They Were You.

(Chatter Letter From the Editor: February)
The iconic off-Broadway comedy “The Fantasticks” is the world’s longest-running musical. It opened May 3, 1960 and closed January 13, 2002 after 17,162 performances. (The show was revived in 2006 and is still playing today at the Snapple Theater Center in NYC.) Its breezy score, intimate staging, and whimsical good-naturedness have proven to be a formula for longevity. Or maybe it’s that one song. You know, the one you can’t get out of your head. For weeks. The song that might be the most tender love ballad in 100 years of Broadway anthologies: “They Were You.”

The two lovers, Luisa and Matt, discover their marriage has been the result of an intricate if somewhat ridiculous conspiracy by their fathers, adding undue strain to their already shaky union. They part ways, each leaving their small town to experience the “real world” alone. After a predictably traumatic series of misfortunes, both characters return with revived commitment for one another.

That’s when they sing the song:

When the moon was young,
When the month was May,
When the stage was hung for my holiday,
I saw shining lights
But I never knew:
They were you.
They were you.
They were you.

When the dance was done,
When I went my way,
When I tried to find rainbows far away,
All the lovely lights
Seemed to fade from view:
They were you.
They were you.
They were you.

Without you near me,
I can’t see.
When you’re near me,
Wonderful things come to be.

Every secret prayer,
Every fancy free,
Everything I dared for both you and me.
All my wildest dreams
Multiplied by two
They were you.
They were you.
They were you.

Ok. You might not be a Broadway wonk. I get that. I can live with that. I understand if spats and spirit glue mean a hill of beans to you. But you can’t deny the potent power of romance, the power of two people discovering that the pleasures and blessings from their separate pathways were, in a sense, breadcrumbs leading home to the fixed star.

All the shining lights? They were you. All the rainbows far away? They were you. Every fancy free? All my wildest dreams?

They were you.

In Luke 15, Jesus asks, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” I can just see that feisty little sheep, snorting through the moss, then the moss over there, then the distant moss, then the really good-looking horizon moss that promises green mouthfuls and a warm tummy, and suddenly I raise my smelly shorn head and find myself alone with nothing but…moss. And then I see him, plodding over the hill, a silhouette gaining detail and expression as he approaches. And what do you think my shepherd does? He holds out his arms, calls my name softly, and offers me something to eat that’s better. It’s a gentle attraction.

There seems to be two ways of looking at life: that the points of light, beauty, delights, sweet sunrises and warm greetings, are either the exception to the rule or the rule itself. Either God woos us with a quiet, persistent fortitude, or God begrudges us tender relief here and there between our just deserts — or worse, when we “are due,” like a drowsy Karma broker. Which is it? Which is most in line with Scripture? Is God rightly passive or strangely in pursuit? As Henri Nouwen writes, “Many people don’t think they are loved, or held safe, and so when suffering comes they see it as an affirmation of their worthlessness. The great question of ministry and the spiritual life is to learn to live our brokenness under the blessing and not the curse.”

I choose the blessing.

So. All the colors? Coffee? Breadcrumbs for ducks? They were You. (I say it with mustard-seed faith!) All the light? Stars burning behind navy clouds? They were You. The smile of my son, the laugh of my daughter, the rainy sheen on a silver street?

They were You.
They were You.
They were You.


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2 Comments to “They Were You.”
  1. I love this so much! Puts me in mind of the great GK Chesterton’s argument that the goodness of God, the beauty in the world and the gift of humor are the greatest apologetics for His existence. It’s true!

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