A few days ago I was lunching with a friend, a fellow director of student plays, and we were discussing her most recent production, a musical version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
She explained to me that the script she was working with did not include a scene from the book that she felt was needed to explain a transition in events, as well as the purpose for the characters’ reaction to Aslan, the lion. So her solution was, as it is for all directors of plays who wish to tweak the scripts they are working with, to write to the publisher and request permission to make changes, to add a scene with a handful of lines to resolve what she felt was this continuity dilemma. She argued her case based on the original text of the book, noting that the lines she would be adding would be dialogue directly from the book itself.
She waited for her reply. When it arrived, she made the changes, because the publisher, acting on behalf of the author of the play, gave permission.
This friend and I remarked on how easy it would have been to just slip the scene in without pursuing allowance from the company. In fact, I know I’ve occasionally tweaked a word or a line here or there in plays; after all, we’re working with students in very small troupes and performing in very small venues. Who would know? Who would care?
The author may not know, but the author would care. Just as the author acknowledged that he borrowed the story and the lines and the characters from the original story by C.S. Lewis, he would expect to be acknowledged for his work in arranging the parts in the form of a play, providing a musical score, and thinking through the stage direction.
The voice of the author in this sphere has authority over his creative work; else, why bother calling him the author?
There is another more popular approach that is also effective in certain situations. In the team project approach, the participating voices contribute to a work in progress. But anyone who has ever worked this way knows that utter chaos erupts without an agreed upon plan, where the parameters are laid out, the goal is determined and the terms are defined. The plan acts as an objective third party; it’s the go-to when there are disputes. “This is what we all agreed upon, and you signed on and contracted to abide by the plan.” To renege is to deny the authority of the plan.
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:10)
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38)
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)
“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:26)
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33)
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)
These are the words of an Author. The life he has called us to is the one he has plotted for us, but not remotely or impersonally. He doesn’t pluck us up as if we are no more than pieces to be pushed about on a gameboard. He not only designs the play; he creates each participant with care and regard for life and love and worship, bestowing unique qualities and gifts. We bear his image. While the playwright feels a kinship to his characters, almost in a paternal way, our Creator is our kin, and he has stamped his image on us. He sets the parameters for our lives, he provides our purpose, and he defines the terms by which we are to live. And because he is divine (“supremely good”, Merriam-Webster), I can safely trust his word, the lot that is cast, the counsel he gives.
More to the point, none of this has anything to do with our nature, our appeal, our likeability. As transgressors of his terms as Creator (Genesis 3:15), we are criminals. But, because of his terms as Redeemer (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 3:18, Isaiah 53:5), the agreement between the party offended (God) and the party offending (us) is ratified by a substitutionary party (Jesus). The death of his perfect, sinless Son serves as satisfaction for my crimes. I can only wonder at how that defines the love that has gone into the plans he has laid out for me, his redeemed, his rescued soul.
What a good reason to rest securely in the Define Authority of God.
** Five Minute Friday (FMF) is a weekly event hosted at the website of Kate Motaung wherein participants are given a single word prompt every Thursday evening, which remains active for one week. How to play: write for 5 minutes on the thoughts, memories, impressions, reflections, aspirations, hopes, beliefs, convictions, or whatever, that that prompt word brings to mind. Set a timer, write without worry about spelling or grammar or typos, and stop when the timer goes off (no cheating). The rules are here. It's free, it's non-committal, and it's easy to participate, so come to the #FMFparty with me! This week, the word was DEFINE. (By the way, I usually start a piece according to the rules, and then it develops into a regular blog post.)
Laura England Miller