Once again I find myself wrestling with surrender. I have walked this way before.
Challenged to release my sense of timing into God’s hands, and trust him with my need to see my ‘life as I imagined’, take shape at the speed I want.
It appears to be an on-going process, always requiring another stretch of faith, another decision to extend my trust.
At age eleven, I went to a christian summer camp and was really desperate to find out what God wanted me to do with my life. Our small group leader told us that because God longs to give us the desires of our hearts, our best option would be to pray for a deep desire for whatever he had in store for us. So I did.
At thirteen, having taken part in various school and amateur stage productions, I realised that nothing made me happier than being part of a rehearsal and performance process, and that I never felt more alive than when acting or performing on stage. I kept praying about it, joyfully concluding that I wanted to be an actress, spending my professional life telling people’s stories, walking them out for others to be moved and inspired by.
I spent the next few years researching how to go about this.
Drama school was the obvious and best choice as far as I could tell, and so I learnt my classical and modern monologues, worked hard and auditioned at Guildhall and Central. Obstacle One – I didn’t get through the initial rounds at either college.
Utterly devastated and confused, I realised that I was facing an unplanned year out. That year I worked, spent too much money, partied too hard, but had to trust God’s timing and so, I re-applied, this time for six colleges.
Having visited Guildhall and Central the year before, I was convinced that Central was where I wanted to go. I did a lot of praying and worrying, but found that I was much more successful this time around. I leapt through the various rounds at RADA, Bristol Old Vic and Central School of Speech and Drama, finally being offered my dream place at Central. I was over the moon.
However, despite being utterly amazing, the experience of drama school was challenging to the extreme, exhausting and made me come face to face with who I really was – something which most of us spend our lives avoiding, and it cost me depression and a near nervous breakdown at the end of my first year.
Yet God used that time to grow me.
He showed me just how big his love and grace really are, and I came through the fog into a greater sense of freedom and clarity about who I was, and how God felt about me.
Subsequently I was more focussed and professional in my work.
An additional bonus from this experience, was the courage to take bigger risks creatively, and to be braver. Because when ‘God is for you, who can be against you?’ – you can’t really fall that far.
I thought that that would be it from there on in.
A steady climb of growth and success through college (this did happen), followed by a season at the National Theatre or Royal Shakespeare Company immediately following graduation, and then continued advancement until I was my version of Judi Dench- this, however, did not happen.
I did well in my final year, and in my professional showcase, but obstacle two, I wasn’t signed to any agency, and so my meteoric rise to respected stardom didn’t go the way I wanted. Which frankly, was disappointing.
I have worked as a professional actress on some really wonderful and exciting projects since leaving drama school – including three tours, a friend’s beautiful new musical, and being a founder member of a Christian devising theatre company, among other things – and I feel proud to have been able to work and earn in my chosen profession.
It has been throughout these past eight years since leaving drama school, that I have had to learn to trust God’s plan for my life and his timing the most.
It’s hard being an actress when you aren’t acting.
When people ask you about your profession, they then expect to have seen you in something on television. Whilst a perfectly plausible aspect of an acting career, it isn’t automatically the nature of being a working actor, at least not for most. Because unless you’ve had a big break of some kind, getting offered high profile work left, right and centre is rare, and even then may only be for a season.
Frustratingly, a massive chunk of my profession is out of work at any given time, and to be paid a reasonable living wage, working on a project which is intelligent and interesting, is something of a Russian roulette.
The interested question of “What have you been in?“ usually followed by an answer like
“A few small scale tours, several rehearsed readings, and a devised work-in-progress piece – which you most likely wont have seen”, can be quite deflating when those jobs were six months apart.
And even that was all nearly four years ago.
Especially if for whatever reason, God isn’t promoting you right now.
And doesn’t seem to be planning to any time soon.
At least, not in the way you would like.
Since getting married and having children, I’ve had to wrestle the desire to spend my days working on a play or film, something which despite several years of no acting work, has never left me, and I miss A LOT – with the genuine sense of joy at and commitment to being a full time Mum, educating my children and, what I see as an even deeper sense of calling – to build God’s kingdom at a grassroots level in my family.
So we are back at ‘Surrender’.
It’s not about giving up the desires you desperately want and dream of, but trusting that the one who gave all your talents and drives to you
A) has no intention of diddling you out of them, but actually knows better and has a bigger purpose for you to fulfill, and
B) will give them back to you at the right time. When it will bring Him glory and will best bless you.
But if you aren’t sure of the goodness and character of this God who apparently loves you, it can be a very painful place to be.
If you don’t know that
‘[He] works all things for the good, for those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
then you can feel as though you have been dumped at the armpit of the universe, and frankly, need to start ‘making it happen’ for yourself.
I have been here. It is not pretty. And I have wasted a lot of energy and effort (and in some cases money) banging on doors that wouldn’t, and were never intended to open for me.
BUT what God has been teaching me, is that his kingdom and the way it works, is COMPLETELY CRAZY IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD!
It is upside down.
‘Then Jesus said to His disciples,
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?…” ‘
God’s idea of promoting us, is not the same as ours.
His values are (until we start to become more like him) not like ours.
So we need to catch His vision for our lives, rather than trying to make him bless and fulfil our own. We are his.
God has lately been promoting me in the areas of marriage and motherhood. We have two children and I’m currently pregnant with our third. This is where he wants me right now.
So I have the choice to fight Him, and try to be and do everything I long to now - making sacrifices and working away from home, which would not currently be right for our family -
Or I can choose to be truly present in this moment, in this season. To trust that my longing to act in the mainstream business and to work with Judi Dench, will be fulfilled (possibly not in the way I imagine), at a time in the future when it will be for His glory and my greatest joy.
But even if it doesn’t happen, I trust that God will have changed my heart in such a way, that I will not have missed out, or felt as though I had. However this goes – He is still God. He is good.
So I surrender, confident of his love for me, and ask to catch His vision for my part in the building of his kingdom.
For now, I will be content with being a full time Mum, educator to my children, and joyful woman – singing and finding creative expression at home and at church.
It means answering the questions about ‘what I do’, with a smile and lack of self-justification, because, my identity isn’t wrapped up in being an actress, or even as a wife and mother, though it’s how I tick and is still a part of me.
But my identity is found in Jesus, as a child of God, and whilst seasons will come and go - this will never change.
I am learning to live as though my life is not my own, which is not always easy.
Sometimes I cry and rail at God. Other times I feel at peace.
But I am not in charge.
And I wouldn’t have it another way.