Do you have a story from your life that you share often? One of those personal life experience kind of stories that eventually becomes so much a part of you it seems it’s no longer merely a story you tell others… it’s something far more mystical and magical; it’s a story that is actually telling you, shaping you, guiding you…
This is one of my stories; one that has a hold on me like that. I tell it a lot, but I’ve never written it down. The events are true, I was there… and I haven’t been the same since.
After the screening of one of my films at a Christian college in the Midwest, a young student with tears in her eyes approached me. She told me how she believed God was calling her to be an actress. I’m sometimes skeptical at statements like this… but she was convincing. I listened. She shared with great detail and passion her desire to honor God through the craft of acting and then her voice faltered, disappearing into a whisper.
“But,” she said.
“Stop,” I interrupted. “Let me guess… your parents…” She nodded. “They told you not to go into acting because there’s no money it.” Her eyes widened as she nodded again. “They also told you that Hollywood is a dark and evil place and if you go there something bad might happen to you.” She nodded one last time and lowered her head.
I wasn’t being prophetic; it’s just that I’d already heard all the arguments against the entertainment industry. A hundred times. But this moment was different. With her hopeful eyes looking to me for some kind of answer and my own words still echoing all around me… it happened. Epiphany. Clarity. God opened my eyes to the obvious.
The artist as missionary.
What if, hundreds of years ago, the church had told potential missionaries, “Don’t do it. There’s no money in it. Besides, you might have to go to far away places where bad things might happen to you.” What a tragic loss that would have been. Yes, many died penniless. Yes, some even died tragic deaths in far away places. And the world was changed because of them. Is the cause of Christ no longer worth the risk? What is His story telling… how is His story shaping… where is His story guiding?
We are all missionaries, in a sense. And the truth remains, the only safe place to be is where Christ calls; it doesn’t matter if you’re a nurse, preacher, tentmaker, writer, or even… an actor.
* An edited version of this blog post originally appeared in The Columbia Union Visitor in December 2007.