Every forty-six years or so I like to be involved with a stage production of Man of La Mancha. Recently Joni and I enjoyed a top notch production of the musical by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. The musical is probably most remembered for the song “Impossible Dream” but it is also a powerful story of believing that you do not have to be trapped in your current or past identity. I wrote a bit about that long ago experience in my book Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.
Many years ago, for reasons I still don’t understand, I was cast as the lead in our Senior high school production of Man of La Mancha. I had never acted and was not a trained singer. And yet that stellar résumé somehow landed me the role as Don Quixote. Go figure. The play is based on Miguel de Cervantes’s seventeenth-century novel Don Quixote. The drama unfolds as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. Cervantes takes on the character of “mad knight” Don Quixote.
It was fun and challenging to learn page after page of dialogue as well as doing my best not to mess up “The Impossible Dream.” I enjoyed transforming into an old man on stage and donning the armor of the knight errant.
As I became immersed in the character of Quixote, I began to understand that the gentle and naive protagonist saw the world through eyes of grace. He perceived what people can become and not what they are at the moment. When he meets a prostitute named Aldonza, Quixote sees her as a lady, treats her with respect, and gives her a new name—Dulcinea.
Aldonza’s reaction? She lashes out with fury and hatred as all her past junk pours out. Aldonza agonizes that her mother doesn’t know which of her many lovers might be Aldonza’s father. She rages about men who have used, abused, and abandoned her. And now this man calls her a “lady” and gives her a new name and identity. Aldonza hates what she has become, but even more she hates the fear of believing she could change and possibly face another crushing disappointment. At least her identity in a questionable vocation is familiar. And yet Don Quixote sees her as a soul created with value who can be redeemed.
Gradually, Aldonza understands that Quixote is genuine, and she begins to believe what the old man says is true about her, that she does have value. When the “Quixotic” world of the man of La Mancha is destroyed and he draws his final breath, Sancho Panza, the faithful squire, addresses the grieving woman as Aldonza.
She gently corrects him. “My name is Dulcinea.” Her identity has been changed by an agent of grace.
That’s what happens to those who place their trust in Christ. God gives us a new identity and He calls us by a new name.
We also tend to fight back and remind God of what we used to be and all that is wrong about us now. But Jesus patiently reminds us of our new identity. He tells us that we have been changed. That our spiritual DNA has been rewritten. That we are a new creation in Him. That we are holy. Saints. When we believe what Jesus says is true about us, it will change how we live our lives.
A righteous and beloved child of God. That is not an “impossible dream,” but a theological truth. Dave Burchett aka “child of God.” That has a nice ring to it. (Reprinted from Stay with permission of Tyndale Publishing)
John says it is true and entirely possible to have this relationship with God.
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
(John 1:12, NLT)
All we have to do is believe it and begin to live out of what God says is true about you. When you believe you have a new name, like Dulcinea, you can live joyfully knowing what is now true about you.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans, 8:15, NLT)
My quest is beautifully stated by Paul in the book of Acts.
But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. (Acts 20:24, NLT)
The lyrics to the aforementioned Impossible Dream fit here.
This is my quest, to follow that star …No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …To fight for the right, without question or pause …To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,when I’m laid to my rest …
My quest is simple and entirely possible if I believe who I am in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.