06 Jun How to maintain your faith while on the road
Anna McGarahan is in musical theatre and has been on several tours. Here she gives some honest advice about what helped (and what didn’t!) while she was away.
Working in the media can be a lonely business, particularly when we find ourselves away from home for prolonged periods of time. On these book tours, film trips, events etc, how do we maintain, if not, grow our faith?
What is it like being on the road when you are away from your church and your Christian friends?
It’s really hard! You know that God has put you there for a reason and you trust that he will use you but it is difficult to feel like you are making a difference and it is really hard to give out when you are not being filled up yourself.
So how did you overcome these difficulties?
I learnt from previous tours, where things didn’t go so well, that getting time alone with you and God is really important. This is much easier said than done – touring inevitably means that you are perpetually in each other’s pockets and I often wouldn’t even have my own room – but on my most recent tour I made a concerted effort to carve out some moments alone. When time and location permitted, this might take the form of a short walk, but it could equally mean sneaking away to a bathroom or deserted corner back stage.
If you can, get to a church. I’d been away for about 3 months and hadn’t been to church that entire time and was literally at my wits end when I found myself with a free Sunday afternoon. I asked a Christian friend from the area to recommend a church and went along by myself which was exactly what I needed. I even met a girl in the toilet who was working with Christian actors and our conversation massively encouraged both of us!
When you could find time alone, what did you do?
I’d try and read my bible and/ or a devotional book and I’d try and pray. I’m not very good at speaking prayers or articulating my thoughts (ironic really considering my profession – I’m much better at just saying what I’m told to!) so I did a lot of journaling where I’d write down how I felt (generally just a list of words) and then I would pray. Gradually my words would get a bit more godly as I’d write down words, pictures and verses that seemed to be weighing on my heart. I also spent time praying into particular situations – a fairly common occurrence was praying for patience when one of the cast was annoying me!
If I could sneak away for long enough, I found listening to worship music while walking around a shopping centre really helpful.
Did you stay in touch with your Christian friends while you were away?
It’s hard to live out your full potential when you don’t have that accountability with other Christian friends but just coz they’re not with you in person, it doesn’t mean they can’t be helping you while you’re away. One of my church friends was a complete lifesaver while I was on tour. I’d try and email her every two or three weeks and it would be a bit like a diary with specific prayer points. It was great to know that there was someone else looking out for me and praying for me. She would email me back with her thoughts and requests which was I think is really important as it’s easy to get locked in a tour microcosm and become a bit self absorbed. I always find that praying for other people is a great way of drawing me closer to God too.
Were you able to openly speak with your cast about God?
I didn’t really have any specific open ‘God chats’ but they all knew I was a Christian and I tried hard (mainly by asking God’s help!) to be distinctive in the way I acted while on tour – not drinking too much, trying to be patient after a long days rehearsal, not gossiping with the rest of the cast etc…
This was something I had quite struggled with on an earlier tour where I didn’t have the accountability of a Christian friend praying and supporting me.
Likewise, some people in our industry are often very self-absorbed so again, this was something that I really tried to move away from and by God’s grace, sometimes people would notice this difference.
There were a few girls in my dressing room who were going through difficult times and I was blessed with opportunities to offer helpful advice – not necessarily speaking explicitly from the bible or about God but just speaking truth and comfort to them. Some of the wisdom prevalent in those conversations surprised both them and me as it was clearly way more God than me!
How did you prepare for your time away?
Before I left for tour, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my Christian friends, reading the bible with them and praying (not always specifically about tour but closer to the time, I would sometimes ask for help with specific things that I knew would be a struggle while I was away).
On an earlier tour, I hadn’t spent much time in church (due to work commitments etc) and there was a noticeable difference so I would really recommend getting properly filled up before you go away.
I think the most important thing is to know that you are covered in prayer so make sure that your Christian friends/ family and your church are kept up to date with what you’re going through.