If you’ve listened to many of our podcasts, you know that I decided back in September to help direct the junior high one act play at Adelade’s school. We did an 80s punk rock version of Alice in Wonderland, and it was weird and wacky and wonderful. Adelade played the Cheshire Cat. It was a small part, but she took to it and had fun with it.
Today was our long-awaited competition, and we won the contest. It was such a fun, long, awesome day. The judge gave out individual awards to some of the actors, and as we heard the contest manager call out several of our kids’ names, we were thrilled. The awards laid out on the table behind him dwindled until only Best Actor and Best Actress were left to announce. I was quite sad at this point that Adelade hadn’t won an award. I had been hopeful, of course, that she might win something. Then an amazing thing happened. The white-haired manager adjusted his glasses and read from his clipboard: Best Actress….from Olney…..the Cheshire Cat! Adelade Edgington!
She was shocked. After all, I had already told her that smaller parts like hers don’t usually win the bigger awards. She immediately starting crying happy tears in disbelief.
But, that’s not even the most amazing part of the story. The incredible thing was that as soon as the manager got the Ch- of Cheshire Cat out, all of the wonderful kids in our company jumped to their feet, cheering, laughing, patting her on the back, genuinely happy for this little sixth grader who had won a coveted award. Any of them would have loved to have had this moment, the big win–I know, because I always wanted it when I was in school. Yet, here they were, gushing over her, making her feel so loved, relishing this moment with her.
It’s something I’ll never forget.
Because, once again, kids showed me what it is to love people. They showed me what it looks like to rejoice with those who rejoice. The church is really good at mourning with those who mourn. We know how to cry with each other, bring food, offer condolences. We’re good at sitting in hospital rooms and attending funerals and sending cards. But, when it comes to rejoicing with people, we tend to be held back by our own ambitions. Our own jealousies. We try to be happy for people, but the truth is that in our heart of hearts we are more likely to feel that good things that come to people are undeserved. We covet what others have, and even as we force a smile, there is some part of us who despises those who have good things.
It’s no wonder that God chose to make Do not covet one of the ten commandments. He knew that we would have plenty of opportunities to fall short there, human beings that we are. Selfish, self-serving. Hearts that seek out our own gain and glory instead of wanting good things for everyone else.
We are good at being sad for people, but how do we get to a point where we are really, truly happy for each other?
When I watched those kids today, freely giving their happiness and joy to Adelade during her exciting moment, I realized that they really seemed to see Adelade’s good fortune as their own. They loved the fact that their teammate had been recognized, and they openly shared in the greatness of the moment with her. Maybe that really is the key to being happy for each other, especially within the church. The Bible says that we are one body. What person in his right mind would be jealous or bitter when something good happens to his own body? Maybe we should look at each other and say, When something good happens to you, it also happens to me, and I can share in your joy because God is richly blessing this body.
If we do that, if we really stop to realize that every good gift comes from God and is beneficial to the body, then we can curb our selfish tendencies and genuinely rejoice with our friends when good things happen in their lives, whether it be a promotion or a baby or a new car.
I’m so glad that I was there today, to see Adelade’s happy tears, to see the sweet tears of her friends, to hear the cheering for a little sixth grade girl. There is something so sweet about finding people who rejoice with you during your greatest moments. I pray that the church will be a place where we find people like that, people who are sincerely happy when good things come to those around them. Today I saw it, in the faces and hearts of a bunch of giggly junior high kids. And, I’m grateful.