It was Christian Music Night at the old ballgame. Sound checks and last minute rushing around. Near the sound booth stood a suntanned scruffy rocker wearing a skinny orange t-shirt. He paged through sheets of scribbled handwritten notes marked liberally with yellow highlighter. As he quietly mouthed the words of his speech I noticed something new since I’d last seen him- he had braces. Months earlier he had been the lead singer of one of the top Christian bands in the country.
He was used to singing before thousands, but speaking was different. He proceeded to a small make-shift stage at the side of the ballpark about 5:00 and gave his speech to a group of about 40 antsy kids who were waiting for him to quit talking so they could enjoy the bands they had paid to see.
This recently divorced Christian superstar had lost the one thing that had made him famous as well as the love of his life. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. As far as I could tell he was washed up-and just a few years older than me. It struck me deeply as I wondered how he must feel. How would he spend the rest of his life now that his group disbanded? Would he be able to find himself- who he really was- apart from his band?”
I think it’s safe to say that most young people dream of fame this star had by age 21; a band signed with a national label and adoring fans. Many pre-teen/teen television shows feed that want. Sing+ dance + act= the perfect formula for teen fame. Time and again former teen stars have met personal struggles once they left the well-oiled Disney (or Nickelodeon) machine.
As much as the ideal of fame is sold, has-beens often struggle with substance abuse or other unhealthy habits to cope with the pain.
How great a loss must one feel when a star has had thousands of fans wearing his photo on their t-shirts, and now those shirts are going to Goodwill.
Who Am I?
For so many of us our job is our identity, whether that is a high-profile position or simply steady income. The American Counseling Association says this about job loss:
In many ways, losing a job is similar to the sense of loss one experiences when a loved one dies or an important relationship ends. There’s often a shock and then denial that this is happening to you.
What follows is often anger, anger that can be damaging if it leaves you bitter and easily irritated, affecting your relationships with friends and family. Or you may try, unrealistically, to get back that job that no longer exists, and you can easily experience depression and sadness as you question your worth and abilities.
Accepting that such emotional reactions are likely and often necessary in order for you to move on, can enable you to get through them more quickly and less painfully. When you couple that acceptance with an effort to continue living a normal life, it makes moving on much easier.
Back in Biblical times it wasn’t much different. If you wanted all the fame, popularity, and riches the king was the person to be. King Saul was the first superstar of Israel. He instantly had a One Direction-like mob of fans who he shyly tried to avoid. Once he got the fame bug he could not shake it. He loved winning battles but when he noticed he was not the only one being praised he developed a jealous hatred for the competition – David. The women were divided in their loyalty dancing and singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul knew that David was God’s chosen person in line for his throne. Like a pathetic aging sports star who won’t accept retirement, Saul kept hanging on. He made David’s life miserable and eventually took his own life.
Perhaps the Apostle Paul is the best Biblical model we have of someone who transitioned well from a place of great social status to at times being held in prison. His calling to follow Christ made all the difference. He was able to find contentment without fame because he had peace in his heart that he was doing the right thing.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Today I would say that former lead singer of Audio Adrenaline, Mark Stuart, would probably agree with Paul’s sentiments. The band carries on. Mark is executive director of the Hands and Feet Project doing missions work in Haiti instead of being on the road with a band. He and his new wife have also adopted two children from Haiti.
A calling and a sense of contentment makes all the difference.
How have you recovered from a time of career transition? Struggling with job/identity? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment below.