I was in a quandary.  The nice young lady had asked me if I would play my horn with the pit orchestra for a musical at the local university.  Flattered, and hopeful I would be able to cover the part, I agreed.

I would regret my decision very soon thereafter.

My personal preparation for the production (which ran for four nights) would involve many hours—painful hours—of practice.  I’m an old man who has coasted for many years, playing easy, pretty things—the kind of music that makes folks sigh and exclaim that the French horn is their favorite instrument.

This wasn’t that kind of music.  I wasn’t able to cover the part without the personal wood-shedding of the pieces over and over.

I wish that had been the hardest part of preparing for the production.  It wasn’t.  The hardest part had nothing to do with the music, or the time involved, or even the people who would participate with me.

It’s a raunchy story.


manoflamanchaThe story of a demented man who wanders the countryside pretending to be a knight.  It’s the story of people who steal what they want from fellow travelers.  The demented knight is robbed and beaten, and he dies.

He dies.

All of that wasn’t a problem for me.

What was a problem was that one of the main characters, a serving lady in the inn, is also a prostitute.  I didn’t like that she has a filthy mouth.  I didn’t like that the songs seem to make light of the sinful state of the folks who populate the stage play.

I almost called the nice young lady and told her I couldn’t be involved in her production.  You see, I’m not a raunchy person.  I don’t want to be identified with that type of stuff.

I’m not raunchy.  Right?

I didn’t call the nice young lady.  Instead, I listened to a recording of the play one last time before making a decision.  I sat through the fight in the inn’s courtyard as the knight sought to protect the serving lady’s honor, a laughable attempt at a vain undertaking, I thought.  It was especially futile, given that the first man he did battle with had already paid the cash price the woman demanded for her services.  

Moments later in the track, the crude musical explanation of who she knew herself to be left me nodding my head in agreement.  She was crude, the crudeness almost overshadowing the shock of her being raped at one point during the story.

No.  I just couldn’t do this.  I couldn’t be a part of this thing.  I would call the nice young lady in the morning and back out as gracefully as I could.

But the recording was still playing.  

The mad knight would not be swayed.  The lady, his dream of womanhood, could be none other than his sweet Dulcinea, even though she insisted she was neither pure nor sweet. 

I never expected to cry.

It’s not a religious story.  It’s a raunchy tale of twisted humanity.  

And redemption.

Really.  Redemption.

An impossible dream.

The prostitute becomes the lady the deluded knight envisioned.  

How is that possible?

I cried every night of the production.  Every night.  As I played my horn, tears ran down my cheeks.

The story of mankind is a raunchy tale of twisted humanity.  You may read the whole story in the Bible.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned though. 

The pages are populated by adulterers, prostitutes, murderers, liars, cheats, and thieves—to say nothing of insane kings and philandering judges.

Yes.  The Holy Bible.  The same Book that says, whatever is true, honest, just, pure, holy, these are the things to contemplate. (Philippians 4:8)

Here’s the thing:  The raunchy tale of twisted humanity is also the story of a Holy God who looked at what was and saw what would be.  A God who would take the flawed and filthy  and make it pure and whole


And, raunchy becomes righteous.

Somehow, we don’t want to talk about the dirty stuff.  We avoid the filth—as if we’ve never been filthy ourselves.  I sometimes wonder if it makes us feel better to think about how perfect we are, comparing ourselves with others who haven’t experienced His Grace.  Or, perhaps it simply reminds us of hard truths and sad experiences we’d rather not remember.  

But, this I know:  Without the depravity—without the raunchiness, there would never have been the redemption.  Without sin—no grace.

We do Him a disservice when we sweep the story under the rug, as if it never happened.  We lie when we lead people to believe that we are any better than the rest of the raunchy world.

We discount the value of the astounding gift given us when we avoid the stigma of our past lives, as if it had never happened.

What a gift to a people who deserved nothing better than to wallow in their own filth!


Once I was.  Not any more.






“Once, just once, would you look at me as I really am?”
“I see beauty, purity. Dulcinea.”
(from Man of La Mancha ~ Dale Wasserman ~ American playwright ~ 1914-2008)


. . .just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
(Ephesians 5:25-27 ~ NIV)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

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