Frosty windows and the real me

The past couple of days have displayed the classic North Idaho beauty: bright sunny backdrop contrasted against our sparkling lakes and the greenery of forested hills. This has created a deception of warmth; we're venturing out in shorts and sandals with car windows down despite the fact that it is only 40 degrees outside.

After all, it is still winter.

During this time of year, those clear and cloudless skies that reveal scenic splendor by day and galaxies by night come with a setback every morning: frost. I hate frost.

Perhaps hate is the wrong word. More like I despise frost with a fiery passion that rivals Krakatoa, Vesuvius, and St Helens on their worst days. There is no wintertime activity that annoys me like scraping frost off my car's windshield.

This morning, as the defroster inside my car was cranked to its highest setting and I begrudgingly employed my ice-scraper outside, I had a flashback to another frost. One that was stickier and more annoying. During my senior year of high school, after a late night dress rehearsal, a cast mate offered me a ride home. When we left the auditorium, her car was covered with frost. Unfortunately, she did not have a scraper in her car. There was an empty cassette case (remember those?) and I offered to use that to scrape her windows. It worked. But by the time I finished scraping every window, her car had completely frosted over a second time. It took three full scrapings before the internal temperature of her car was warm enough to stave off repeated frostings.

As my mind is prone to wander, this thing I loathe reminded me of something better.

But first I have to go back in time a little further than high school. I grew up in a household that was enamored with sports. Saturdays filled with Pac-10 games. Sundays dominated by the NFL. Dave Niehaus and the Mariners all summer long. Sonics and hockey filled the winter months. And when all else failed, we watched pro wrestling.

By the time I was in kindergarten, my parents enrolled me in league soccer. I played for a couple reasons. Partly because my brother played soccer, and there was an expectation that I participated in some sort of competitive sport. But also because I actually liked soccer.

Then junior high came. My brother's choice of sport at that age was basketball. I couldn't do it. I was short and I knew that I would not be able to compete, so I made the unwise decision to join the wrestling team. Despite my ill fated choice in junior high athletics, there was another path I took during those years that changed my life far more than anything I experienced while playing a sport: I auditioned for drama club.

My first roll as a German officer in The Diary of Anne Frank started the journey that would bring me to that frosty night four years later, thrice scraping ice off of a friend’s car with a little square box of plastic meant to hold cassette tapes.

This girl was a part of the production cast, but she wasn't someone I had met through the drama club. I had grown up her with since we were toddlers; I had known her longer than any other student at our school. One of my earliest memories is getting in trouble for playing tag with her in the sanctuary of the little church we attended on the corner of Fourth and Alder. Her presence in drama club was significant. In our church youth group, she was one of the popular kids. As I have mentioned before, I was not one of the cool kids.

The line between the insiders and the outcasts was easily defined by athletic ability. They were tall and coordinated and good looking. During retreats and mission trips they would fill up their free time with a pickup game of football, and three-on-three rounds of basketball were as common as bible studies. When I joined the drama club, it was as if I had made a conscious decision to isolate myself from the sporty socialization of my peers at church. Our Sunday school classes and youth group meetings so frequently talked about media consumption that it often felt like our salvation was dependent on the genres of music we listened to or the kinds of movies we watched. From that perspective, playing sports was the wholesome activity that was encouraged. But art? Theater? Jazz band? Engaging in those heathen activities was a social stigma at church.

I developed a dual personality. One for my church friends and another for my school friends. That second persona was closer to the real me. The split was essential for my survival. It often felt like my peers at church negatively judged me for my theatrical associations. After all, the drama club was filled with outspoken atheists, openly gay people, and kids that smoked. Why would a good Christian kid want to hang out with them?

My senior year was the first time in my six years of involvement with school theater that I could share the stage with one of the popular kids from church. It was improbable that one of the cool kids would join that eccentric circle of thespians that I considered my closest friends.

Sure, there were other mixings of the two worlds. In junior high, my best friend Willie and I had roles in The House at Pooh Corner. He was Eeyore and I was Christopher Robin. Willie and I were friends at church, but he was an outcast like me. In high school, Willie's older brother Mike was a constant fixture in the drama club. He was also an outcast.

I have never regretted my decision to pursue involvement in theater instead of sports. Some of my greatest memories from my tenure at Marysville-Pilchuck High School happened in the performing arts building. My senior year was the pinnacle of that time: learning sword fighting for my role in Cyrano de Bergerac; elementary kids asking for my autograph after watching our production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; all nigh set building parties while preparing for Into the Woods; passing around an acoustic guitar for group sing-alongs backstage.

As I look back at the highlights of the drama club, the unlikely addition of a popular kid from church is one of the most impacting. Not just scraping frost off her windows three times in one night - but the fact that she was there.

Until then, I lived in two worlds. The religious culture that rejected my interests and the supposedly godless culture that accepted me without reservation. The kids in drama club knew that I was a Christian, but that didn't affect their opinion of me. They gave me the freedom to express my faith far more than I ever could have with my church friends. Religion was important to me, but so was the theater. I lived this dichotomy, believing that my two worlds would be forever separated. I thought that I could never enjoy the arts at church and that I could never bring the church to my art.

Then one of the cool kids at church auditioned for a part in one of the drama club's productions. This was a collision of universes. This was validation that my passion for the theater had purpose and value. I finally realized that my theology and my artistry could coexist. The real me started showing up at church a little more frequently.

That frost though.

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