I am an actor and comedian, BUT I used to be a pastor. Yup, people paid me to go to church. If you go to church and noone is paying you, I fear you may be doing it wrong. Ha! But seriously, I don't go anymore. It's not a rule, we just don't. I don't NOT believe, because I do. I still believe. I don't NOT have people that I love and respect and trust that still attend church and serve in churches, because I do. However, church has become a place of anxiety for me. It became a place where I felt the pressure to perform. Since I am a performer, I would prefer to reserve that *serene sense of suffocating stress for when I am receiving a check or wad of cash (*mercenary melodrama intended).
All of this to say, my soul has been thirsting for depth. My spring and summer and September were full up busy with being funny, filming, and fatherhood and as I started into the fall I was feeling spent already. Facebook warned me of an upcoming men's retreat meant for faith and re-focussing and I said yes. I was a little nervous about the aforementioned performance pressure along with maybe not knowing people, but I took the risk and was pleasantly surprised by the quality collection of dudes, the fun we had, and the all around special time it was.
Here are some reflections:
(Note: if you believe something different than me, I still wholeheartedly believe we can be friends and learn from each other... cool?)
It is my job to produce content. I write jokes and stories and put together show lineups etc. for the consumption and entertainment and/or inspiration of an audience. I do this for you. I also produce content to prove that I am marketable and that I am funny and have something meaningful to share and that you will want to pay me to share it. I am producing content right now! PAY ME!!!
BUT, sometimes, I don't want to produce CONTENT. Sometimes, I just want to be... wait for it... CONTENT (aka satisfied).
How did the English language fail so bad? These are 2 very different words, yet recognizing their intricate connectivity to my world blew my mind this past weekend and HENCEFORTH I take sole credit for justifying their identical spelling.
David's song in Psalm 131, a passage we memorized while away, highlights contentment.
My heart is not proud, Lord - Nope. I am pretty proud.
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me - Nope. I am continually dreaming of being on the biggest stages and interviewing with Ellen and being in the movies with George and convincing Donald that he should love all the people. I live in a dream world. It drives me sometimes, but more often my delusions distract me and keep me unsettled.
I have calmed and quieted myself - We were given ample opportunities to be quiet and reflect and listen for the voice of God on the retreat. Sounds way out there, I know. In the silence I was awed (not odd, though that is also true) and was reminded that God does speak, though not always audibly (not oddibly - k. that was dumb). The wind spoke to the power of God and the ocean and sky to the vastness of my Creator. A seal popped his head up and I was reminded that I wasn't alone. All that goodness took me like 15 minutes. We had 4 hours. So, I took a photo and a video and posted on Instagram (ahem... @cliffprang) because I have a problem, AND I took a really great nap, which I am 100% ok with. I am trying to condition myself to be still, but its hard. Now that I am home, I am wrestling to establish a disciplined quiet space, BUT today I rocked it and was inspired for the rest of the day. Maybe tomorrow will be good too.
I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child, I am content - What?! I have 3 kids and I don't know them to not be asking for stuff. We feed them and they are still hungry. We do fun things and they want to do something else more fun. They are incessant. Annoyingly Incessant. And if we are talking weaning, we are talking about boobs, and who do you know that doesn't love... I digress, but go ahead and ask my wife. I AM ANNOYINGLY INCESSANT.
Put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore - I am flogging myself a bit in this post, but I am just trying to be honest about my default settings. I lean to wanting. I lean to distraction and unrest. I lean to anxiety. If I am quiet and I breath and I lean towards trusting God, I remember that I am good and that I have more than I need and somewhere in the silence I am given more to share. It's in there, I just need to quiet myself enough and trust that it will come up and out.
"When you stop to open your mind, there is room for creative thought to flow. But when you are obligated to produce, you force creativity to yield to your finite understanding and to your frenzied control." Me, I said this. (See, I am not proud... ugh.)
Creativity comes when we make space and I believe the most valuable Content will flow from our Contentment. So the big question is...
"Do we want to produce content or do we want to be content?"
Beyond creativity, being still and content moves us to recognizing and enjoying the presence of God. The above scene is my wife, Sharalee, enjoying unforced creativity in the morning sun. My youngest couldn't help but cuddle in. Like a weaned child, just happy to be present with his mom. Ironically, I told my kids to leave me alone so I could finish this post. I got a ways to go.