What the Improv Instructor Said

Rewind about 28 years It’s my first year of college.
Where are we?  We’re in Fort Wayne, Indiana at a small college theatre convention.
What am I doing?  I’m sitting in an auditorium with the other Goshen College theatre students, and we are listening to a woman discuss Improvisation.

Improv always terrified me and I was never any good at it, but this woman is about to say something that I will never forget. It’s not particularly deep, and it didn’t make me any better at improv, but I will not ever forget it—ever.

It’s a statement about God, and it came to me at the dawn of my awareness that you can talk about God without necessarily making religious statements. Not God as in Yahweh or some such grouchy guy with a thing for blood, but God as in Everything. That in itself was memorable for Little Diana and maybe what the improv instructor said stayed with me simply because of what it revealed to me about ways to think about God. I don’t know. It was a long time ago.

Context:  You’re standing on stage doing improv. You don’t know what is going to happen next and you’re going to have to come up with something to make it work. (O yes. Life lesson in the making is written all over this one!)

The woman’s words were simply this: “God will visit you.”

When you don’t know what to say? God will visit you.
When you don’t know what to do? God will visit you.
When everything is wrong but you still need to do something right?  God will visit you.
When you’ve made a mess of it and now you have to find your way out? God will visit you.
Open your heart. Begin to speak. God will visit you.

Somehow or other that sunk straight into the core of that 19 year old girl who had heard SO MUCH about God all her life. Heard so much about saying and doing the right thing so that God would be pleased—not that we should leap and that while in the air God would visit us.

I have come back to that seat in that auditorium to listen to that woman’s comforting words over and over and over in my life. I am there now.

What’s going to become of me in my life? God will visit you.
Am I doing this right? God will visit you.
How will I know if I am supposed to do something different? God will visit you.
Help. God will visit you.
What should I say? God will visit you.
What should I do? God will visit you.
What if I can’t stand it anymore? God will visit you.
What if I make an ass of myself? God will visit you.
How will I live my life? God will visit you.
What if I want to be left alone? God will visit you.
What if I don’t want to be left alone? God will visit you.

But you won’t know what will happen until it happens.
You won’t know what to do until you do it.
You won’t know what to say until you hear yourself say it.
That’s improv.
That’s life.
God can only visit you when you have leapt off the edge and are in the air, when you have opened your mouth to speak.

It’s terrifying. I hate improve. I hate life.
I don’t hate life, but life is cruel. Fear is cruel. Fear of the unknown is paralyzing.
Do not be paralyzed. God will visit you.

God has visited me. Often. Look where I am. Could I be anything other than living proof that God will visit you? I promise myself God will visit me, still.  My God, I hope I am right.

I would like God to visit me before I get on stage, before I have to stand there, take a deep breath, and open my mouth.  I would like a script–to know what will happen and what my lines will be. But that isn’t improv and that isn’t life.  Or, it isn’t my life.  It isn’t anyone’s life.

Take heart.
I say this to me.
I say this to you.
The story is written as it unfolds.
Take a breath and the words will come.

God will visit you.

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