by Anne M.
Fresh out of college, Merita had come to New York
to make her mark in the ruthless business of stage and screen
Success would not come easy. Many hours of
auditions and casting calls lay ahead. She had everything it took-talent, looks
and a determined faith in Christ to help her succeed against all odds. But it
would be hard work. She faced grueling hours of standing in casting-call lines,
waiting for her three minutes in the limelight.
Already the endless hours of practicing,
exercising and sharpening the dance routines had worn down her body and her
spirit. And each rejection piled on more anxiety and frustration.
But, as a committed Christian, Merita's faith in
God gave her the strength to persevere. She refused to abandon her destiny-her
calling to serve Christ using the stage talents God had given her.
KNOWING WHAT IT TAKES
Merita had worked two summer internships in
Jonah's office. She had seen firsthand the hopes and aspirations of newcomers
like herself. She'd also glimpsed the heartbreak and the dashed dreams of those
who didn't make it.
Merita recognized the darkness lurking behind the
glitz and glamour of the costumes, the singing and the dancing. Beyond the
floodlights after the curtain falls, drugs, alcohol and sex are too often the
currency of the trade. Merita was well aware of the pitfalls.
But the more she studied God's Word and immersed
herself in the teachings of a supportive church, the stronger she became in her
faith and her commitment to share Christ and bring light in the midst of
THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME
Merita had been fortunate to locate a studio
apartment in the home of an older Christian woman, a longtime family friend.
Merita found comfort and solace in the wise counsel and encouragement she
received from this motherly landlord. Merita grew in her faith and gained
insight into her most important on- and off-stage role.
Merita believed that God wanted her to be on
mission-consciously serving as a living example of His love to people who
probably would never read a Bible or go to church. She might be their first
introduction to Christ.
Merita finally landed a role in an off, off
Broadway production, receiving modest acclaim. Her outstanding performance and
singing received notice in the trade papers. But, following six months of
exhausting rehearsals, the show closed after only nine performances.
It was a blow for everyone in the production. But
at the cast party Merita found herself looking around at the others and
reflecting on the times she'd spent with her fellow cast members. Many of their
conversations and other exchanges had been intimate and meaningful. She'd
gained valuable professional experience and formed friendships that extended
beyond the world of her church and fellow Christians. She also knew that, by
being open about her faith, she'd made an impact on these performers and the
entertainment culture they populated.
There was Jazzy, a homosexual dancer, who
introduced Merita to his lover. During rehearsals Jazzy and Merita had spent
hours talking about life, her faith and their individual dreams for the future.
They came to know and like one another as co-workers and friends.
Jazzy told her he was struck by the fact that, as
a Christian, Merita could love him without condemnation even while she
encouraged him to abandon his gay lifestyle. Merita managed to confront Jazzy
with how much Christ loves him and how He wants Jazzy to live, but she did it
in a caring, non-condemning manner. She showed respect for Jazzy as a person
and as a fellow performer.
Some in the cast hadn't really warmed to Merita or
her message. For example, there was Nikki, who walked the streets in the
daylight from audition to audition and walked the streets at night from car to
car. In one conversation Nikki disparaged the waitress tips Merita earned that
barely paid for her lodging. But, after six months of watching her and
observing how she lived her life, at the cast party Nikki
finally gave Merita a farewell wave and said, "You go, girl. It looks like you
might do this thing after all."
As she hugged Tico, Merita appreciated his
baritone voice as he whispered his goodbye. In their embrace, however, she also
felt the leanness of his frame and knew that crack cocaine was taking its toll
on his once robust physique.
Merita had shared Christ with Tico weeks earlier.
He'd made an initial commitment to Jesus, and he desperately wanted to change,
to break free from drugs. He knew that life in the fast lane behind the scenes
of performing had come at a terrible cost. So Merita spent time encouraging
Tico in his tentative walk as a new believer. Her transparency in sharing her
own story of recovery through surrender to Christ gave Tico hope that he, too,
could overcome his addiction.
During the next several months, Merita spent many
hours waiting for call-backs while she worked at odd jobs. She was almost to
the point of giving up from discouragement when she arrived home one day to
find that her agent had called. He'd scheduled her for two auditions, one for
"The Lion King" and one for "Aida." He said he thought her voice was just what
the casting directors wanted.
When Merita finished the auditions, she was
overjoyed to receive call-backs for both musicals. She felt God had heard and
answered her prayers. This was her time!
Today, Merita is living her dream and singing in
one of the hottest shows on Broadway, touching lives and influencing the
culture right where God wants to use her-on the "Great White Way" in the Big
Anne M. McGee is a writer living in
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