An Actor’s Transformation
By Dong Wei, South Korea
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).
In May 2016, I was doing acting duty in the church. I was so honored to be able to do my part for the church’s films to help spread God’s words and bear witness to His work so that those who long for God’s appearance can hear His voice and be saved. When I got the lead part in a short film that I auditioned for, I was so happy. It was my first leading role. I knew that if I did a good job, the others would look up to me. Determined to play the part well, I knuckled down and got to work. When I struggled with a line, I’d have an experienced actor say it, then imitate them. When my movements were off, I’d have someone else demonstrate, then practice over and over. Sometimes I’d even pull an all-nighter without feeling tired. I worked hard at it, then some brothers and sisters told me after the preview, “You weren’t bad at all in that film.” That really fed my vanity. I almost felt like I was famous, like I’d become a star. But to my surprise, the director said that it had to be refilmed for various reasons. My heart sank. “Refilmed? Now I’m an extra in another gospel movie. If the short film’s script is edited and the schedules conflict, will I be able to play the main part again?” But then I thought that since everyone said I did a good job, I should be the only one fit for the part. A few days later I heard the script had been revised, but no one asked me to go film. I was on tenterhooks. I checked my phone for messages the moment I opened my eyes every morning, hoping that someone had messaged me to go on set. But I was also afraid of getting a message saying they had a different lead. Every time I got a message I felt really stressed, afraid I’d lose the leading role. I couldn’t focus on anything I was doing over those few days, and I couldn’t keep my mind on the film I was in at the time. I just couldn’t wait, and I didn’t care about how the gospel movie was progressing. I contacted the short film’s crew manager, saying I could make time for it. But a few days later, he told me that they’d gotten Sister Zhao to take the lead role so the filming of the gospel movie wouldn’t be held up. I felt really wronged. I’d put so much energy into that film, paid such a price for it. Why had it been torn from me when the revised script was right before my eyes? I just couldn’t resign myself to it. I hid in the bathroom and cried. An ugly thought suddenly came to mind: “It would be great if Sister Zhao couldn’t do the part, then I’d have a chance….” I knew I shouldn’t think like that, but I couldn’t help it. My heart was in torment. The refilming was done in no time, and everyone said it was better this time around. The leader also said it seemed real and natural, that it had God’s guidance, and wanted us all to learn from it. I couldn’t help but grumble to myself, thinking, “Why did their filming go off without a hitch, but mine had so many ups and downs? Why didn’t they coordinate schedules so I could be in it?” I was jealous and disgruntled with Sister Zhao. I didn’t want to see her. I felt she’d robbed me of my glory. I was so tormented by name and status, it was suffocating. I was in a really dark, painful place. I prayed to God every day, asking for His guidance so I could come out from that state.
I read a passage of God’s words in my devotionals one day that touched my heart immediately. God’s words say, “[A]s 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. … If you want to turn this sort of state around, and not be controlled by these things, then you must first set them aside and give them up. Otherwise, the more you struggle, the more darkness will surround you, and the more jealousy and hatred you will feel, and your desire to obtain will only grow stronger. The stronger your desire to obtain, the less capable you will be to do so, and as you obtain less, your hatred will increase. As your hatred increases, you will grow darker inside. The darker you are inside, the more poorly you will perform your duty; the more poorly you perform your duty, the less useful you will be. This is an interlinked, vicious cycle. You cannot perform your duty well in such a state, so, gradually, you will be eliminated” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words revealed exactly the state I was in. I’d wanted to make a name for myself and be a star ever since taking on acting duty. Once I got the lead role in that short film, I just wanted to become well-known, so I never complained no matter how hard things got. When I found out it was to be refilmed, I became afraid I’d lose my part, and lived in a state of doubt and anxiety. My heart wasn’t in my duty anymore. When I lost my chance at that part and my dream of being famous was dashed, I just couldn’t accept it, and I blamed both God and man. I was jealous of my replacement and evil thoughts arose in me. I hoped she wouldn’t be able to do it so I could play the main part again. Everyone was happy when the refilming was a success, but I just brooded over it and became even more jealous and resentful. I wasn’t doing my duty to be mindful of God’s will and testify to God, but only to show my face and be well known. I was even willing to hold up filming so I could take that lead role. I didn’t have any reverence for God. Until I’d thought through God’s words, I didn’t realize how selfish, despicable, and malicious I’d been, just for name and gain. I was totally lacking humanity, and this disgusted God. If I didn’t repent, I knew I’d be rejected and eliminated by God.
