“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.” Isaiah 60:1-2 NIV
As I write this, I’m leaving the most amazing, weirdest week of my life. Like most life-changing events, I feel a million different emotions. A million different thoughts fill my head because I learned something at SHINE that I didn’t expect to learn.
For those of you who don’t know, SHINE is a bi-annual conference with 70 to 100 talent agencies, casting directors, and managers (called VIPs) from across the country. Actors, models, singers and dancers train with AMTC for this event where they are showcased in front of the VIPs through different events. Throughout the week, different VIPs give extremely informative seminars about entering and navigating the industry, and on the last day, performers participate in flash interviews and callbacks. All in the hopes of changing the entertainment industry by shining for Jesus.
As I prepared and fundraised for this opportunity, I had different people, people who didn’t even know the name of the event, tell me I was going to shine. I took it as confirmation that in every event I would perform outstandingly, that everyone would see my talent and just fall in love with me. A little melodramatic maybe, but that’s just me. Despite my coaches’ encouraging yet realistic talks about the hard work and time it takes to get into the industry, I think some subconscious part of me really believed this was my “big break.”
I arrived for the two day Pre-SHINE rehearsals and completely nailed all my practices. Seriously though. I’m a strong believer of knowing and accepting what you’re good at and knowing and accepting when you don’t do so well at something. And I did well those first two days. It was fun, it was practice, and it was pressure free.
Then the first official day came. I didn’t even have a showcase that day, but I could already feel a shift in my focus. So that morning I asked the Lord to, at some point during the day, just speak to me clearly. I wanted to feel His presence.
It happened at lunch. I ended up eating lunch alone that day, a design by my Father, I’m sure after I asked Him to speak to me. Sometimes He needs to isolate us so that we’ll finally come to Him and listen.
I asked Him where He wanted me to read in His word. Philippians popped in my head, so I turned to the first chapter, but I promise you the AC kept flipping to the next page where chapter two began. So I started there. From the very first verse, talking about being like-minded and having one purpose, I knew this passage was important for all Christian performers. Then verses three and four convicted me.
“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” NIV
The entertainment industry is extremely competitive, and so many people only look out for self. When we walk around with a competitive spirit and a competitive mindset, we turn nasty. Competition cannot exist with what Paul just wrote in those two chapters. In fact, he literally says the exact opposite of what competition is. Not that we can’t work to be the best us, to be better than we were yesterday, to compete with ourselves. But I never want to look at God’s precious daughter sitting next to me in an audition and be more concerned with being “better” than her instead of asking the Lord to show me how to speak to her in that moment. That’s not what shining is about.
So Paul continues, giving the perfect example of non-competition – Jesus. Obviously. He says that even though Jesus actually was God, he didn’t even consider Himself to be equal to God when He was on earth as a human. He lowered himself, as a man, as a servant, and by “becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (verse eight). Jesus, who has more right than anybody to parade Himself around in perfection, gave Himself to one of the most humiliating, painful types of death.
Then, in verse nine, Paul points out that because Jesus did that, His Father “exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”
Jesus made Himself low, and His Father made His name the most powerful name on the earth. Hmm that sounds like a biblical principle heard elsewhere in Scripture (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6). And it sounds completely contrary to everything the entertainment industry and the world say.
The next section continues with the word “therefore” meaning everything that Paul has said before that word leads up to this next, very important point.
“12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 4 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Okay, I know that’s a lot of bolded words, but please, read them all. This passage of Scripture is brilliant. He gives us exact instructions on how to shine. Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit. Obey the Lord. Work out our salvation. Do not grumble or argue. Consider others better (And this is not a “I’m worthless, and you’re so much cooler than me” attitude. It’s more of a “I’m here to serve and help you because I love you like God loves you” attitude). Do all this, and then shine like a star. Like I said, brilliant. Yet I still didn’t quite get it all the way.
The week continued, and I didn’t do as well as I wanted or knew I could do. I was disappointed in myself and discouraged by the lack of confidence that came the moment SHINE officially began, and I now saw my events as competition instead of something fun and exciting. It became all about me. I wasn’t shining onstage, and I was frustrated.
The night before callbacks I started freaking out a little so I asked the Lord what to read. Psalm 37. Ok. I turned there and stopped at verses 5 and 6.
“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.”
There was that shine word again, but it wasn’t my talent that would shine. Nor my destiny, my presence, or my calling. It wasn’t really anything of mine that was going to shine because my righteousness isn’t really mine. It’s Jesus’. And that righteousness would SHINE by allowing Him to guide my every step.
I want to bed still trying to understand the weight of what I just read.
Fast forward to the next evening, after the flash interviews and callbacks, to the awards banquet. Based on the events I was in, I was eligible for Best Overall Adult Female Actor and Best Overall Adult Lifestyle Model. I didn’t win either. I didn’t even place second or third.
But I did win one award. An award that each Hub city voted for within their own group. An award that I truly didn’t think I would get at all because I didn’t think that many people knew who I was.
I won the Dallas Hub’s Prayer Warrior Award. My own peers voted for me. And when they announced my name, people cheered for me. Not just the polite, expected clap, but a cheer of people who loved and supported me. I honestly didn’t even think that that many people saw me. Of course that probably has something to do with the confidence stuff I know the Lord will be working on with me.
And when I received that award, I realized what SHINE really means. This was what God had been teaching my head all week, and now He brought me to a situation that taught my heart.
I didn’t do amazingly well in my performances because it’s still about me at this point in my heart.
I won the Prayer Warrior Award and people cheered for me because it wasn’t me. I wasn’t doing it for me. I saw people hurting, fearful, struggling, and I wanted to help. I want to set the captives free, and I want to be used to help heal hearts. It was all about the Lord and His love for His people.
Shining isn’t about shining onstage, whatever your onstage may be. It’s about shining offstage, in every moment of your day.
And that’s not to say that I’m not going to continue becoming the amazing actress that I know I was created to be. I’m going to work hard and be excellent and act in movies that change hearts and lives across the nation.
But I don’t want that spotlight to be my goal anymore. I want a spotlight of a different caliber. A heavenly and everlasting spotlight. That’s the spotlight in which I want to SHINE.