Farewell, My Dream of Being a Star
By Zhang Fan, United States
Almighty God says: “As one of the creatures, man must keep his own position, and behave conscientiously. Dutifully guard that which is entrusted to you by the Creator. Do not act out of line, or do things beyond your range of ability or which are loathsome to God. Do not try to be great, or become a superman, or above others, nor seek to become God. This is how people should not desire to be. Seeking to become great or a superman is absurd. Seeking to become God is even more disgraceful; it is disgusting, and despicable. What is commendable, and what the creatures should hold to more than anything else, is to become a true creature; this is the only goal that all people should pursue” (“God Himself, the Unique I” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this passage of God’s words is really moving for me. It makes me think of some experiences I’ve had.
I loved the performing arts since I was little and really admired celebrities and movie stars. I was so impressed by the way they got up on stage for everyone to adore and admire. Even before finishing middle school I signed up for a theatrical school, and three years later I was an actor. In every performance, it was really gratifying for me to see all those people in the audience, all focused on us when we performed. After believing in God I did my duty as an actor, playing a few roles in movies filmed by the church. I was really happy when the brothers and sisters said I was a pretty good actor, and I thought, “If I could be the lead in a movie, they would all see me, and I’m sure they’d look up to me. That would be wonderful!”
When the church was preparing to film another movie at a later date, a brother told me to audition for a part. I figured that since I was already an actor and had some experience, I’d definitely get the part. Afterward, I waited happily for the leader to notify me to go take part in the filming. For those few days, I could imagine that scene of everyone looking admiringly at me. This thought made me so happy. But a few days later the leader told me I hadn’t passed the audition and that I should go join the gospel team, because they were short of hands. I was stunned and felt very resistant, wondering, “How could they not have chosen me? I’ve played major roles before, and the others all said I did a good job. Why didn’t they choose me? Did they make a mistake? I can’t stand out or show off in gospel work. There’s no glory in it like being an actor.” The more I thought about it, the more resistant I felt, and I just couldn’t accept that outcome. But I thought about how sharing the gospel is God’s will, that it’s a responsibility I should take on. I had to have a conscience and reason, I had to submit, so I reluctantly agreed. Even though I was sharing the gospel, I always thought about how the brothers and sisters had admired me when I was acting, and especially when I saw the others I’d acted with in a movie, I was really envious. I thought, “It would be so great if I could be on acting duty again. Then I’d be just like them, getting to act in movies all the time. The brothers and sisters who know me would see me and look up to me. Why didn’t they choose me?” The more I dwelled on it, the more I suffered. I wasn’t taking responsibility in my duty, and I wasn’t focused on equipping myself with truths for gospel work. When someone seeking and investigating God’s work of the last days asked a question, I didn’t know what truths to fellowship on to resolve it. I gradually came to feel more and more distant from God, and when reading God’s words, I lacked the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment. I couldn’t feel God’s presence when I prayed, either, and my mind was constantly in a whirl. In my suffering, I reached out to God in prayer, saying, “Oh God, I’m really in pain now. I just want to do my duty as an actor, to show what I can do, and I can’t submit to what You’ve arranged. Please guide me to know myself and understand Your will.”
I read these two passages of God’s words after my prayer: “What is true submission? Whenever God does something that goes your way, and you feel that everything is satisfactory and proper, and you have been allowed to stand out, you feel this is quite glorious, and you say ‘thank God’ and can submit to His orchestration and arrangements. However, whenever you are assigned to an unremarkable place where you are never able to stand out, and in which no one ever acknowledges you, then you stop feeling happy and find it difficult to submit. … Submitting while conditions are favorable is usually easy. If you can also submit in adverse circumstances—those in which things do not go your way and your feelings get hurt, that make you weak, that make you suffer physically and take a blow to your reputation, that cannot satisfy your vanity and pride, and that make you suffer psychologically—then you truly have stature” (God’s Fellowship). “As soon as it touches upon position, face, or reputation, everyone’s heart leaps in anticipation, and each of you always wants to stand out, be famous, and be recognized. Everyone is unwilling to yield, always instead wishing to contend—even though contending is embarrassing and not allowed in God’s house. However, without contention, you still are not content. When you see someone stand out, you feel jealous, hatred, and that it is unfair. ‘Why can’t I stand out? Why is it always that person who gets to stand out, and it’s never my turn?’ You then feel some resentment. You try to repress it, but you cannot. You pray to God and feel better for a while, but then as soon as you encounter this sort of situation again, you cannot overcome it. Does this not display an immature stature? Is not a person’s falling into such states a trap? These are the shackles of Satan’s corrupt nature that bind humans” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After reading God’s words, I realized that I wasn’t able to submit to God’s arrangements because my desire for name and status was too strong and I always wanted to be famous. When the church arranged for me to be an actor, I could be on camera and show off, so I happily accepted that and obeyed. But now that I was asked to spread the gospel, the thought of not being able to stand out or show off in my duty and that no matter how much I did no one would see it, made me resistant and unable to submit. Although I appeared to be sharing the gospel, my head was full of thoughts of my glorious days as an actor, and whenever I thought about how I couldn’t do that anymore, I felt upset and wronged. I was going through the motions in my gospel duty, being negative and slacking off, and not achieving anything. I was well aware that spreading the gospel was God’s eager wish, and whether I was acting or sharing the gospel, it was all bearing witness to God’s work in different ways. I wasn’t well-suited to that acting part, so the leader arranged for me to do gospel work. That was my duty, too, so I should accept it and put my heart into doing it well. But I wasn’t considerate of God’s will. I wanted my own personal choice in my duty, and only considered whether I could show off and have others look up to me. I only thought about satisfying my own ambitions and desires. I was doing my duty in name, but in reality, I was pursuing my own reputation and status without an iota of submission to God. Wasn’t that resisting God and trying to cheat Him? How could that not arouse disgust and hatred in God?
