“God created me to be an actor,” many in this town say.  There may be truth in that, but it is a mistake to believe that if you feel called by God to the business, you’ve also been promised success.

Most who have sought creative lives in Hollywood must eventually take a hard look at where their vision, hopes and dreams intersect with the hard reality of the pursuit.  Should I walk away? Can I afford to continue down this road?  Can I afford NOT to given the investment I’ve made in blood, sweat, tears, classes, and making connections?

I would like to suggest to Christians in Hollywood that God created you not to be an actor (or director, screenwriter, composer, stand-up comic, rock star or what-have-you), but to “glorify God and enjoy him forever,” as one of the Presbyterian catechisms declares to be the “great commission.”  It is psychologically healthy and theologically sound to say that you have chosen, because of unique talents and passions, to carry out this commission by pursuing your art or craft in the brutal entertainment industry — a Via Dolorosa with stars on the sidewalks.  Separate the feeling that God has called you to something from the choice to pursue that call, because if the former is true, lack of success, however you define it, inevitably means that God has let you down or that you have let God down.  This is a graceless, works-based relationship in which you risk feeling like you are being punished for “not being good enough,” which is the short road to depression.

God does not call us to success in any field.  He simply calls us to the pursuit.  Perhaps pursuit alone encompasses the two goals of the great commission as noted above.  To glorify God: not by thanking Jesus from the podium as we accept the Oscar in a self-glorifying Hollywood version of Tebowing, but by being the salt of the earth alongside others who are struggling to survive in Hollywood, too.  To enjoy him forever: to grow in our art, our relationships, and our spirit as we stretch and learn about who he is and who we are while navigating the mountainous obstacles between us and earning the most basic living in our chosen field.

Unfortunately for many, Hollywood is not a journey of self-discovery, but a trial in which both sense of self and understanding of God get trampled.  Redemption may come through redefining your Hollywood journey not as the journey toward success but the journey toward understanding “Who am I in God?”  Your success depends then not on being cast in the hot pilot of the season, but in knowing yourself regardless of external indicators of success.  Otherwise, you’re just as Loudon Wainright III said: a wanna-be star stuck in a car on a freeway with nowhere to go.

4 replies
  1. Karen Covell says:

    Joanne, I completely agree and live out the truth of what you said, every day. I am a producer who also runs The Hollywood Prayer Network. We are committed to pray for all professionals in the entertainment industry – both Christians and those with other or no spiritual beliefs. We are all in need of God’s blessing, His touch and His unconditional love. The #1 issue we address with the Believers here is their disappointment, confusion or even anger at God because they believe He called them to be here and yet they aren’t getting work. They believe that success enforces God’s Call. My husband, a composer of many years, says that he knows God’s call when the phone rings! Otherwise, our journey, through thick and thin, is to keep our eyes on Jesus, pursue Him in all circumstances and find out who we are in Him! So, thank you for your post and for expressing so beautifully one of the biggest issues for Christians who are professionals in the media. Oh, how I hope that we fall more in love with Him and not focus on our own success. What an amazing world that would be to live in.

  2. Joanne says:

    I’m glad this was helpful to you, Anne. We need to get the bread for our journey from as many sources as possible! Blessings on yours.

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