Fame without Fortune Part 3: Awakened.
It’s funny how the Lord works. In retrospect, it’s obvious what he was doing, but at the time, of course, I didn’t understand it at all. For the past 3 years, I literally had not even touched a camera. I didn’t even want to watch movies any more. I had completely disassociated from the film business by choice, like a self-imposed exile from a land I didn’t want to live in any more. Not only was I disgusted with myself, I was disgusted by what the film business had become. Maybe I was just starting to see it for what it really was. Regardless, my disdain was real.
Before this time away started, I was so over myself and the mess that I had in front of me that I had prayed on my knees for the Lord to take the desire for filmmaking away from me, so that I could make a new start. I prayed that he would let me make a clean break, but even though I told everyone, including myself, I was done for good, I had left it open for the Lord to work his will. I told the Lord that I would only go back if He told me to, and that He was going to have to re-ignite my flame, because I was done. I told Him if I felt that fire re-ignite, I would know that it was Him alone. But, of course, when that fire was re-ignited, I questioned it for weeks.
I had admitted my guilt and shame to Him, and asked him to forgive me for making such a mess of my life and corrupting it and so many people around me with the very skills He had blessed me with. Of course, when I was young I started out with good intentions, but as soon as I saw the easy opportunities that the world offered me, I told the Lord, “I’ll be right back,” and never came back.
After praying that prayer, though, the Lord quite literally reached into me and disabled the filmmaking circuit. I literally woke up one morning and had zero desire for it any more, and I wasn’t even sad about it. I knew that He had answered my prayer, and I was happy to move on.
I walked away and shut my business down in the fall of 2011. It was now 2014, and my summer employment was into its third season, pulling orders of electrical conduit and spools of wire, loading them onto my delivery van every morning at 6am and driving my delivery route until early afternoon. I was beginning to hate my existence at my job. I would drive and drive and drive, listen to the radio, drop off orders, and drive some more. You can only take just so much of talk radio, so I spent a lot of hours just staring out the windshield, listening to nothing, just thinking about life as I drove through the endless miles of green Indiana countryside, one stop to the next.
One day, I left my regular and routinely largest and longest-distance delivery to a construction site and headed up the 2 lane highway to make my 90 minute return trip to the warehouse. I would always stop along the way and take my lunch break in my van. Since my day started at 6am, lunch was pretty much toward the end of my work day. Amber always packed me a lunch in a cooler, and I would sit and just eat and get lost in my thoughts. Today, though, those thoughts were conflicted and chaotic in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about returning to filmmaking.
“Lord,” I said aloud, “I’m not sure I understand this. I’m nearing the end of this journey towards a degree, can’t find a job to save my life, and now I’m feeling that I’m supposed to return to film? Surely this isn’t your idea. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I’m sure it’s not the first time He’s chuckled at me, telling Him with all of my wisdom what does and doesn’t make sense in the universe He spoke into existence. My thoughts raced through my mind all the way back. How can this be? I really thought I was done with film forever, but I can’t stop thinking about how much I want to pick up a camera again.
A few days later, the next piece fell into place. My wife, Amber, had started a photography business about a year prior, and was quickly growing her client base to include high school senior portrait sessions. Sitting in our shared office one afternoon, she was lamenting needing promotional content for her website and social media accounts.
“What you need is video,” I said, not believing my own ears when I heard it come out of my mouth.
“So…do you know anyone who could do that for me?” Amber and I had one of those moments, just looking at each other, each knowing what the other was thinking.
I paused for a moment. “I don’t have a camera any more. Besides, I’m retired!”
She wasn’t buying it any more than I was.
“Mine shoots video! Look!” She pulled it out and started flipping through the menus. Sure enough, her Canon 7D would not only shoot video, it would shoot beautiful video. I had never picked up a DSLR to shoot video before. I was used to large format video and cinema cameras. The DSLR filmmaking craze had happened while I was away, so it was as foreign to me as anything. We played around with it for a bit, then I found myself on Youtube, watching endless instructionals on the best cameras and techniques for DSLR cinematography.
A few days later, the end of my delivery run took me past one of my usual pit stops. It was late July. In Indiana, that means it’s just stinking hot, and humid. The best part about being a driver had been that I only had to deal with the non-air conditioned warehouse for the first hour and a half of my day, loading my freight when it was still relatively cool. The rest of my day I had a van, radio and air conditioning all to myself. My first summer there two years prior, I had been stuck in the warehouse all summer, pulling orders all day. By early afternoon it would be over 100 degrees in there. There’s no other way to say it. It sucked. My air-conditioned van was just my speed.
