It will be my second time playing the wanton woman.
The first was nearly 20 years ago, for a short drama sketch at church called “One Day at the Bus Stop.” My friend Ken Arundell, who is now with Jesus himself, portrayed a modern day Jesus with compassion and grace. He joined my character, a prostituted woman, on a bus stop bench where they shared conversation and a Coke. The well-written script did a moving job of its objective: to demonstrate what an encounter like the one between Jesus and the infamous woman at the well might look like today.
I confess I spent more time worrying about my outfit than truly attempting to get inside the heart of my character. We solved the immodesty dilemma by focusing on lots of jewelry, severe makeup, and really big hair (with everybody wearing big hair back then, I’m talking really, REALLY big hair!)
On the way home from Tuesday night’s rehearsal, with my hubby at the wheel and me decked out in the trappings of my character’s trade, the police pulled us over. I slinked down into my seat, praying, “Please don’t let him shine that flashlight on me.”
It was one of the few times in my life I wanted to be invisible.
“Did you know one of your head lamps is out?”
“Yes,” Jon said. “I have a replacement in the back seat and will fix it as soon as we get home.”
“Very well. Carry on.”
I breathed again.
For months we laughed about the odds of getting stopped by the law on that particular night, without giving thought to how the experience might have felt to my character. I wish I’d paid more attention to her heart.
This time around, I’m portraying an actual historical figure. Her name was Mary Magdalene and you can read about her in Luke 8 and Matthew 16. While tradition and art paint her as a prostitute, nothing in scripture substantiates this. Whether she was or wasn’t is irrelevant. She was a broken, wounded woman and while there may be degrees of woundedness, none of us is immune.
Nor is any of us immune from wounding others. We all need forgiveness. We all need healing. We all need compassion.
In the years between portraying these two women, my eyes have opened a little. No child grows up saying, “Someday I want to be a prostitute.” What teen or young adult ever said, “I plan to be a thief”? Who among us, upon the birth of our firstborn, ever thinks, “I sure hope I mess this kid up good”?
Yet it happens.
As I prepare for this role in my church’s Good Friday service, I see my character through a different lens than I might have years ago. In the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene asks, “Where was God?”
It’s a great question. You may have asked it yourself when tsunamis hit or terrorists attack. It may have really become personal when a loved one died or a child fell ill or someone betrayed you. I know I’ve asked it.
And an answer exists, though it isn’t easy or pat.
If you don’t already have other plans for acknowledging Good Friday, please accept this as my personal invitation to the special one-hour service at Portage Alliance Church, 2375 Saskatchewan Ave. W., on Good Friday, March 29 at 11:00 a.m. (Don’t let the new construction keep you away – traffic directors will help you park and get safely inside.)
I’d love to see you there. Together, perhaps even with a little help from Mary Magdalene, we can come closer to solving that age-old mystery: where was God?