No Day But Today
There are a lot of people nowadays who do not like live theatre.
I am not one of those people. But, that is to be expected from someone who is a theatre major.
Music moves people. So, putting words and a story to music has the potential to move people even more.
There’s a particular musical that comes to mind when I think of stories in song that are truly moving.
RENT by Jonathan Larsen is not one of my favorite musicals.
To be sure, it is as full of postmodernism as you might believe. It’s full of things contrary to God’s Word that Christians really can’t abide by or praise.
And yet, there’s something to be learned from this story. There’s something that, in my humble opinion, the characters in this musical do better than a lot of Christians.
There’s a lyric in this musical that always gives me chills:
“There’s only us/ There’s only this/ Forget regret/ or life is yours to miss
No other road/ No other way/ No day but today”
Perhaps this sounds a little nihilistic. To give a little context, the people singing these lyrics have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. In order to escape what I can only imagine as terror, they focus instead on the here and now. They focus not on whatever they wish they could’ve done, but instead on what they still have time to do. No other route lets them have hope or positivity. Anything else would probably send them (and me) into a depression, simply waiting for the end. But no. Today we stand together. Today is the day to live.
Just as a disclaimer, I do believe that God’s Word calls same-sex relationships and behavior sinful. And yet, arguably, the best example of love in this musical comes from the same-sex relationship of Collins and Angel. It’s in this relationship where the idea of “RENT” becomes clearer. Specifically, at Angel’s funeral, Collins sings this lyric:
“I think they meant it/ When they said you can’t buy love/ Now I know you can rent it/ A new lease, you are my love”
This is it. They get it. They get how fleeting life is. You are kind of forced to recognize that fact when you have a terminal disease. But they do not let that get in the way. Going beyond Angel and Collins, all of the characters in this musical know how quickly life can get turned upside down. And that’s what can prompt them to sing lyrics like “No day but today.”
As my good friend Corey said to me once, “Being mortal sucks.”
And it does. We are finite. We are limited. We will die.
We cannot buy love from another person.
They, too, are finite. We don’t get to keep that same kind of love forever. That’s the tragedy of death.
But we can rent love.
For just a short while, for a few fleeting moments, we can love.
There is no promise of tomorrow. But there is today.
How often would we show love if we remembered our own mortality? How often would we tell those we love that we love them if we remembered the true fragility of humanity? But that’s the point, isn’t it? Humanity is still finite humanity. And we will pass away. So we love now. We love today. That’s what RENT got right.
Weirdly enough, that’s also where RENT got it wrong. That’s exactly the place where this musical and Christianity diverges. We know as Christians that we are supposed to love. Sometimes, though, in this insanity of life, we begin to think that this is all there is. We subconsciously forget that this world will perish. And our actions follow accordingly. So a dose of our own mortality is good. It sets us straight. It helps us to remember what follows mortality for us: immortality.
To quote lyrics from a musical I love much more, Sondheim’s Into the Woods,
“Sometimes people leave you/ Halfway through the wood
Do not let it grieve you/ No one leaves for good.”
For us who are in Christ, those we love do not leave for good. Jesus promised that He would raise us up with Him on the Last Day.
That has not yet come. We wait for that day with longing, but we linger here in this veil of tears.
But we have today here. And it is a gift. Let’s take a lesson from RENT and remember how fleeting life is, that there really is no day but today when it comes to love.
I’m reminded when Paul tells the Jews in Romans 2 that the name of God is “blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” I think that can apply to this topic. Christianity speaks of having a loving God, and yet how do we represent Him to the non-Christian? Not well. We treat them poorly, as though they were less holy than we are, similar to the Jews with the Gentiles in Romans 2. We have no excuse. As the Baptized Ones, ones bought and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, shall we let those who are outside the faith outdo us in love? Are we not supposed to love our brothers and sisters in the faith and those outside the faith because He loved us first?
So, then, let us love like our God who is and has defined love.