Backstage. Up close and personal.
Being a journalist granted me access to “behind the curtain” experiences I still treasure.
I sat a few feet from Gene Drucker—the world-renowned violinist who has won a bushel of Grammy Awards with the Emerson Quartet—as he rehearsed for the Hampden-Sydney Music Festival.
I was in the Penske pits at Richmond International Raceway during testing and got a true sense of the loud, roaring power and speed—along with the inherent exhilaration and danger—of Indy Car open-wheel racing.
At spring training in Lakeland Florida, it was just me and Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson in his clubhouse office talking baseball. Then I was leaning on the batting cage with the Detroit Tigers during batting practice before finding myself sitting next to my childhood hero, Hall of Famer Al Kaline, on a sofa in the players’ lounge where we talked about his storied career.
No press pass on Earth, however, could have gotten me beyond the veil of a Jewish temple during Jesus’ lifetime and inside the Holy of Holies—the “backstage” place where God literally dwelled, according to Jewish beliefs. Only the High Priest was permitted go beyond the thick curtain that separated God from Man. Anyone else would die.
That all changed with the crucifixion of Jesus.
“Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment,” the Gospel of Matthew tells us, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”
Humanity was given an all-access backstage pass that continues to this day.
Jesus teaches that there is no curtain, no wall, no veil, no law that can separate us, as children of God, from the God who loves us. For each of us, it is a uniquely personal journey of deepening intimacy with God, and with Christ.
As Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
The only thing that can keep us out in the audience, hoping to catch a glimpse of God’s love, is if we refuse to leave our seats, if we dare not go backstage into the clubhouse or the pits.
A few hours after I typed the words you’ve just read I experienced one of those coincidences that can seem like no big deal except to the person who experienced what, for them, feels like a definite “God-incidence.”
My wife and I were listening to the first album by Christian rockers Jars Of Clay, released in 1995. I usually turn the CD player off after the final track, “Blind.” This time, as Kim and I played backgammon and talked, I left the CD player on. Suddenly, from the silence, came music we’d never heard before—a “hidden song” not listed on the CD, followed by a 20-plus minute recording of the studio session where string and woodwind instruments were added to “Blind.” We could hear conversations in the studio. It was like being there with the band as the album was being recorded.
After 22 years of listening to the CD without hearing any of those voices and notes, we unexpectedly found ourselves behind a curtain that had been open and waiting for us all the time. The moment uncannily illustrated what I’d been writing about just a few hours earlier. It was impossible not to feel the message of grace.
God’s love is waiting for us in the back stage of our heart, which is sometimes the hardest place to find. The door is open. Jesus is holding it wide. No barriers remain, but ourselves.
The song is never over.
Unless we refuse to sing.