Looking for God in the Academy of Music

On the day of Sooz’s “day off”, Mom and I took the kids to see the Julie Taymore production of the musical The Lion King – a big Broadway tour in Philadelphia through September. We sat in the nose bleed seats in the Academy of Music, seats so high up in the air you can inspect the giant chandelier on it’s own level and experience vertigo if you lean forward too much. Still, we loved it, especially the actress playing the Baboon Rafiki, the choral dances and the African music. There was some astonishing mask work in it, and Taymore’s life-sized animal puppets are breath-taking. Griff kept turning to me and saying in a stage whisper, “This is awesome!” Ella sat on my lap a watched with great seriousness. She was, of course, used to the Disney DVD we play over and over at home, so she couldn’t quite reconcile what she was seeing a half a mile away down there on the stage with what she knew in her head. She got a bit restless in the second act, after getting jacked up on a box of Swedish Fish at intermission.

Truth be told, Mom and I both felt the second act doesn’t hold up well compared to the first. But three things are worth noting. I thought, do we come to the theatre to find what’s working in a play, or to note what isn’t? And as when I saw Spamalot, I found myself worrying about how these actors would react to The Actor’s Way if they ever chose to read it. The actor playing Poombah, the farting Warthog, was someone I acted with in Philly in 1995. I think he would have a dim view of my book. But I also noted that many in the cast thanked God in their bios. And thirdly, Sooz had charged Griff to look for God as he went about his day that day. “So Griff, “ I said at the end as the house lights rose, “do you see God anywhere?”

“Dad I don’t want to do that now!” he said sharply. And I hugged him.

The next day in meeting for worship, a woman rose and praised the great Mother, who dwells within and whose name has been forgotten. Time passed and then I felt as deep tremor inside me. I rose to speak.

I spoke about a letter an elder in my meeting had hand-delivered to my children at my home the past week:

Dear Griffen and Ella,

God speaks in the meeting. July the second, two thousand and six, God spoke in the soul of your father.

Benjamin Lloyd spoke those words to us and they lifted us out of our confusion and doubt.

Griffen heard them, Ella was not there.

Our hope is that he will write them in this letter, that someday you will know that what God spoke was truth.

It was a blessed experience.

Barbara, a thankful witness

What I spoke about then was the difference between knowing and believing. I said that knowing can be proved but believing doesn’t need to. Believing is for the believer, because he feels it makes him better. But last Sunday I spoke about how Griffen has always felt God to be a She. This was unprompted, and Sooz and I heard it first when the three of us were walking around a beautiful lake in New Hampshire. “Hey Griff, you see God anywhere?” I asked.

“Yep. There She is.” And he pointed to an old mossy stump.

In my ministry I described Griffen’s refusal to look for God at The Lion King, and my recognition that it takes effort, and that sometimes life is just to be enjoyed. But that as Quakers, we are called to seek God everyday, in everyone. And last Sunday I asked God for help, because I was struggling with my shadow, and I wanted to be a light, like God, because if you think about it, a light shining has no shadow.

Later that day, after a not-so-miserable meeting for business, Friend X and I helped each other with a small chore. Friend X has been at the nexus of my bad feelings about my meeting. But in this small act of collaboration, I felt a bridge begin to be built. She asked about Sooz’s Dad. We chatted.

Looking for God in everyone is hardest with those we are estranged from. But in those searches God’s miracles are most profound, and Her movement is smallest, so our attention must be sharpest. She will meet us half-way, and pull us over. But we must reach. We must reach.