Reconciling An Artist to His Creator
by Remy R.
I found myself surrounded by some forty-odd pairs of stoned and glassy eyes, staring at me and soaking in my every word. I was used to being in front of an audience, performing for people, but I could not have foreseen this: having a platform to speak to people about Jesus through performance. The idea had been ridiculous. But in this performance I was not playing a character in some arbitrary plot with lines to recite. I had to be myself and allow God to inspire the words that would come forth to confront my unexpectedly captive audience.
Shortly after that moment, I would marvel at how crazy my God is in getting me out into the middle of nowhere to use me, and to satisfy me in ways I would have never sought out. We had come to Northern India seeking out the subculture of young secular Israeli travelers who flock there, in order to reach them with the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. These locales, which have been growing in popularity for over two decades (the entirety of my life), have become amazingly fertile ground for presenting Jesus. The reason so many Israelis travel there is that India, unlike the travelers’ homeland, is large, inexpensive, lacking in as much political tension, and polytheistic—and so they are free to do whatever they want, even to consider Jesus as the Messiah.
The unexpected part is that I went to India to ask Israelis to try something new, namely Jesus; and I ended up being asked by God to try something new myself.
The result was that I found myself in a tiny smoke-filled room with dozens of Israelis, singing along with my best friend the songs of our heart, as Yeshua, their promised Messiah, was clearly exhibited in every story, in every story, in every song. And they soaked it all in. I couldn’t have planned that if I had wanted to. And I hadn’t.
As a second-generation Jewish believer in Jesus, so much of my life has been committed not to discovering Yeshua as my Messiah, but to what that truth means for my life. I have known for a very long time, and in a very personal way, that God is real, powerful and sovereign, and that he wants and deserves my love. I also knew that he had plans for me; that the talents he had given me meant something. I understood that God’s gifts to me not only presented opportunities but also a responsibility to serve him and his purposes.
It took me a long time though, to submit to God’s idea of what that would look like, an idea different from what I wanted. In all honesty, in the depths of my fleshly heart, I want to dictate why and how God uses me. Don’t we all? And so as a trained dancer, actor, self-taught painter, writer, indulgent and wannabe photographer, what did God ask of me? Which of these did he ask me to share? The answer was not on the list: music!
How infuriatingly and perfectly like God that is.
I was in school for an acting performance at Santa Monica College when one day in the shower I started to sing a little melody that came to me. I thought nothing of it, but once it formed itself into a legitimate chorus and verse with actual lyrics, I brought it to my best friend Sterling so he could try putting music to it. I called it “Rebel,” and it turned out to be the first of many songs that would begin pouring out of me from then on. I am not a musician, and I thought absolutely nothing of my songs. They were just a form of catharsis for me. Maybe I could get some fun out of performing them—maybe.
The summer following writing “Rebel,” I committed to participating in Jews for Jesus’ ten-week discipleship program in Israel and India called Massah. I had originally fought the idea of being a part of the program, deciding that it was not something I wanted to do. But God had his way in me, and I ended up participating. Throughout the seven weeks spent in Israel, God broke me down and called me into a much more intimate relationship with him. In the midst of twelve fellow young Jewish believers, I began to re-imagine my life and to consider what God might have to say about it. This turn-over of control from myself back to my Creator, sketched upon the backdrop of my first Israel experience, was heavy, overwhelming and ultimately life-changing. Compelled and inspired by the Israel I felt so at home amidst, I began asking God how I could be the artist I felt I had no choice in being, and be consequential in standing for Israel and the salvation of my Jewish people.
The songs continued to pour out of me, becoming the soundtrack of my struggle to let God be my source of satisfaction, constructed entirely with allusions to my strangely deep connection to my Jewish homeland. And I was not alone. The two closest friends to me who accompanied me on the Massah trip, Sterling Reed and Isaac Brickner, confided that they were encountering their own struggle to reconcile God’s will for their lives. We together made a pact to press into whatever that was—together.
By the time we arrived in India, I had mostly made peace with the fact that God would not be content with having parts of me, but wanted my complete service. I had begun praying that he would give something of myself back to me, something that I could do for him that I was uniquely made for. I had no idea of what that could be. But then, sitting in a tiny caf? hedged about by gigantic Himalayans peaks, a new Israeli friend asked us if she could hear the songs we had written. Hesitantly we agreed, encouraged by those who were with us, and late that night we sat on damp mats in a dark room to play for her.
I had never shown the songs to anyone outside of friends and family and was very unsure of how to speak about them to an unbeliever. I felt so unequipped to share with her about Jesus, but that is what I was there to do. And so I figuratively held my breath, and stepped off what felt like the deep unknown to me. As I sang, with each song I gained more boldness to share what it was about. And with every explanation that I gave, our Israeli friend grew in apparent interest. After about eight songs and several in-depth personal and gospel explanations, she abruptly interjected with, “Okay, so explain to me what it actually means to be Jewish and believe in Jesus. I want to know.” BAM! The Holy Spirit had prompted us and had prompted her, and the result was a fantastic time of witness. After a few hours of dialogue about Jesus and why she needed Him, my team retired to one of our rooms and excitedly talked about and prayed over the evening. This led to a series of shows in that same damp dark room with dozens and dozens of Israelis that wanted to hear and know.
Once I allowed God to use what I had in that moment, something very cool happened; God gave something of myself back to me, but for the purpose of bringing attention to him. It was so radically not of me, so organic and easy and blessed. After that first private concert, performing and explaining our songs of catharsis, after our friend was so moved by what we shared that she urged us to explain Jesus to her, I knew that even though I was not entitled to it, God had heard me—and answered.
Remy is a Jewish believer from San Diego. He has been an actor and producer and is currently working as a prep chef in a restaurant in San Francisco. He continues to be part of New Light Ruins and to be involved with Massah. Click here to support Remy through Jews for Jesus.