Sheep Amidst Wolves: Redeeming Creation through Process

The work of redemption...
The work of redemption...
The work of redemption…

“Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  – Matthew 10:16

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a college stage management class at a small Christian liberal arts school in the Deep South.  The kind of college that made me wonder if it was okay to wear a top without sleeves for my speaking engagement (I did) and if I should maybe wear shoes a little more conventional than cowboy boots (I didn’t).

I shared my story as a working theatre professional with kids who are all the things graduating theatre majors should be – cocky but terrified, smart but naïve, excited to fly on their own but still keeping one foot over mom and dad’s threshold. Sheep, preparing to be sent out in the midst of wolves.

I covered my career trajectory as a stage manager.  I discussed my first internship, my first job, my current job, my insanely high New York rent, my love of overpriced lattes, and my faith.  They asked questions about everything from my favorite show to when I joined Actors’ Equity (the union of professional actors and stage managers).

And then this:

“What show have you worked on that most challenged your faith?”

I knew it was coming.  It always does.  Amidst the life questions about rent, health insurance, and where I went to graduate school, in between the wonderings about how to make a living freelancing all over the world, these faith-filled students really want the meat.  They want an answer to the question that tugs at us all:  how do I maintain my distinct identity as a Christian and keep my faith strong while portraying people or helping others portray people who are messed up and broken, who have affairs and go to strip clubs and commit murder and fornicate with goats and every other unimaginable and terrible thing? 

Where are the lines between healthy challenges, difficult confrontations, and direct conflicts?

It is in this complicated Bermuda triangle of challenge, confrontation, and conflict that I find my way in and through the redemptive power and quality of art, that I find the strength to say, “Did not my heart burn within me?”

For I propose that it is not only in the art itself that creation is redeemed, but in the process of creating that art.  It’s in the collaboration, the relationships formed, the daily conversations and meetings and phone calls and email exchanges.  It’s in the comforting smile I give an actor in rehearsal or the cup of coffee I bring my director.  It’s in the assistant who tells me my presence encourages her.  By being the best Bible I can be – I participate in Christ’s redemption.  By being as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove.

Years ago I was faced with a decision to stay on or leave a show that I believed was in conflict with my faith.  I wrestled, I prayed, I talked.  I was ready to quit until someone confronted me with this challenge:  “How do you know that by leaving you won’t be doing a greater disservice?  Who else might be on this project that will need the advice and experience of your own struggle?”

It’s the challenge I now issue to you.  Consider the process and the people over the product.  Consider the creation groaning in travail together and how you, a sheep sent out in the midst of wolves, through your own creative and collaborative processes actively participate as you await the adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies.

Evangeline Rose Whitlock is a professional stage manager.  She lives and works in New York City, and has blogged for Church & Art Network and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Follow her on Twitter for more thoughts along the journey.

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