Is it possible to re-invent yourself as an artist? Can you change tracks midstream? Can God open or close doors to force us in a new direction? I think for me to answer that, I have to look closely at the doors that have opened and closed in my own life. I have to look at my own journey through a different lens. One that isn?t based on success or failure, but one that is based in love and mercy. As you read my story, I hope that it will give you the courage to look at your own. Look at it, not as a designer that is used to looking for imperfections and airbrushing them out, but as a creation of the One that never needs to Undo or Ctrl-Alt-Z.
When I was in 6th grade, I remember my parents sitting me down on the couch and informing me that I would be starting a new school in 7th grade. There?s probably not much worse you can tell a hormonal preteen. I?m sure they told the news to me with more gentleness and grace, but all I heard was, ?We?re ripping you out of your comfort zone, forcing you to make new friends, because we don?t really care about you or what you want.? Like I said, that?s what I heard.
As the days loomed ever closer to starting that new school and journey, I remember them telling me I had a chance to reinvent myself. I had a chance to develop new friendships. Create a new reputation. I was starting with a clean slate. Take advantage of that opportunity.
Maybe it was all just a flowery way to spin what was happening to me. My parents knew I had begun running with a crowd they didn?t approve of. My mouth was getting me into trouble more and more. This might have been their last ditch solution as I spun more and more out of control. And even though they knew it would be painful, they did what loving parents do. They made the tough decision and propelled my young life in a different direction.
Fast forward to 2004. I was a youth pastor and had been for the past 8 years, 6 of those with a church I loved dearly. I had just voted for the next President of the United States. My wife and I were out for a walk with our 18-month-old son. And that?s when I got the phone call that would forever change my life. My pastor called me to ask me to meet with him first thing the next morning. I knew something was happening and I was 99% sure I knew what it was.
The next morning, my fears were confirmed. The indiscretion I had been trying to hide since 2000 had come to light. My worst failing as a man and husband and new father was now about to be shown to the world. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. Just like that, my ministry was over. My job was gone. Everything that had been comfortable and secure was now anything but.[quote]Just like that, my ministry was over. My job was gone.[/quote]
I still remember sitting with my wife and asking her, ?What am I going to do now?? I had no other skills. I knew how to speak to teens. I knew how to write funny skits. I knew how to devise messy games that attracted hundreds of kids. With all that gone, what else did I know? How was I going to support my family?
So I began talking to those I trusted. They encouraged me to look into media. I had played with Photoshop before. Mostly to put my head on someone else?s body. So I started going to Borders, taking a laptop with me, and grabbing a Photoshop magazine off the rack. Going through tutorials. Learning what things did. Faking it till I could make it.
A year later, a church in Florida took a chance on someone with literally no experience. They?d never had a designer on staff before. I had never been a designer before. It was a good fit. What I didn?t expect to find there was redemption and restoration. The ability to face my past and find forgiveness for myself. What I was being given was the opportunity to re-invent myself. The same opportunity that my parents gave me many years earlier.
But this time, it wasn?t my parents making the painful, loving decision to alter my journey. God, with a love more fierce than any parent, allowed the consequences of my actions to propel my life in a new direction. I?ll never know if it was a better direction or a worse direction. It doesn?t really matter. What matters is that even in the hardest and darkest times, God never left me alone. Romans 8:31-39 came alive for me. ?With God on my side how could we lose?? ?The One who died for us?is in the presence of God this very moment sticking up for us.? ?I?m absolutely convinced that nothing?can get between us and God?s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.?
I?ve journeyed from youth pastor, to unemployed, to inexperienced designer, to Travel Channel designer, to Art Director. Can you re-invent yourself as an artist? You can. In some instances, you might be forced to. You might be left like I was, wondering, ?What am I going to do now?? That?s when you lean in. That?s when you cry and struggle. But that?s also when you find that God has never left you. That?s when you find the door that you never tried before. Knock. See what lies beyond. Let God surprise you.