My parents raised me in a fairly religious Methodist home. They sent me to a very religious not-Methodist school. By the time I escaped to college, I thought I'd had enough religion. As religion goes, anyway. I still thought about religion, but only in the abstract: an anthropological artifact to be incorporated into writing or art. I knew a lot about it, after all. Or at least I thought I did. I liked the imagery. I'd had so much of it shoved into my brain it was bound to find a way into my subconscious. The thought of going to church wasn't one that occurred to me, though. Unless I was home on vacation, in which case, church was obligatory.
If you knew me in my 20s and 30s, you knew a wild dude. Responsive, responsible, and successful if it had anything to do with work. But way off the hook if it didn't. I climbed ladders fast, shifted ladders even faster, and then hit the big bouncy spring that shoots Mario way, way, way high in the sky for lots of gold rings. I squashed a bunch of people along the way - two marriages, and lots of friends. Basically, I was a self-serving asshole. I can still be an asshole, today, I suppose. But definitely not the same kind, nor of the same magnitude.
To say my kids settled me down and got me back into church is too common, too easy, and inaccurate. I got back into church when my kids went to a Methodist preschool and the pastor cornered me about doing some advertising for the church. That was 7 or 8 years ago. Like the typography and design, the thoughts in the ads are a bit dated. I'm still not much of a typographer. My thoughts about church, however, have progressed since then. Enough that I now know it was God who settled me down and got me back into church. He just used my kids and some print ads to start the process.
Fast-forward through the next six-or-seven-ish years and you'll find a lot of typical stuff experienced, I think, by typical half- to three-quarter-hearted Christians. Regular church attendance, a little thought given to the sermon, but only if I found it too political; some fumbling with questions from the kids about stuff they learned in Sunday school. A lot of doubt that gets muffled by respectable habits. Trying, but not too hard. Trusting, but not too much. Faith, hope, and a paid-up insurance policy.
Sometimes you don't see stuff clearly when it's happening. Forest, trees, etc. It's only in retrospect that you begin to recognize patterns. In retrospect, I recognize a pattern made up of a bunch of giant arrows that said in no uncertain terms: This Way. That way led me and my family out of (literal and figurative) danger and into safety multiple times. Eventually, it led down a road that went past a barbecue stand run by a church that turned into a movie I had to make.
I think Faith Hope and BBQ is going to be one of those films that appeals to different people for very different reasons. Religion as an anthropological artifact and/or a side dish with a slab of ribs. If you want to see it that way when it's finished, by all means, please do. You will not be disappointed, or feel preached at. You'll enjoy it, I promise. If you want to see it as more than character study, though, that's ok, too. Because I do. The process of making this film changed my character for the better.
I met people who trust God in a way, and have a faith, that I'd only read about. The experience of being around them has helped me rely more on faith. It has strengthened my relationship with Christ. And I hope it will help me see some of those big directional arrows God puts in front of all of us -- before they're reflections in the rear view mirror.
I'm not sure where the arrows point next. As we get closer to finishing Faith Hope and BBQ, I find myself hoping that they point toward more work like this. Entertaining, engaging, inspiring stories that appeal to different kinds of people, yet ultimately show the good things God brings into our lives. Kind of a long descriptor, I know. What I don't know is where that kind of work comes from. I've spent my career chasing tv commercials. I know where they come from, and plan to continue shooting all I possibly can. But that other kind of work - the kind with the long descriptor, and the inspirational messages attached...not a clue. If you know, let me know. If not, I guess I'll just have to keep an eye out for the right kind of sign along the road.