Last Friday night Nicky and I saw the Sydney Theatre Company production of Mary Stuart. Set in the English Reformation during the reign of Elizabeth, it is a story of family rivalry, power and sectarianism. Mary, a staunch Catholic and once queen of Scotland and France, seeks to return to Protestant England to reclaim the Scottish throne. She is arrested upon entry and jailed for 19 years without trial on accusations of treason. When finally, she is proclaimed guilty Elizabeth must decide whether she will chop off her head, or not.
The play is an adaptation so history buffs will no doubt be driven mad by it, but Elizabeth was labelled as the “Virgin Equivocator” – a woman who remained unmarried because she was unable to choose a husband and whose lack of decision making in matters of the throne led her into turmoil and strife. The play leaves you wondering, did she want to chop off Mary’s head or not (oops, spoilers!).
The ability to make decisions and stick with them is a critical life lesson we all must learn. Stopping to think through consequences, analyse situations and then stand by the determinations we make is a skill but enacting it speaks loud words about the character of a person. No one likes an equivocator and even less, one who changes their mind regularly to suit their mood or circumstances.
Much is said about the “youth of today” and their FOMO approach to decisions but I think they have learnt these equivocating skills from the rest of us. Too often we all sway like a tree in the wind, tossed back and forward by every thought of man.
Jesus speaks into this space particularly about the issue of becoming one of his disciples. He says, “‘And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:27-30, 33)
Jesus calls his disciples to be fully in – people who make the decision to follow him and stick with him. John Chapman recalls being full of doubt at one point in his Christian life and he would wake up and say to himself, “What changed overnight John? Did Jesus now not rise from the dead? No! So get up and get on trusting Jesus!” He had made the decision based on evidence and stuck to it.
I have often found that those on the edge of discipleship end up in the sort of Elizabethan turmoil I saw in the play but those who are all in find joy, hope and peace in believing. Living life in two camps will destroy you in the end. Don’t be like the Virgin Equivocator. Choose Jesus and choose life to the full.