I went back to the theatre this year. It was anticipated (on my behalf) and terrifying. It had almost been two television-filled years since I last performed professional theatre. I had wriggled out of a contract early just so I could take up the role – the script was a beautiful essay on neuroscience, love and depression, and I was a first-hand explorer of all three.
In prayer, about two weeks before rehearsals started, I got a strong impression that the job was going to be difficult. My pride would be tested. I would feel my own limitations.
This wasn’t good news. Panic crept in.
I am not good enough for this. I am going to be fired.
While I have learned that this is an actor’s usual response to the beginning of any job, I was genuinely concerned. But the trial I braced myself for was ultimately completely different.
In reality, the director and I bonded like old friends. The cast and I waded through the script’s madness like war comrades. We cried when we needed to, fought when we needed to, drank when we needed to, too. There were difficult moments in rehearsals and onstage, but nothing that a nice dose of humility couldn’t fix. Our work was strong – we were reviewed from all angles and we pushed through with consistency and deep vulnerability. The story itself moved people. We sold good houses, and we completed a ten week season across Brisbane and Sydney.
The problem was not external, but deep inside my own heart. As the season went on, I disconnected from my community, from my hope and from my rock. I was isolated and utterly exhausted. I was experiencing a small level of persecution due to my faith and I didn’t know how to process it. God had sealed off a heartbreaking season of my life with true freedom, but now I was too afraid to be free. The cage was open, and I didn’t want to step out. Grief gripped me, for no reason. The back to back work, though an incredible blessing, had left me wasted. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t find peace. I would fly in and out of a different city every weekend, feeling homeless and heavy. There were beautiful lights glowing in my life – people entering, love blooming, and I chose to snuff them out. Every night of the play, I would stand upon that stage and sob very real tears. My craft did not feel creative, but destructive, and I was despairing at the fact God didn’t seem to notice.
In the final week of the production, I injured myself on stage. I still don’t really know what happened – my shoulder just went. After doctor after doctor, test after test, they figured out I had torn the labrum in my left shoulder joint. Any worse, I could have required serious surgery. I had to be very careful in the final shows, and go through months of rehabilitation. America was advised against. I couldn’t use my left arm (I’m left-handed) for lifting, pushing or pulling, and I couldn’t sleep on it, either. I had pushed my body to a position of strength and fitness over the past three and half months that it hadn’t known in many years, and suddenly I was told to be still. Do nothing. Rest.
For the last seven weeks, I have learned rest.
At first, it was uncomfortable. I constantly had this urge to be busy, to be a functional member of society, to be noticed, to be chosen, to be productive. I thought it was work ethic, but it was just plain old pride.
I wanted rest, but I didn’t want to be no-one. I didn’t want to be useless. What I had not realised, was that my worth was coming entirely out of my perceived usefulness, and it was breaking me.
Instead of pushing my body and my heart into fierce little battles against time and against nature, I have been learning who I am without the co-dependent partner of ‘work’. I have been learning what I really like. What my dreams really are. I have been learning acting from the beginning, again. I have been learning how creative and beautiful it can really be. I have been learning how to audition in America. How my accent falters when I find something funny. I have been learning how to sleep. How to cook. How to care for a home. I have been learning how to fall in love again. I have been learning how to be fearless on LA roads. I have been learning how to hear my God. How to be still. How to be content, with very little.
Each week I have asked God, ‘Can I go back to work now?’ and He has asked me back ‘Why? Because you are ready, or because you want the validation? If you could choose rest, would you need any more?’
Every time, I have realised: ‘I need a little bit more rest.’
He told me that the moment I was ready, I would know it.
Two days ago, that day hit. It just happened. I had a different energy. There was something under my skin. I needed to stretch. It didn’t feel premature.
Yesterday morning we visited a new church. I was with a bunch of friends from Australia and LA. There were about four hundred people at church that morning. The sermon was on healing. They spoke of faith, obedience, risk and perseverance. I have been healed before, and seen healings happen before my eyes when I have prayed for others. I believe, and yet, I’ve never believed for my shoulder. The injury was too important to me. It was the reason I could rest. I had never wanted it to be healed. The pain, though lessened, had remained. I couldn’t put weight on the shoulder, and I was limited in movement.
As I sat in church, I realised I was ready to be healed. I wanted to experience full strength, and full movement. I was ready to work again, and I was ready to be strong. I prayed for my shoulder. I felt God smile, somehow.
As the sermon ended, a pastor was called up who had been praying for words of knowledge (prophetic insight) about injuries God wanted to heal in that service. They were going to demonstrate prayerful healing so the congregation could see a miracle in action. I was expectant, but I wasn’t hung up on it.
So firstly, I just got an injury to the shoulder, the left shoulder. Possibly required surgery – possibly was in a sling, or is still in a sling?
I turned to my friends, in shock. Should I run up? Yell out? Is it like bingo?
The pastoral team were only just gathering as I ran up there. I was the first. A few other ‘left shoulders’ came up beside me too. The pastor looked down at me from the stage.
What’s your name?
They pulled me up in front of the entire church. They asked for the specifics of my injury, and then they started to pray for me. I felt a wind running through my blood. I felt incredible. I teared up. Something tightened within my body.
Do you feel different?
– I feel nervous.
They asked me to pray for myself, into the microphone. Nervously, I commanded my shoulder to be healed, in the name of Jesus.
They asked me to move it. I lifted it over my head, the way I would usually hug my boyfriend, and usually experience pain. To my surprise, there was nothing.
– That usually hurts. It doesn’t!
Remembering my symptoms, they found me something heavy to lift over my head. I felt unwise. If I wasn’t healed, this could further my injury for months.
With my left arm, I held it above me, with complete strength, and no pain. The believers clapped God. I felt like I’d won a boxing match, one arm lifted in the air in victory, grinning like an idiot in front of four hundred people I had never met.
As I climbed off the stage and went back to my seat, doubts raged, then fell away against the truth.
I am in a new season. He has made himself clear. It is time to start moving.