Tuesday, October 31, 2006

on hope

I have always considered myself an extremely hopeful person. I have great hopes and dreams for the world, the church, humanity, my friends, and the strangers I encounter everyday. What I’ve come to find recently is that I’m not sure how much hope I have for myself.

Since I left my home in Minnesota when I was eighteen, I set out with a very high goal. That goal was to become a professional actor. The catch, however, was that I was going to achieve my goal whether God was with me or not. As I began to pick up the pieces of my early years, this became the only way I knew how to make sense of my confusion: Trust yourself. Trust your skill. Trust your drive. And so I did. I had great hopes and dreams that I would end up in some big city somewhere, acting professionally and paying my rent with my wages. I would be part of the 3% of union actors that would make a living acting. I had great hope in myself.

The years went by and I kept pushing, and working, and connecting, and schmoozing, and low and behold…I found myself in Chicago working at a number of world-class theatres, doing commercials and voice-overs, and guest starring on a hit television show. My hopes had been realized.

Then I began spinning… What was next? Where was I supposed to go from here? Who had I become as a result of my success? Who am I? And then, how in the hell do I hope for something that I can’t control?

I’m more than happy to hope and dream for career goals and future plans that include art projects and the like. But what do I hope for my own heart and my deep soul? The truth is…I’m not sure I want to name what I truly hope for, because I know that things I truly hope for will have to be held loosely. Something I'm not very good at doing.

I am afraid to let go and hope for myself what I hope for others. So what do I hope for others? Ultimately, I hope that we all will become whoever we were born to be; that we would remember the name whispered by God as he sculpted us before time began.

I have this image of an artist working in his studio. He is making something. We can’t quite see what it is. Even if we could, I don’t think we’d recognize it. Today, he's making hearts. He’s using bits of stars and heaven, and sky, and clouds, and water and this new stuff called Earth. Using just his hands he smashes and sculpts. Drops of sweat and tears fall from his face right into the mixture. He’s not tired or sad though. He’s on his way to his best work yet. Meanwhile he’s humming this tune to himself. With each new heart he starts to hum a brand new tune. A brand new rhythm. Time goes by and these tiny hearts get dropped off on this tiny little planet and begin to go about the business of being alive. Every now and then the heart hears this tune; the tune that was being hummed when the heart was being made. We remember the tune. We remember our name.

The problem with this little image is that finding the tune is never as simple as turning on the radio. In fact, I’m not sure it’s even something we can physically "dial into". I think that's why I'd rather help others to find their tune than to do so for myself. For one, it’s much safer and cleaner on my end. And two, I think I'm afraid of what my song might sound like.

My fear is that this kind of thinking falls under the “you can’t take your client any farther than you’ve taken yourself” mantra we hear so much around here. And perhaps it’s fair to say that I’m being unfair to myself. I mean I am here at Mars Hill Graduate School for God’s sake! I am here hoping that someday, somewhere, I might just hear that tune. But for some reason I feel like I’m much more adept at helping to draw someone to hear their own tune before I can hear mine.

I also think that is where my art comes in. When I create something, I’m essentially asking the people who view it or who participate in it to confirm me; to confirm that I’m not alone in all of this. I’m asking, “Do you see that, or feel that, or hear that too?” It is those confirmations that convert me. They make me believe that it might be true for me as well. However, I can’t seem to start with myself. I must begin with the other. As I stand right here and now, I need to first make it true for the other before I can see it in me. Someone seeing and hearing truth for themselves allows me to be open to the possibility that there is truth for me as well.