Why I Am Not Following My Dreams
"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
"To the Solid Rock I fly
Though He bids me come and die."
-Caedmon's Call, "There's Only One (Holy One)"
Today I had a conversation via text that I didn't know I was hungry for--soul hungry. A woman I look up to, and who also lives at the crossroads of Christian faith and the arts, happened to ask me a good question, and it opened up just the right floodgate in my heart (and in my tear ducts).
The question was, "You're taking a break from acting, etc?"
Let me explain. I graduated with my MFA in Theatre (Acting) in May, and then my life changed significantly. I went from being a full-time grad student in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who had just completed an acting showcase in New York and spent her days reading plays, creating a mock theatre company, developing my craft, and teaching undergrads, to a full-time stay-at-home mom back in my hometown of Austin, Texas, whose mission is to love one, precious little boy. This dramatic (pun intended) change has been teaching me many lessons.
This spring, as graduation got closer and closer, I felt the sense of anxious urgency that I needed to line up work soon, or else I would have a dreaded gap on my resume between graduation and my next gig. I could feel my own fear that, after plunging myself into my training for the last three years, staying home full time with my son would mean losing my hard-earned skills and becoming rusty and irrelevant. I felt a low level of controlled panic.
I put a post up on my Facebook page asking for information about Austin agents, and actually quickly received a couple of very helpful responses, including the offer of a referral. It looked like an open door! And yet, there was this something inside me saying, "Wait," and it sounded too much like the sweet, gentle whisper of my Savior to be ignored. So I waited, and stopped pursuing an immediate placement with an agent.
My parents and I went to see a Shakespeare in the park production of A Winter's Tale here in Austin, and, as we left the park and drove home, I traveled internally to that deep, reflective, other-worldly place I go when I am stirred by a piece of theatre. It is like discovering a new room in heaven.
I was so happy to find good work being done in our new home city, and I auditioned for that theatre company's fall production of Romeo & Juliet. But the audition did not produce a job.
I then decided that I would audition for our church choir's 1940's Christmas musical. Surely this would be a great way to process all of my questions and doubts about how to go about living out my faith as an actor. A Christ-centered piece of theatre! I would be acting with people I grew up around, and doing a musical that I remember my parents rehearsing for when I was a kid.
Catchy 40s-style tunes started rolling around in my head that I remembered hearing on repeat in our car in middle school: "Maxwell House is always great! Elate your mate and demonstrate!" I emailed the choir director to secure an audition slot, and got excited about the show. But again, there was this little nagging feeling inside.
And then I watched a movie that really illuminated some of the things I have struggled with as an actor, and the voice in my heart leading me away from this audition got clearer and more easily distinguishable.
Why did it sound like God's voice? It wasn't pushy or heavy-handed. It wasn't a voice of guilt or force. Instead it came gently, as a barely distinguishable whisper, accompanied by this picture in my head of a door being opened just a crack, revealing a golden light of life and abundance and music and creativity and wonder and flourishing on the other side.
It was almost as if God was saying to me, "Elizabeth, the choice is yours, freely. But if you want to, I am inviting you into a doorway to a whole new realm of abundant life. Do you want to come through the door?"
I always have to question whether what I am hearing in my head is God's voice, or my own voice, or the voice of the enemy. As a fallible human, I wasn't completely sure, but I wondered if I should pull out of the audition. I talked everything over with my dad and he said that my thought process sounded wise, and that seemed like the confirmation I needed to take action. So I emailed the choir director again and politely let him know that I wasn't auditioning.
I don't know what God is doing.
But you know what? When he makes himself understandable in Elizabeth language, it doesn't seem to matter much anymore that he may be asking me to change my plans, to go against my best guesses of how to achieve a good life, of how to do life right.
His voice sounds like life, and that is where it leads me.
When Chris and I were in China, I was in a group of girls who were reading the book Hind's Feet on High Places, an allegorical story by Hannah Hurnard. In the book, the Shepherd comes to the Valley of Humiliation and leads a girl named Much Afraid to the mountainous High Places.
A part of the story that has stayed in my memory is the scene that is described as the most difficult part of Much Afraid's journey with the Shepherd. Although Much Afraid can see the High Places in the distance, the Shepherd's path starts to lead in a direction that looks to be going in the opposite direction of their destination, and Much Afraid is asked to make a choice.
Will she trust the Shepherd?
I want to share a few pieces of the text conversation with my friend today. Her words were the ministry this frail heart needed, and maybe they will mean something to you, too:
"Girl, I fight through tall weeds every day. He will make a way. He will not leave you and he has gone ahead of you to prepare good works that you might walk in them. You know HIS heart is so good. He is kind...I've thought before that he's pulled the rug out from under me. But that's not true. He strengthens our need and our faith. Grows our roots...He likes to watch us look to him. It hurts. But don't doubt his heart...
Death brings life--and you probably really have to lean into the death before the life will come...But on the other side there is a harvest if you wait/watch for it. He will do it in spite of you. He holds you. He will bring the rain."
His heart is good. And that is one of the many reasons I am not following my dreams.
I am following Jesus instead.