He was a miser, a scoundrel, a skinflint, a crook—He was villainous, ominous, monstrous—a schnook!
This is the description of Ebenezer Scrooge from the musical Scrooge, currently running at LifeHouse Theater. If you read last weekend’s post, you know that I have the privilege of playing that very miser, scoundrel, skinflint, etc.
If you didn’t read last weekend’s post…ummm…why?
I love story. I love the way a good writer can get inside your head and show you pictures of yourself reflected in a fictional character. I love the lessons we, as readers, or audience members, or even performers, can learn from the characters we experience.
Here, then, are a few lessons we can learn from old Ebenezer.
#1 Behind this cruel and heartless man, there is a cause to understand…
Each of us has a past. The circumstances in which we were raised have a profound effect on who we become as adults. After all, what is the first thing the stereotypical psychiatrist says to his patient? “Tell me about your mother…”
Scrooge has a past. His mother died giving birth to him. His father blames Ebenezer for her death, resulting in a real lulu of a relationship between father and son. He has a sister who he adores, until she also dies.
Ain’t this story just a hoot?! Thank you, Mr. Dickens.
Anyway, all this guilt and grief causes young Ebenezer to shy away from people and, as he says, “Fill the void inside with status and with clout.”
The jerk who cut you off in traffic this morning has a past, too. So does your ignorant boss, and that loathsome coworker.
And your dad.
And your mom.
Yeah, so, maybe I (and I’m including you in that “I”—how generous is that?) need to be more careful about how severely I judge those around me.
#2 May you be happy in the life that you alone have chosen.
Ebenezer’s childhood was outside his control. No matter what his weenie of a dad said, Scrooge was not responsible for his mother’s death. Nor, of course, could he control his father’s attitude toward him, or the fact that his loving sister died. All these losses informed Ebenezer’s choices.
The choices were still his to make. As a young man getting started in business, Ebenezer had a boss who was an excellent role model. Though successful in his business, Fezziwig knew the importance of investing in people and relationships as well. Scrooge could have followed in the footsteps of his boss.
Ebenezer also had the opportunity for love. The “sweet and lovely” Belle stood ready to make a life with Scrooge, but wisely refused to take second place to his love for money. He could have chosen to build his life on relationship rather than riches.
Spoiler alert: he didn’t.
These choices defined the man Scrooge was to become.
I make choices every day (remember—“I”= “we”). Those choices are informed by my past, but they are not dictated by my past. I can, I must, make choices based upon the man I want to become. I must understand my past, but live for my future.
#3 From bondage you have set me free…
There is redemption. God gave Scrooge the opportunity to see who he had been, and who he had become. God then gave him the chance to repent. We have that same chance, you and I. We may not get to play Time Warp with freakish apparitions from the Netherworld, but we do get to see ourselves for who we are, and receive forgiveness. Psalm 139—one of my favorites—says, “O Lord, you have searched me, and you know me.” Our past is not hidden from God. He knows who we are, and why. And he stands ready to forgive and restore, be it the first time you have asked or the thousand-and-first.
There are other, perhaps less profound lessons I have gleaned from playing Ebenezer Scrooge. I suppose the most important is that, if you grow mutton chops for a dramatic role, you should be prepared to face incessant ribbing from friends and family, as well as giggles and smirks from the people at the Del Taco drive-thru window.
I don’t know if that particular lesson is immediately applicable, but take it for what it’s worth.