After that, I prayed to God and found a path of practice in His words. This is what the words of God say: “If you wish to be devoted in everything you do to meet God’s will, you cannot merely perform one duty; you must accept any commission God bestows upon you. Whether or not it corresponds to your tastes and falls within your interests, or is something you do not enjoy or have never done before, or is something difficult, you still should accept it and submit. Not only must you accept it, but you must proactively cooperate, and learn about it and attain entry. Even if you suffer and have not been able to stand out and shine, you must still commit your devotion. You must regard it as your duty to fulfill; not as personal business, but as your duty. How should people understand their duties? It is when the Creator—God—gives someone a task to do, and at that point, that person’s duty arises. The tasks God gives to you, the commissions God gives to you—these are your duties. When you pursue them as your goals, and you truly have a God-loving heart, can you still refuse God’s commission? You should not refuse. You should accept it, right? This is the path of practice” (“Only by Being an Honest Person Can One Be Truly Happy” in Records of Christ’s Talks). I saw from God’s words that a duty is God’s commission for someone, that it’s a responsibility that can’t be shirked. Whether we like it or not, whether we can show off or not, we should accept it and submit, and put our all into it. I couldn’t treat my duty as my own enterprise to appease my wild desire to stand out. I had to put the interests of God’s house and my responsibilities first, stand in the place of a created being and submit to God’s arrangements. After that, I diligently equipped myself with principles of the truth for gospel work, and prayed to God when I encountered difficulties. I went to brothers and sisters in seeking and fellowship when I didn’t understand something. Before I knew it, my state had improved, and in my duty I saw God’s guidance and blessings. I started seeing results. After going through this, I felt that I could practice a bit of truth, that I could stop wanting to be an actor and to stand out. I also felt that I’d begun to be obedient to God. But then something else happened, and my desire for name and status reared its head again.
One day, the leader told me they needed me for a music video part. I was so happy to hear this, and I thought, “If I’m chosen for a leading part this time, then lots of brothers and sisters will see me when we’re done filming and it goes online. How glorious! What a chance to show off! This kind of chance is hard to come by. I have to do my best.” The more I thought about it, the happier I felt, and I joyfully headed over to the shoot. To my surprise, however, the shot I was in was only a few seconds of the entire film, and my part was a religious co-worker who reports on a sister sharing the gospel of the last days. I was crushed. With me playing a role like that, on screen for just a few seconds and looking so fierce, I wondered what the brothers and sisters would think of me when they saw it. I complained to a couple of brothers during the filming, “Why are they making us play such unsavory roles? …” I hadn’t even finished speaking when one of them said, “Sister, all kinds of parts are needed for this music video. There’s the lead role, and there have to be supporting roles. People are chosen for whatever role suits them, and we have to submit. Besides, the fact that we get to be actors and do our part for the gospel work of God’s house is an elevation for us, no matter what kind of role we play!” My face started burning when I heard him say that. We were doing the exact same duty, but he was the one with the right attitude. Why couldn’t I just submit to it? But I still felt somewhat resistant, thinking, “You’ve never been actors before, so you’re happy to play any part, but I’m different. I was an actor in a troupe before and I always had good roles, and I’ve played major roles in God’s house, but now I have to be this fierce, awful character. It’s so humiliating!” Everyone was really excited when the music video was uploaded, but I just couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm. Seeing myself playing that awful role upset me in a way I couldn’t describe. What would the people I knew think of me after I’d played that kind of part? I was aware that I was in the wrong state, so I prayed to God, “Oh God! I’ve been upset and in pain all because I had to play a supporting role, a villain, and I haven’t been able to submit. Please guide me to know myself and submit to Your orchestrations and arrangements.”