Today, my heart was heavy. I had been thinking all night and all day about how I wanted so badly to start shooting again. I had to take it to the Lord, though. I had to be sure it was of Him, and not just me getting distracted and impatient.
I had carried so much anger and resentment around with me for so long that it had eaten away at the very fabric of my soul. For years, it had affected everything I did, everything I wrote, every decision I made. Although I had tried to forgive Neil Labute for what he had done to me and the others involved, the truth was I was still carrying a lot of rage. The list of people in my not-too-distant past life that had stolen from me, lied to me, betrayed me and even threatened my life over deals gone bad was extensive. But I had matched that extensive list with my extensive anger. I had carried so much baggage with me that it had made it impossible to move on.
I’d had enough of my own thoughts and reasoning, so I took it to the Lord. Right there, in that van, on my lunch break, I broke down. And not just a little, I sobbed. And in the back of that delivery van I prayed on my knees. I begged Him to forgive me for all of my anger and asked Him to help me let those things go and truly forgive those people. That’s when the Lord started reminding me of just how much I had been forgiven, and that He had forgiven me for all of it, even though I didn’t deserve any His grace. It was time to truly forgive as I had been forgiven.
Yes, I was stolen from, lied to, lied about, cheated on, betrayed and threatened, but when I thought about it, I was guilty of all of the same things in one form or another. I had just done a masterful job of disguising and denying it all of my life, but all I was doing was spray painting over the rot and rust. The decay was still there, I had just refused to deal with it. So, I gave it all over to Him and then made my plea.
I never wanted to go back to what I had walked away from, but I knew in my heart that driving deliveries of wire and conduit was not my calling. I also knew in my heart that, even though I had given it my all for over 3 years now, engineering was just not my gift, and it was not my calling, either. Could I do it? Sure. I had gotten quite good at doing the math, even pulling my semester GPA to over 3.5 on a regular basis, which is not insignificant at Purdue engineering school, especially when you’re a full-time student and a full-time husband and dad, but I never really got excited about engineering. I kept waiting for engineering to become my passion, that thing that I dreamed about as if it were second nature, but it never became that. It was always just something that I could force myself to do with competence, but it never really excited me. I never got giddy over engineering. I only ever did the calculations because I had to. It just wasn’t my thing. When you’re a twenty something and say something like that, people often attribute it to youthful wistfulness. When you’re nearing 40 and you say it, you know it to be true. I don’t want to waste my time. There was no point in arguing with myself or others over it.
And so, on my knees in the back of that dirty delivery van, I prayed aloud, “Lord, if this is your will, that I return to film, then I will go. I don’t understand it, I thought I was done with it, but I cannot deny that I hear your voice. I will only do this if it is pleasing to you, and if I ever produce even a single frame of content that is dishonoring to you, I ask that you remove me from this once and for all. I cannot and will not dishonor you with the very gifts and skills you have given me. I have nothing left of what I once had. I have no equipment, I have no clients, I have no capital, but I trust that You own the cattle on a thousand hills, and you can bless a man with a willing heart with what he needs to serve you.”
And with that, I knew that the next chapter had been opened. “I feel like Jonah being sent back to Nineveh,” I thought to myself as I drove my truck back to the warehouse, “but at least I know you are with me, Lord. I will not be afraid.” I couldn’t wait to get home and talk to my first client about her project: My wife, Amber and her photography business. I knew it was what I needed, because after 3+ years away, I wasn’t sure how much of it would come right back to me or how rusty I would be. I needed a project that had somewhat low expectations and gave me the time and freedom to get my bearings again.
I was going to be starting completely over, once again, to rebuild on a foundation that I had long ago covered over with sand. But, I had never felt so creatively free. No longer did I feel hampered by all of the expectations I had put on myself from all of my baggage of a career of being that Mark Archer. I was working for the Lord now, no matter what, and I knew He had a plan. Eventually, the question came: would I ever shoot a movie or series again? “Surely not! That’s too much of a hornet’s nest. I’ll take it nice and easy. Pick up my corporate work again and slowly rebuild.”
Famous last words.