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On performance and payment

From the January 6, 2014 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

As a performer throughout my life, I’ve always loved this clear assurance from the book of Job: “For he [God] performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him” (23:14). It has driven home for me (as well as many other performers I’ve known) the humbling fact that one’s talent and ability are from God—He supplies them and He expresses himself through them. The artist is simply the expression of God’s performance.

A little while ago, it occurred to me to look up the word performeth to see what the Hebrew root was. Following Mary Baker Eddy’s recommendation that all Christian Scientists be familiar with the original texts of the Bible (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 24), I’ve discovered a treasure trove of inspiration while digging through Hebrew and Greek root words. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is my favorite tool for this study.

Here was biblical evidence proving that God supports every artist the same way He provides for the accountant and the physicist.

Sure enough, I struck gold early on. While many uses of perform can be traced back to a simple root meaning “to make” (the Hebrew word asah), I was delighted to find several that derived from the Hebrew word quwm, meaning “to rise” or “stand.” I suddenly saw the beautiful poetry behind the concept of performance. Far from showing off or seeking attention, a performer is someone who is willing to stand up in front of others to share or express an idea to the audience and to the world. How important, I realized, for me to have that right idea in thought when I perform!

But there was one more Hebrew root in the Bible that translated as “performeth”: shalam, the word used in the quote from Job above. Much like its derivative Hebrew word shalom, with which many are acquainted as part of the greeting for “peace be with you,” shalam means to be “in a covenant of peace,” “to be complete,” “to be sound,” “to be performed,” and (among others) “to be repaid.”

You could have picked my jaw up off the floor! Artists spend their whole lives listening to society’s reminders that many artists have trouble making money, that art is not financially viable except for a very few, and that artists shouldn’t expect payment for their work because the joy of the art should be enough. Yet here was biblical evidence proving that God supports every artist the same way He provides for the accountant and the physicist. Here was a divine promise that the artistic professions, when divinely inspired, are divinely supported.

At the time of this discovery, I had been wrestling with a difficult financial situation. I’d followed a clear message of divine inspiration and guidance to return to a performing career after spending years in a very stable administrative job—yet I was full of doubt, feeling that I’d abandoned a rational and sensible way of earning a living, and that I was putting my own and my husband’s financial future on the line. While I’d spent hours in prayer, seeking to understand that God meets our “every human need” (Science and Health, p. 494), I couldn’t escape a sense of guilt that made me question whether I was doing the right thing.

Well, here was my answer: Every artist has an assurance of recompense. Not only could I lean on God to be the thought and action behind my performances, I could also walk forward with confidence, knowing that my needs were already met, no matter the picture that appeared in front of me.

Sure enough, just a few days after my “light bulb” moment, the bleak employment picture dissipated as I found multiple avenues of work and sufficient payment. I felt deeply humbled and incredibly inspired to have seen so clearly the fact of God's eternal provision. Each day continues to be a demonstration, but the doubt and fear are totally gone. I know I'm directed by God on this career path—and that I'm needed right where I am. 

Emily Maixner lives in West New York, New Jersey, and works in New York City as an actor, singer, and audiobook narrator.

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