First was the recession. I was living and working in Miami Beach, running my consulting business and modeling, the latter being my main purpose for being there. I was never happier than when my phone rang with a casting call, a callback, or a booking (the best!). Being "the talent" on set was an experience straight out of a fairy tale and I loved every second of it, so when it came time to decide whether to head back to Atlanta after the high season had wound down, I decided to stay and make the move permanent. I had claimed my dream and it was a reality!
I worked on movie and TV sets during the off-season and got to share space with some pretty famous people: Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson (a sweetheart, for sure), Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Jeffrey Donovan, and Gabrielle Anwar.
Word of Wisdom: Background work is so not glamorous. It was a long off-season and I would not recommend it as a career. Being background is fun for the experience of learning how movies are made, but a couple of gigs are plenty. After that you're just a glutton for punishment.
When the high season began again in the fall of 2008 I was ready, like a sprinter set in the blocks waiting for the sound of the starter gun.
Print modeling! Yea! I can't wait!
I waited. And waited. The phone was silent while I watched TV all day long, seeing stories of home foreclosures, their owners out on the street and squatters moving in. Mindless show after mindless show; I don't even remember. I hung out on the beach. I shopped at the mall. I ate at Paul, my favorite French restaurant. And I waited. The few calls I received all season were castings for low-paying, Medicare Part D ads, for which I knew I wouldn't be booked because, despite my gray hair, I was never going to pass for 70 years old (thank God).
I felt so alone. I was so far away from the people and places I loved and Miami felt so dark and hostile. Save for a few visits with my friend and occasional casting partner, I didn't have anyone around me. Consulting had dried up as well. I received a call from my Baltimore client, who had offered me a job in their research lab only a few months earlier, saying the offer was off the table in the face of a downturn in their business and subsequent layoffs. I was running out of money and options, fast.
It was time to leave Miami behind and head back to Atlanta, but before my departure in mid-March, I booked one print job--the 2010 US Census. It shot at the end of February--a great ending--and I left a couple weeks later.
[The ad could have ended up anywhere in the country, but appeared in Atlanta Magazine in the fall of '09, much to my delight.]
In the many quiet moments I had during the summer of '08, I spent a lot of time with my Bible and a booklet of verses--a collection of promises; time for which I am very grateful. I needed to renew my mind--shift the gears from blaming God for my losses, to trust and gratitude. But I also read books that focused on teaching prosperity gospel, I wrote myself checks from The Bank of The Universe for massive amounts of money, and I continued exploring the realms of mysticism and quantum mechanics. So when the bank somewhere in the ethereal never materialized the huge checks I had written hoping to fatten my very tangible bank account, and when my dreams of success in business and modeling were beginning to crumble.....imagine what a huge letdown it was.
Here's what I've learned in the years since then: My faith was completely misdirected. God does not promise me or any other Christ follower ease, comfort, wealth, and never-ending health (we're all gonna die, and getting dead probably will involve disease for some). My faith was in my ability to manipulate God by invoking the Law of Attraction and claiming Bible verses out of context, distorting them to give me what I desired and leaving what God planned for me completely out of the equation. Can you see how this sets one up to become their own god, and in a very slick way? Yeah, remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11)?
Please, before you get all bent out of shape, let me say that I do believe God blesses some believers with the responsibility of wealth, and they are probably excellent stewards of it. I do believe that it very well could make their faith life more difficult, however, if one allows the self-sufficiency and self-reliance afforded by wealth to overcome dependence on God. Just look at Matthew 19 and the story of the rich young ruler. He had everything, but when Jesus told him what to do, he walked away because he couldn't part with his wealth. "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)
Parting with wealth is hard once you've grown accustomed to it. I know. I've been there, even though the money I had was probably pocket change compared to the affluent community around me.
Here's a short list of what we as believers are promised:
- We will have troubles, and we shouldn't be surprised by this. I Peter 4:12
- Troubles and pain have a purpose. I Peter 4:13 and James 1:2-3
- A promise that we are never alone, ever, no matter what. Hebrews 13:5
- And finally, not a promise, but the commandment, "Do not be afraid." That's in the Bible 366 times. Do you think it's because we're inherently fearful beings? And we have short memories?