Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grey Balloons

The characters in the beginning of CLC's Godspell are people you'd see any day at the train station. A sales executive with a briefcase in hand. A sports jock with her iPod cord dangling from her ear. A homeless guy begging for spare change. One by one they hurl out their philosophies of life into the universe, using the words of Socrates, Galileo, da Vinci, and Sartre. They are all in the same train car, but they live worlds apart. They are completely and utterly alone.

One of the images is especially poignant. A harried mom is dragging her kid across the stage, talking on her cell phone, when a balloon salesman approaches her. The kid begins begging for a balloon, until the exasperated mother shells out the money for the trinket and yanks the kid out of the station. What makes it so interesting is that the balloons are grey. As a matter of fact, almost everything on the stage is grey. All the clothing is grey. All the accessories are grey. But what really gets the point across is that even the balloons are grey. The whole picture carries a feeling of despair, of hopelessness. In what kind of world are balloons grey?

When the director conceived this interpretation of the prologue, she focused on the balloons. In the process of explaining the concept to the actors, she made a comment that I will never forget: "Life without God is like a grey balloon." That's the point she was trying to make in the whole prologue. These are people without God. They live and interact with people, but they are alone. Their lives are falling apart. They are without hope, without real purpose. That is, until Jesus comes along with good news. Suddenly the whole stage fills with color as the handyman, the student, the runaway are suddenly dressed in the brightest shades of red, blue, green, and yellow. Life suddenly has meaning, and nothing is the same after that.

"Life without God is like a grey balloon." What does that mean exactly? Well, what is a balloon? A balloon is a sign of festivity. They appear at birthdays, at dances, anywhere where people are having fun. Kids love balloons, amazed at how they float in the air, and they love the bright colors and goofy designs that often appear on them. Balloons are fun. And yet what do you do with a grey balloon? All of a sudden the festivities aren't so festive anymore. If all your balloons are grey, where is the color? Even something as happy as a balloon isn't happy anymore when it becomes grey. It is the ultimate sign of hopelessness.

That's what life without God is like. Even the happy things lose their joy. Life is hopeless, purposeless, meaningless. We seek after things to give us pleasure, but they don't fulfill. They feel worthless and empty. We run around, grabbing onto this balloon and that one, hoping that it will be something other than grey. But it isn't. They never are.

Then this guy comes around. He tells us that he has a place where life is full of purpose. He has color and laughter and festivity. Most importantly, he even has a red balloon that's just for you. "This balloon used to be grey," he says, smiling, "but I found a way to make it red. Welcome to true joy." Then you see his hands, which are marred by these two enormous scars, and you realize where the red came from. You look at him, shocked. But he smiles, and places the balloon in your hand. "It's okay," he says, "I did it because I love you."

The hopelessness is gone. Life has a purpose again. You can experience true joy because of the sacrifice that this man made to give you a life with meaning...like a red balloon.
(Photo credits: Kate Price and Kristen Leigh)


Anonymous said...

awesome thoughts sam! it may sound weird, but God really used this post to get at my heart. thank you for your faithfulness to share!

Kate said...

I've been wondering what that saying meant... excellent! This is very well thought out and really meaningful!

besita said...


Karyn said...

I've never seen Godspell, but it sounds like such a powerful play. Thanks so much for sharing the message behind it, very powerful. Still praying for you as you go through the run!!