Caught Between Faith and Faithfulness
by Carla Laureano
From the time I was seven years old, I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Not just a pretend ballerina twirling in a pink costume, but a professional dancer at a major ballet company. The pursuit consumed me, even at a young age—I stretched splits while watching TV, read every ballet-themed book and magazine I could get my hands on, worked harder in class each day than the day before. Before long, I’d come to realize that my goals came with sacrifices. Time with friends took a back seat to classes, and other pursuits like Girl Scouts or cross country either conflicted with my schedule or were bad for my body. I was told by teachers that I had talent, but the physical part didn’t come as easily to me as it did to others. I had to work twice as hard to make the same amount of progress. I had to want it more.
And then disaster struck—I suffered a severe ankle injury at sixteen, just a year before I would have been looking for an apprenticeship with a professional ballet company. I had a decision to make: go through the painful process of regaining the ground I had lost for a slim chance at a career, or quit and let all the sacrifices of the last nine years go to waste?
Since I’m not currently dancing on the New York stage, you might guess which path I chose. I went to college instead, got my degree in English literature, and began pursuing another long-shot artistic career, that of a novelist. I threw myself into the pursuit of it as I had with dance. After nearly twenty years of following some artistic pursuit, I only knew how to do things one way—all in, working each day harder than the last. But this time the story was different. When I finally cleared the hurdle of getting an agent, I immediately contracted several books in a matter of months.
It wasn’t long before I discovered my kamikaze mentality was a bit of an anomaly. I found myself cautioned to pace myself, to not put so much pressure on myself to market my work, to just trust God. The first two I understood, but the third shook my whole perspective. Was the work ethic on which I prided myself really a lack of faith? In trying to make it in this business, was I taking matters into my own hands rather than leaving them in God’s?
In some instances, the answer was yes. We can all relate to the impulse to make things happen before their time out of sheer stubbornness and will. But I’ve come to believe that we are principally called to two things in our Christian walks: faith and faithfulness. Living in the tension between the two is what can be so tricky. I have had faith in all areas of my life, but particularly as an aspiring dancer and writer, that God would guide my path and put me where I needed to be. I had to be faithful to the talents and passion I’d been given, knowing that the outcome was not guaranteed. Having the two out of balance means failure. Without faith, I would have given up too soon, not learning the lessons God intended, even when the experiences ended in something other than I’d hoped. Without faithfulness, I wouldn’t have had the skills to accomplish what God had in mind. After all, one doesn’t say she is called to be a concert violinist but never pick up an instrument!
Looking back, the difference in the outcomes of the two things I’ve loved to do most in this life had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. I don’t regret the time I spent preparing for a career that never happened, because the real lessons weren’t the ones that took place in a dance studio. Those years taught me the value of hard work and sacrifice, how to push myself to the limits of the abilities I’ve been given and leave none wasted. To pursue excellence because God is excellent, and to love beauty because God is the author of beauty. But it also taught me there are limits to our own striving, and it takes faith to allow God to mold you and direct you toward an end result over which you may not have full control.
Now I pray I can live balanced between faith and faithfulness. I work hard because I’ve been given amazing opportunities that I don’t want to squander. But I trust the final outcome to a God who knew I belonged behind a pen and not on a stage, and I can move forward without any regrets.
Carla Laureano is the RITA® award-winning author of Five Days in Skye and London Tides as well as the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.
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