This month’s contributor, NazToo’s Serra Barrett, is a writer, actor, director, and teaching artist in the Central Ohio area. She lives in Mount Vernon with her husband Jeremy and three beautiful children. She is currently working on earning her Master’s in Theatre. Serra is an amateur foodie and loves to experiment in the kitchen. She also believes that coffee is life. Her house is usually a mess because she is busy doing homework or making dinner.
As I have been pondering what to share with all of Naztoo these last few weeks, I have thought a lot about what I should say! When a writer is given the prompt: “write about whatever you want,” it is both a blessing and a curse. I tossed many ideas around and quickly discarded most. But I think I have settled on something you haven’t heard before, but that will feel familiar to you. It’s my story.
This is a paper I recently wrote as part of my Master’s studies at Regent University. I was asked what my worldview is, and that question took me back through my life to explore the events that have formed me; the experiences that have broken me and remade me again. I left the citations because I am, at heart, part English teacher so forgive me if they are distracting. Thanks for reading.
I remember the first time I became aware that I had my own worldview. I was in high school, at an international youth retreat with my church. It was the first night of Nazarene Youth Conference, 1999 and I was there with thousands of other Nazarene high school students from around the globe. It was an electric night, with the best worship band I’d ever heard, and a speaker who held the attention of every person in that stadium. But by the end of his talk, I found myself searching my heart over the challenge he had laid before us: “What is your worldview? How does following Christ shape how you see the world and those around you?” I had never before considered how or why I viewed things the way that I did. I was always striving to live a Christian life and love others, but I was less than aware of where my perceptions came from, or how they had been shaped. This realization led me on a journey that I am still on today, nearly twenty years later.
As I began to explore my worldview for the first time as a high school senior, I considered my roots: both of my parents had been raised in parsonages and moved around their whole lives. Because of that, we moved into a house when I was three and there we stayed for twenty-five years. The stability of my parents’ relationship and the knowledge of the multi-generational Christian heritage I came from were probably the two biggest influences on my worldview as a teen and young adult. I believed that most people were good, that hard work was the way to achieve what I wanted out of life, and that the noblest goal a person could have was saving souls for the Kingdom. My worldview drove me to attend Mount Vernon Nazarene University, study music, and seek a career in ministry.
But life has a way of taking a naïve, bright-eyed youth with all her grandiose ideas and leaving behind a disillusioned, weatherworn woman in its wake. I soon found that ministry was harder than it looked, people were unreliable and deeply flawed, (in and out of the church), and God didn’t always show up for me in the ways I thought he should. Because of the road I’ve walked, these days I am just as likely to be praying fervently as I am to be questioning everything I ever thought I knew. And while that may sound extreme or paradoxical, holding these two practices together in dynamic tension has brought me to a deeper faith than I have ever known before.
Eight years ago, I went through the darkest time in my life. I had recently left a position leading worship at a church without another job lined up, I had suffered a devastating miscarriage, we were struggling to pay the bills, and I was completely removed from the church community in which I had grown up. Even though I had a supportive husband and two healthy children, I was angry with God for allowing me to dream of a future that now seemed unreachable. I reached bottom when I realized I wasn’t even sure there was a god to be angry with at all. My worldview, which had been firmly rooted in my faith, fell apart. And I was in no hurry to rebuild.
For about a year I drank and ate whatever I could get my hands on, avoiding at all costs anything that had to do with religion, spirituality, or self-awareness. Looking back, I truly believe I was a functioning alcoholic during those dark days. At this point in my life, I did not care what my worldview was. I did not care about myself or my future. Of course, deep down I really did care; I just could not yet face the unanswered questions I had about it all. If anyone had asked me then, I would’ve said my worldview was simple: live and let live; forget about trying to please some divine power that probably does not even exist. But God was working on my heart, even then.
In the spring of 2012 we found a new church home that seemed to be a good fit for us. I was still questioning everything, but because this church and pastor welcomed my questions and doubts, I kept going back. Through my questions, I found myself drawn back to God. He was there, in the bible stories I had known since childhood. These stories tell us of unreliable and deeply flawed characters who still experienced the grace of God in their lives. They remind us how to live with hope in the midst of our struggles, and they show us how to love.
As I found myself discovering my faith anew, my worldview came into focus once again, but changed from what it once was. I no longer viewed the world through the rose-colored glasses of youth, but instead saw it in its messy, imperfect, beautiful state; worth saving, and worth loving. I saw that for myself and for others, there is hope and promise in trusting God, as Paul says in Romans:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-9, NIV).
Viewing others and myself in light of this passage guides my thoughts, my relationships, and my goals. It allows me to pursue relationships without ulterior motives, and to forgive myself when I fall short.
These days, my worldview is also shaped profoundly by motherhood. Having three lives dependent on me lends a responsibility, not just to my own children, but also to the children and citizens of the world. Becoming a mother taught me how we are all responsible to each other. As Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” (O’Connell, 2018). This idea that we belong to each other has become central to how I look at the world. We owe it to each other to love well, to be good stewards, and to seek justice. We cannot qualify life by making judgments on who is allowed into the Kingdom and who is not. Our only job is to be conduits of God’s love to those that need it most: the widow, the orphan, and the outcast.
Lastly, my current worldview is shaped by my aesthetic as an artist. When I look at the world, I see a place that needs great stories, great interpretations of myth, and creative presentations of truth. As humans, we are drawn to story, and I would say, we need it. Story defines us: the stories we hear, the stories we tell, and the ones we pass from generation to generation. I am thankful to be attending a program that agrees with me. I was happy to read that Regent University’s Department of Performing Arts and Music believes “…that we are called to tell stories both descriptive and prescriptive in nature” (Regent.edu, 2018). I believe that telling stories is innate to being human, and beyond that, telling stories is how we can know God.
Based on my worldview, I believe it is my calling as a Christian artist to tell stories. Stories from my unique point of view that encompass the truth of who we are, and call us forward to be who we are meant to be. A good story, well told, can have “characters… more ‘real’ than people… [and] a fictional world more profound than the concrete” (McKee 21). In story, we can get to the core of who we really are, and who we want to be.
The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2017.
McKee, R. (1999). Story. London: Methuen, p.21.
O’Connell, C. (2018). 12 Mother Teresa Quotes to Live By | Reader’s Digest. [online] Reader’s Digest. Available at: https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/mother-teresa-quotes/ [Accessed 22 Sep. 2018].
Regent.edu. (2018). Regent University College of Arts & Sciences School of Communication and the Arts Department Handbook. [online] Available at: https://www.regent.edu/acad/schcom/docs/theatre/forms/Departmental_Handbook_FALL_2017.pdf [Accessed 22 Sep. 2018].