What lessons can we learn from the story of the golden calf (Ex. 32)? The obvious lesson is to not even think of worshiping false gods! The less obvious lesson is patience. The Israelites turned to a false god of their own creation for no other reason than the fact that God was just not acting fast enough for them. I wonder how often I do the same thing? I’m not saying I have ever built an idol and literally bowed down to it, but how often have I dismissed faith in God as “taking too long”? There is much truth in the old joke about the man who prayed every day that he would win the lottery. After not winning for several months he begged the Lord to tell him why He had not answered his prayers. The Lord replied, “Will you please buy a ticket?” It is true, God helps those who help themselves, but sometimes we rely too much on ourselves or on worldly resources to the exclusion of God.
When I was in my twenties, living in Los Angeles, I wished for success as an actor. I believed with my whole heart that success in Hollywood would bring me happiness. I went to acting class, I acted in play after play, I attended casting workshops and mailed resume after resume. I turned down other professional opportunities to keep myself “open” to the chance of movie stardom. I was doing everything I knew how to do to ensure a successful acting career. Except praying. During almost the entire decade of my twenties I rarely went to church and almost never joined prayer to my secular efforts for success. I actually believed that acting was a selfish pursuit and that I shouldn’t be bothering God with such a self-serving request. The result was the pursuit of a career devoid of any spirituality. I was looking for happiness in this world only and not the one beyond. I never asked God for guidance, but rather depended on my own decisions.
After ten years as an actor the pursuit began to feel hollow. I was still being cast in plays and I had made wonderful friends that I cherish to this day, but there was a lack of satisfaction that I couldn’t identify. In 2007 my younger bother suffered a heart attack. It was that moment that I realized that what I was missing was God. I had formed a wonderful artistic community around me, but I had no faith community. I had no community of fellow Christians with whom I could share my spiritual yearnings or lean on in times of personal crises like this. My Christianity was something that I kept to myself and thought incongruent with my material pursuits.
I went back to church. A year earlier I had thought I could reinvigorate my passion for acting by learning how to sing. I decided that if I joined the choir at church I would have an incentive to attend every week and work on my vocal technique at the same time. This set off a chain of events that led to meeting my wife, Lisa Helene and moving to Virginia! The details of that four-year turn of events is a story for another day. The point is that once I brought my life back to God, my priorities changed. My career ambition has shifted from acting to writing, but this time God is at the forefront. Not that everything I write will be about God, but God will be in everything I write. I have not abandoned acting entirely. I think it will always be at the heart of my artistic perspective. But should I ever return to it I won’t treat it as a golden calf that will give me everything I want but as a journey with God as my guide and Lisa Helene as my loving companion.
By the way, my brother not only survived his heart attack, he completed his first triathlon this month! How’s that for an answer to my family’s prayers!
Have a Blessed Week!