I read these words of God after praying: “A corrupt satanic disposition is very deeply rooted in people; it becomes their life. What exactly do people seek and wish to gain? Under the driving force of a corrupt satanic disposition, what are people’s ideals, hopes, ambitions, and life goals and directions? Do they not run contrary to positive things? Firstly, people always want to have renown or be celebrities; they wish to gain great fame and prestige, and to bring honor to their ancestors. Are these positive things? These are not at all in line with positive things; moreover, they run counter to the law of God’s having dominion over the fate of mankind. Why would I say that? What kind of person does God want? Does He want a person of greatness, a celebrity, a noble person, or a world-shaking person? (No.) So, then, what kind of person does God want? He wants a person with their feet firmly on the ground who seeks to be a qualified creature of God, who can fulfill the duty of a creature, and who can keep to a human’s place. … What then does a corrupt satanic disposition bring to people? (Opposition to God.) What comes of people opposing God? (Pain.) Pain? It is destruction! Pain isn’t the half of it. What you see right before your eyes is pain, negativity, and weakness, and it is resistance and grievances—what outcome will these things bring? Annihilation! This is no small matter and it is no game” (“Only Seeking the Truth and Relying on God Can Resolve a Corrupt Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After reading this, I reflected on why I always wanted to have a leading part. It was because I could get others to admire and adore me by playing a main part, just like those unbeliever stars who have an entourage everywhere they go, and their every move is followed and copied. I thought that was the only glorious, worthwhile way to live, while playing a small part, a supporting role, was a disgrace. I couldn’t become famous or show off. That’s why I was suffering and couldn’t submit to the environment arranged by God. Through reflection, I realized that the reason behind that pursuit of mine was mainly because I’d been impacted by satanic poisons like “One should bring honor to his ancestors,” “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” and “A man leaves a legacy behind him as a goose leaves the echo of its cry.” I took these as positive pursuits, and I felt that I should try to stand out and be admired, thinking that was having ambition and ideals. Especially when I saw those stars on stage being adulated by all those people, I felt that must be so wonderful, and I was really envious. I yearned to be just like them. That’s why I wanted to be an actor, to be a star ever since I was little, and I signed up for a theatrical school even before finishing middle school. I got up early and went to bed late so I could practice my skills and learn the trade. When I was on stage being loudly applauded by the audience, I just ate it up, feeling like any suffering was worth it. After becoming a believer, I still just couldn’t help but pursue name and status. Once I had a duty as an actor I longed to get a leading role and act in some good movies so that more people would recognize me and think highly of me. In this last music video, the director had me play a fierce, villainous part because it was what was needed. I felt it would damage my image and give people a bad impression, so I just couldn’t submit to it, and I surreptitiously aired my grievances. I was so arrogant, and my desire for name and status was so strong! God requires that we become qualified created beings, that we’re grounded in our pursuit of the truth and do our duty well as His creatures to cast off our satanic dispositions and live out a true human likeness. But I didn’t pursue the truth. I always wanted to be the lead, to be a star, to have others adore me. I wanted to have everyone crowding around me and bask in the glory of playing a major role. My pursuit was the polar opposite of what God requires. It was against the will of Heaven. It was just like those celebrities who love being followed around and imitated by others, who want to be seen as a god or a goddess, to be idolized. The path they’re on is evil. God is the Creator—mankind should worship God and see Him as great. This is an unalterable principle. But even as a believer, I wasn’t worshiping God or doing my duty in the place of a created being. I was just like an unbeliever, always hoping to become famous so people would adore me and follow me. Hadn’t I been trying to stand in God’s position, to take His place in people’s hearts? Hadn’t I been an enemy to God? That’s something that seriously offends God’s disposition, and I knew that if I didn’t repent, I’d definitely suffer God’s righteous punishment! At that point I finally realized how wicked and frightening my constant pursuit to stand out and be a star really was. I also saw that my setbacks, not getting any lead roles, not achieving my ambitions and desires, was all God’s great protection for me. I was so moved once I understood this, and I said this prayer to God, “Oh God! I don’t want to resist You and rebel against You anymore, and I don’t care about being a star anymore or about getting others to adore me. I just want to submit to Your orchestrations and arrangements, to be grounded in my pursuit of the truth, and do my duty well as a created being.”
I then read this passage of God’s words: “As one of the creatures, man must keep his own position, and behave conscientiously. Dutifully guard that which is entrusted to you by the Creator. Do not act out of line, or do things beyond your range of ability or which are loathsome to God. Do not try to be great, or become a superman, or above others, nor seek to become God. This is how people should not desire to be. Seeking to become great or a superman is absurd. Seeking to become God is even more disgraceful; it is disgusting, and despicable. What is commendable, and what the creatures should hold to more than anything else, is to become a true creature; this is the only goal that all people should pursue” (“God Himself, the Unique I” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words pointed out a path of practice for me. It was to keep my feet on the ground and do my duty well, and no matter what commission God gave me, I should accept it and submit, and do my utmost to complete it. The church films music videos to bear witness to God, and whether I’m playing a hero or a villain, a lead role or a supporting role, it’s what the house of God needs. Brothers and sisters arrange appropriate roles based on each actor’s appearance and demeanor. It’s all done with God’s permission, so I should submit and do my best in any given role. God doesn’t care if I’m in a lead role or a supporting role, or how likable my character is. What He cares about is whether I submit to Him in my heart, and whether I’m doing the duty of a created being. I felt like I had a weight lifted off of me when I understood this.
I participated in a few more films after that, and I played an extra every time. At times I was upset because my desire for name and status wasn’t being fulfilled, but I consciously prayed to God and forsook my incorrect motives, and I was able to submit and throw myself into my part. I stopped single-mindedly seeking to stand out and become a star, and instead did my duty with my feet firmly on the ground. All of this was achieved through the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, and I give thanks to God for saving me.