It’s just a story. But sometimes, our stories are all we have.
I went to hear a band play once at the Troubadour, a popular L.A. music venue. A friend of mine, Lynn, was the band’s P.R. manager and had invited me. What I knew of the band members: they were all married, had just been signed to a major record label and toured relentlessly. It wasn’t uncommon for them to spend ten months of the year on the road.
When I arrived, I greeted Lynn, who was standing in the lobby with the band’s bass player. I said hello and introduced myself. He shook my hand, though he never saw my face. He was too busy checking out the women in the audience. I noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.
Lynn and I went upstairs to the lounge and grabbed food from the buffet line. I mentioned the bass player and how distracted he seemed. She told me that 3 of the 4 band members had divorced in the past year. (I later learned the fourth had thrown in the towel on his marriage, as well.) “They’re never home,” she said. “It’s hard.”
That night, the club was packed. The record executives sat in attendance. Those four men lived out their rock star fantasies: bright lights, huge applause and adoring fans. The sacrifice was made worth it.
It’s just a story. But sometimes, they’re all we have.
Several years ago, I watched the Disney movie, “The Rookie.” Dennis Quaid plays Jimmy Morris, the real-life high school baseball coach who tried out for the major leagues at age 40. As with most Disney films, it was well done and did its best to tug at the emotional heartstrings. I enjoyed it, and even got a small lump in my throat at the end. It would have been hard not to—a story about a man overcoming impossible odds, defying the skeptics and fulfilling a dream. Disney has built an empire on plots such as those.
Included in the special features was a documentary on the making of “The Rookie,” so I watched it. The filmmakers interviewed the real-life Jimmy Morris. Two observations stood out to me: 1) The real-life Jimmy Morris wasn’t nearly as good looking as Dennis Quaid, and 2) The real-life Jimmy Morris wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. It made me wonder.
I researched the real-life Jimmy Morris. It took some digging (I’m sure Disney didn’t want the news to leak), but I learned his wife had divorced him sometime later. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the separation, but I’m inclined to believe it was because his primary focus became making the big leagues, and he no longer had time for his family.
I surrounded myself with musicians and performers for many years. For those trying to succeed in the entertainment industry, there’s one constant truth: It takes so much to make it—so much work, luck, self promotion, tireless networking and pavement pounding. Every waking minute can easily be spent in that pursuit. There is often no room left for other desires, or other loves.
At the time, I believed God would give me the complete package: success, money, a Christian witness, a devoted wife and family. I chased a music and film career with everything I had, thinking the rest would follow. However, my desires began to change. The desire for fame lessened; the desire for marriage and a family grew. When I saw the band play that night, I had already seen too many relationships crumble. I had seen too many Christian artists abandon the faith because God didn’t bless them with the success they craved.
I realized: One’s passion cannot be divided. A man cannot give equally to two great loves.
Last week, I went to visit my friend Andrew. He is married with two kids. He and his wife are both school teachers, though his wife has taken the past two years off to raise the children. When I arrived, Andrew was sitting at the piano with his two-year-old son, Daniel, playing a game. Andrew would lift the piano top slowly, saying, Ooooppppeeeeennnn! Daniel would reach up, put his hands on the top and, together, he and Andrew would shut it, saying, Cllllooooossssseeee! Each time, the boy squealed with laughter.
Andrew left to cook dinner, leaving me in charge of Daniel and the game. If I suggested a new game, Daniel protested. If I played consecutive notes on the piano, he would reach for the top, saying, Cllllooooossssseeee! We spent the next hour playing the Open & Close game.
Andrew and I talked later that night. He said, “We can’t afford to buy a house. We may never be able to. But we wanted to spend time with our kids. That was more important.”
It’s interesting how we change over time. Ten years ago, I most respected the musicians and actors who overcame the odds and made successful careers for themselves. Now, I respect the men I know who dote over their children and love their wives.
However, there’s a flipside to this: In the past, I grew jealous of those performers who had made it. I wanted their lives. These days, I’m surrounded by married couples and their families. I want that life for myself. I’m not jealous of my friends—it would be foolish to be so—but I can’t say it doesn’t sting at times.