There was a momentary hush quickly broken as the stage lights shattered the darkness of the theatre, parading its colours throughout the auditorium. The band, now highlighted on stage, played the opening notes and the crowd as if on cue stood up and erupted in praise.
The night had begun.
This was not an evening matinee of the longest running Dominion Theatre production 'We Will Rock You'.
This was church.
I watched in awe as I realised this was not just a building holding a crowd passively watching a show. This was a building filled with two thousand individuals standing together in unity, singing in one accord for one purpose – to lift up the name of Jesus.
Two nights later I was back in the same theatre awaiting the start of a show. This time I was actually there to watch the 'We Will Rock You' musical. As the evening commenced with lights and sound not dissimilar to that of the Sunday night church I had just experienced, I could not help but notice a stark contrast in the essence of the songs that were sung.
While the church songs consisted of lyrics of self-surrender; giving power and praise to God, these songs were giving power and praise to the Self. The musical, with its anti-authoritarian themes of social upheaval, rebellion and self-empowerment, was deeply contrasted with the church's themes of humility, love for others and grace.
I walked out of the Dominion Theatre for the second time with a throbbing sense of emptiness that I couldn't shake, yet I still vividly recalled the joy and feeling of being so alive the first time I walked out two nights earlier. As my mind consumed itself with the disparity of sentiment, Jesus' words from Matthew 16 echoed in my thoughts.
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?"
I realised at that point that the vain pursuit of self-fulfilment was exactly that – vain.
Contrary to what the world preaches, the more we seek to satisfy our human desires with the pleasures of this world and thus deify the Self, we become slaves to it rather than liberate it.
Whereas when we decide to put aside the Self and enslave it to the One who created it, we gain freedom. Freedom to live for something greater than ourselves and for Someone greater than any god we could create.
Cherisse Mathew lives in Sydney, works in PR and is an avid explorer of life and the world.
Cherisse Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/cherisse-mathew.html