Later, I read these words from God: “The emotions of mankind are selfish and belong to the world of darkness. They do not exist for the sake of the will, much less for the plan of God, and so man and God can never be spoken of in the same breath. God is forever supreme and ever honorable, while man is forever base, forever worthless. This is because God is forever making sacrifices and devoting Himself to mankind; man, however, forever takes and strives only for himself. God is forever taking pains for mankind’s survival, yet man never contributes anything for the sake of the light or for righteousness. Even if man makes an effort for a time, it is so weak that it cannot withstand a single blow, for the effort of man is always for his own sake and not for others. Man is always selfish, while God is forever selfless. God is the source of all that is just, good, and beautiful, while man is he who succeeds to and makes manifest all ugliness and evil. God will never alter His substance of righteousness and beauty, yet man is perfectly capable, at any time and in any situation, of betraying righteousness and straying far from God” (“It Is Very Important to Understand God’s Disposition” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading these words from God upset me a lot. I saw how selfish and despicable I was by nature. My joys and sorrows were only ever for myself. I was dying for the filming to go awry only because I couldn’t be the star in it. I hoped it wouldn’t be screened. Even when a leader asked us to learn from it, I wouldn’t give it a second glance. God’s heart rejoices when the church releases a good movie because the truths fellowshiped in every movie can resolve the problems and notions of truth-seekers, people investigating the true way. They can bring light to those living in darkness. This is a positive thing. God delights in positive things. I couldn’t share in God’s delight, but hated what delighted Him. I was unhappy with what brought happiness to God. Wasn’t I going against God? Did I even count as a believer? Clearly I was a nonbeliever, a devil hiding out in God’s house! I hated that I was so despicable, and said this prayer: “Oh God, I was wrong. I was willing to delay the work of Your house for my own name and status. I’m so rebellious. I want to repent, to stop trying to show off and make a name for myself. I want to submit to Your arrangements and do my duty well.” I later read some of God’s words that addressed my state and understood that our duty is a responsibility we have. It’s not for showing off or to satisfy our own wild ambitions, but it’s to know our own place and work hard to satisfy God. Whether the church gives me a role as the lead or as an extra, I have to give my all to it, to do my small part to spread God’s work of the last days. Realizing all of this was really freeing for me. I tried out for a few more lead roles in films and didn’t get any of them, but I handled it in the right way, and played my part well.
I was chosen for another lead part in a film before too long. I was really moved and quietly resolved to set my motives right and do my duty to satisfy God. Once the script was in my hands, I set myself to analyzing the character and memorizing my lines. Then brothers and sisters had me try on costumes and model them. Seeing everyone crowding around me, I felt like I was up on a pedestal. I thought, “Being the lead is really something special. If I do well at this part, more people will recognize me and look up to me.” At that thought, I suddenly realized that I was starting to go after name and status again, so I quickly prayed to God to forsake myself. But since I hadn’t fully understood the essence of the problem, I still couldn’t help but fantasize about being a star. At the same time, I felt really worried. I’d hardly been the lead before, so my acting skills were lacking. I didn’t know what I’d do if I were replaced for doing a bad job. No one would want me to act in films after that. I had to apply myself to learning the trade skills so I could do a great job in my role. I couldn’t lose that chance. I started going online every day to look for materials and films I could learn from, working hard to gain more knowledge so I could be a decent lead as quickly as possible. I put in a lot of effort, but after we’d filmed a few scenes I saw that I was so far off my character in the movie. The way I expressed myself was never on point. The director said I had a blank look on my face, I blinked too much, and my expressions were off. Hearing this made me nervous right away. I realized I had a long way to go, and if I didn’t remedy things right away, I’d definitely be replaced. I redoubled my efforts at practicing, but the harder I tried, the more problems appeared. I did every scene really slowly. When I saw the others’ expectant looks and heard the director’s sighs, I felt like there was a great weight pressing down on me so I could hardly breathe. One day the director said to me, “Look, Sister Liu really fits this character. Observe her and try to pick up on it.” I thought, “I’m done for. I bet the director thinks she’s better for this role. If I don’t improve, he’ll probably have her take my place. I just can’t lose this part. If I fail, everyone will know I’m no good at acting, then how will I ever get another lead role? I’ll only be an extra and I’ll never get my day in the limelight.” I felt more and more like I was facing a crisis and I couldn’t help but start putting on a pretense for the director. I didn’t take a midday break, instead reading acting reference materials and studying the script where I knew the director would see me. I kept a close eye on him, and when he seemed happy, I could breathe easy. When I couldn’t read him, I started to wonder if he was about to replace me. I didn’t dare say I couldn’t tap into the feeling of the character, afraid he’d get rid of me if he knew the truth. I was growing farther and farther from God and my spirit was descending into darkness. I just steeled myself and carried on.
Once, before we left to shoot a scene at the train station, the director explained the scene to me for ages, and had me act it out. I kind of understood the scene, but I hadn’t grasped the feelings of the character. Afraid the director would think I couldn’t do it, I just pretended to understand. When it came time to film, I just couldn’t muster up the right feeling. After two and a half hours we still hadn’t finished a few simple scenes. There was another time when we were going to film in a park, and time was really tight. I thought I must get through the scene quickly, but the more I wanted to do a good job, the more nervous I got. I couldn’t get into the scene. We filmed from midday until we lost our light without a single good take. Everyone was disappointed, but powerless. Seeing I wasn’t in the right state, the director shared fellowship with me, but I came up with some concrete excuses to dodge it, afraid of losing the role if I told the truth. Over those few days, I felt miserable and guilty whenever I thought about how I’d severely delayed filming. I was constantly telling myself to set my motives straight, do my duty well and stop pursuing name and status. But I just couldn’t do it. I was obsessed with how to play the part well enough to keep it. Even my dreams were about nothing but filming. I was in a constant state of high anxiety and my insomnia was getting worse. Brothers and sisters were asking me, “Why have you seemed so different lately? You always look so unhappy.” I was afraid they’d look down on me if I told them the truth, so I didn’t open up to anyone.
