s missing a chance to hear her name from His lips and feel that He loves her infinitely more than Aaron and I are capable of.

But I try to console my motherly heart. Evelyn doesn’t know what she’s missing. Plus, she is healthy and whole; there is no reason she deserves to meet Him more than any of the other children.  We can see Him. We can feel the Spirit. Surely, that can be enough.

But as the group retreats, Christ momentarily turns away from the crowd to seek out my girl. And I give her away. He brings her to the heart of the group of children and places her on His knee then gives her a squeeze. And Evelyn, feeling His love for her, treats Him like her own big brother, even though moments before He was a stranger, and gives Him a kiss. End scene.

And that's when I knew this Easter Pageant thing was a terrible idea—because it kidnapped me. And I was powerless to loosen its grip. This was not a one-year experience like I originally proposed to Aaron. I would do whatever I needed to be in this show again and again. 

From that first week, our trials have only increased. Twice, one of our kids unexpectedly threw up backstage into our cupped hands only to go home, sleep poorly, and throw up more. I've packed adult and children's Tylenol and Saltine crackers to every performance. My house is in shambles and we've had ham sandwiches for lunch and dinner more times than I care to admit. But the increase in struggle necessitated an increase in priesthood blessings and prayer. So not only were we testifying of Christ's atonement each night, we actually used its enabling power. And as we did, we saw no decrease in trials but a strength and peace in our home as we handled them. 

So, as the pageant comes to a close this week, I testify through both faith and experience, that Christ loves me and you. He suffered for our sins, pains, and afflictions because of that infinite love. And He knows you by name and finds you when you are alone to give you a hug from a big brother.

There's my baby girl on Christ's knee! Click on the pic to get redirected to the Mesa Easter Pageant's Facebook page.

Please come support the volunteers who have sacrificed to make this season's production possible. Please come see a beautiful witness of Jesus Christ and refocus on Him this Easter. This week is your last chance to see the show. We perform nightly between now and Saturday. For more information on dates and times click here.

The original copy of this post can be found on my writer's group blog, for which I write bi-monthly. Go check it out: ANWA Founder & Friends.