Stage or Stairwell Living

Wednesday, October 30 2019


Four years ago now I wrote a reflection that, upon rereading the title, grabbed my attention once again: Stage or Stairwell Living. 
What did that title mean anyway? I couldn’t really remember. My curiosity was piqued: what had I written back then? 
What does it mean to live "on a stage"? What does it mean to live "in a stairwell"? And which of the two “livings" is mine? 
Or do I move from one to the other as time passes, sometimes living “on stage” for all to see and hear, and other times living a more hidden and obscure life “in a stairwell”?
Is one place of living more important and more valuable than the other? Or do they both have their significance in our lives?
The idea of “Stage or Stairwell Living” came from an article written by Emily P. Freeman that I had read back in August of 2015. It was all about stages and stairwells and sanctuaries. And where we as human beings strive to be, and act, and sing, and serve.
Freeman wrote: “I do recognize within myself the natural tendency I have, maybe one we all have, to assume all the important things happen on stages while the stairwells are just a way to get there, one ordinary step at a time… But what if we genuinely began to acknowledge the importance of both?”
Just think about it for a moment: most worship and praise, for example, happens on stages in sanctuaries. But, as Freeman discovered: “Singing in [an echoing] stairwell makes it easy to see how ordinary places can become sanctuaries…” as well.
“I don’t want to elevate one at the expense of the other or de-elevate one to the exception of the other. I learn a lot about the state of my soul when I pay attention to the stages and stairwells in my own life”, she continued. 
And so, here I am today: once again “paying attention to the stages and stairwells in my own life” as well. 
Like Freeman, I realize that important things, like good preaching and teaching and modeling, do happen on stages. “Influence does come from spotlights.” Activities done on stages, when done well, can be extremely beneficial and profitable. 
And I have been there. I have gone through periods of my life where I lived “on a stage”, so to speak: in the limelight, before the eyes and ears of the world, visible and audible to everyone, influencing and impacting from a place in the spotlight. 
But like Freeman, I also think that important things happen in stairwells.
And I have been there too. In fact, that is where I am now, living "in a stairwell" of life: hidden away, out of sight and earshot of most everyone, my circle of influence and impact reduced to almost no one and nothing. 
But that’s OK, because even Jesus lived "in the stairwells” of life at times. 
As Freeman writes: “Christ spent His life on the stage of earth but He lived His moments in the stairwells of small towns. Christ ascended to the stage of heaven but He lives His moments now within the stairwell of the human heart.”
“Then Jesus said,
“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
He said this because there were so many people coming and going
that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”
(Mark 6:31)
And it’s OK for me to be here right now, here “in the stairwell”, because here I can enjoy the gift of anonymity, "the gift of obscurity", the gift of just being, and just being me - believing that God is doing important work in the stairwell of my heart, “trusting Christ is doing invisible kingdom work in the stairwells of my everyday life”. 
And finally, it’s OK to be living "in a stairwell" of my life at the moment, because, thankfully, Jesus is here with me. The times when I spent my life “on stages”, He was there with me. But now that I am living “in a stairwell”, He is still with me. And I can see Him and hear Him and sense Him even closer to me, because the stairwell, contrary to the stage, is a dimmer and quieter and lonelier place and more conducive to knowing His very-present Presence. 
And how is it with you, my friend? Where are you living out your life these days? On a stage or in a stairwell – in the limelight, or hidden away off-stage somewhere? Are you where God wants you to be? Are you being and doing what God wants you to be and do there?
Whatever place you may be in right now, don’t underestimate its value and importance: sometimes God wants us on-stage, front stage, in the spotlight of life – making a difference! But other times He wants us off-stage, in a stairwell, out of sight – making a difference there as well!
Just be sure that, wherever you might be, stage or stairwell, you are making it into a sanctuary, a holy place where God can live and work in and through you.
“… walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to him,
bearing fruit in every good work
and increasing in the knowledge of God…
be strengthened with all power,
according to his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience with joy,
giving thanks to the Father…”
(Colossians 1:10-12)

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