I was stuck in this whirlpool of wanting name and status. I just couldn’t escape it. I was praying to God multiple times a day, asking Him to lead me out from this state. In gatherings, brothers and sisters fellowshiped on their rewarding experiences, but I just sat there saying nothing, at a loss for words. A sister asked me one time, “You must have quite a bit of experience from all the programs you’ve been in. Can you share some?” I panicked. I didn’t know what to say. I had to reflect on myself at that point. What had I gained from doing acting duty all that time? Why did I feel like I’d come out empty-handed? I’d only been focused on name and status, utterly wasting all those chances to experience God’s work. Why was I so unfeeling? That was when I started to hate myself for not having pursued the truth. I came before God to pray and repent.
I later found some of God’s words dissecting the pursuit of name and status to think over. I read this in God’s words: “Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). As I thought this through, I understood that Satan was using fame and gain to keep me firmly under control. I’d been influenced and educated by Satan since I was little. “Stand out above the rest,” “A man leaves a legacy behind him as a goose leaves the echo of its cry,” and “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face.” Satan’s poisons and philosophies like these had controlled my thoughts and actions, so I couldn’t help but pursue name and status. I thought life was only worth living with others’ regard, and those people who became stars, admired by so many people, were really living a worthwhile life. When I took on acting duty in God’s house, I started feeding my dream of being a star, of becoming famous someday. I put everything I had into each chance to show my face, happy to suffer and exhaust myself to any degree. In that lead role, my desire to make a name for myself surfaced again. Not wanting to lose that chance, I didn’t ask about things I didn’t understand and I didn’t open up when I was in a bad state. I put my energy into putting up a front, I gauged my surroundings, and kept tabs on everything. I was afraid of others seeing I couldn’t do it and taking the main part away. I’d rather hold up our progress time and time again than let go of my desires, open up in fellowship, or seek the truth. I didn’t consider the work of God’s house at all as I tried to win name and gain. I didn’t consider my duty or responsibilities. I was so selfish and vile. I wasn’t doing my duty. I was clearly doing evil! What did all that hard work for fame, gain and status get me in the end? I just became more selfish, despicable, deceitful, stubborn, and devoid of dignity. I realized that fame and gain are a net laid out by Satan that I had gotten myself totally tangled up in. When there was no fame or gain in it for me, I racked my brains to get some, and when there was, I did everything I could to cling to it. For fame and gain, I lost my integrity, my conscience and reason, and my baseline for being a decent person. I rebelled against God over and over, and there was nothing in my heart but suffering. I realized that Satan uses fame and gain to swallow people whole, to corrupt them, and pursuing these things can only make us more evil, corrupt, and distant from God. If I kept on my misguided path, not only would I be living in pain, but I’d ultimately perish for opposing God. I kneeled before God in prayer when I realized all of this: “Oh God, I don’t want to hide who I am anymore. Even if my brothers and sisters learn the truth about my underhanded tricks and take the leading role away from me, I have to practice the truth and repent to You.” I opened up about my corruption in the next gathering. I felt so much more relaxed and at ease. No one looked down on me at all, but fellowshiped with me on God’s will. I was so moved.
Later on, I read these words from God: “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). Through God’s words, I understood that God’s will is for me to be a created being up to His standard. Instead, I’d gone completely against God’s will, just wanting to become a famous actor. I wanted to be a star, to be idolized, worshiped and adored. That pursuit of mine was just like Satan vying over status with God. I had seriously offended His disposition and was on a path to destruction. I’m nothing but a deeply corrupted created being, totally unworthy of others’ high regard. I knew I should take my rightful place as a created being and do my duty well to satisfy God. There was still a lot of room for improvement in my acting, but I resolved not to put my effort into name, gain and status anymore. I would strive for improvement and keep myself grounded in my duty. I corrected my motives when filming and stopped thinking about whether I’d become well known. I became able to calmly consider the character, and then I got a sense for the character in no time. Filming went a lot faster. Doing my duty that way set me at ease, too. The others said that my whole demeanor had changed. I wasn’t so distracted, and my skills had also improved. I thanked God for this over and over.
My greatest gain from this experience was understanding that doing a duty in God’s house is not a personal matter. It’s not for one’s own interests, but is to spread God’s words and bear witness. This is the responsibility of every created being. I was shortsighted before, and I didn’t understand the truth. I followed worldly trends, pursuing fame, and was toyed with and tormented by Satan till I was hardly human. I also damaged the work of God’s house. The judgment and chastisement of God’s words turned me back from my wrong pursuit, saved me from Satan’s sabotage, and set me back on the right path. Now I’m firmly in my place as a created being, doing my duty well. I feel so at peace. This was God’s salvation and love. Thanks be to Almighty God!