“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
God jealous? It somehow seems beneath him, doesn’t it? Even petty, if you’ll forgive me saying so. Isn’t jealousy a feeling more appropriately held by us humans? A jealous husband, perhaps, or a jealous wife. Someone insecure…
Over the centuries there have been those who have said that God—if he exists—is impersonal. A Supreme Being, perhaps, but one who has wound up the clock of the universe and absented himself for the ages as the clock ticks down and we drift toward… something. The Bible, however, paints a different picture. In the verse quoted from Deuteronomy, above, we read that God is jealous over us, going so far as to say his very name is Jealous! That tells me something—God does not want to be left out of our lives! I venture to say his feelings for us must be more intense and passionate than we can begin to imagine.
Which leads me to a little story… My work at Messenger Films has not always proceeded down a linear path.
I went back to school at the age of 36 to get a master’s degree in filmmaking from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Art Center was (and still is) known primarily for two things—designing automobiles and turning out directors of television commercials. The school has also produced some bigshot feature-film directors, including Michael Bay, Zack Snyder, and Tarsem Singh. (I was actually at Art Center with Tarsem. He’s a genius.)
Studying for a master’s degree was a painful adjustment to make after having been out of academia for well over a decade. But I soon found my rhythm and graduated a little less than two years later. Then it came time to find work, and if you don’t happen to know, let me tell you—having a degree in filmmaking does not necessarily guarantee employment in the field. The usual route one follows is to put together a résumé and “demo reel” to show to prospective employers.
Armed with a guide to all the commercial production companies in the Greater Los Angeles area, I set to work knocking on doors, touting my limited accomplishments as a director, and doing my best to make a good first impression. In the meantime, to put bread on the table, I took a job as a driver for a company in Burbank that converted old Hollywood films to videotape—both for the burgeoning VHS market and for networks like Turner Broadcasting. It was a fun job in most respects. I would drive through the gates at MGM, Universal, Paramount… a man on a mission… taking delivery of film and video assets (or dropping them off as the case might be). On more than a few occasions, I quietly parked my car and took unauthorized tours around the studio backlots, imagining myself as the director of a major motion picture. Well, truth be told, I imagined myself more as a PA (production assistant) peeking over the shoulder of a Steven Spielberg or a Robert Zemeckis.
And every chance I got, I continued knocking on doors for a job directing commercials.
But there was a lot of competition in this line of work, and not just with my contemporaries. I was overshadowed by hundreds of seasoned directors with decades of experience and a long list of national clients on their résumé. By contrast, all I had to show were scenes from an ultra-low budget film I had shot in Mexico (Ropa Nueva para Felipe), a PSA I had made for the Red Cross, and some samples of my student work.
Still, there was one thing I did have, and it amounted to a secret weapon.
I could speak Spanish!
My bilingual abilities (God bless my Spanish-speaking mother!) allowed me to get my foot in the door of a major Hispanic-owned LA production company (with offices in Mexico) looking to hire a new in-house director. The owner was himself a graduate of Art Center!
I remember being ushered into his office for my first interview. He had watched my modest demo reel and had already spoken with the Film Department Chair at Art Center, who gave me a strong recommendation. We conversed easily in Spanish and he showed me samples of his company’s work. They primarily produced commercials peddling cigarettes and alcohol. Yes, in those days, cigarettes were still allowed to be advertised on television in Mexico. Indeed, it was a huge market, especially in Mexico City, and the tobacco companies played all the angles to make smoking look cool and popular.
“Do you think this is something you can handle?” the owner asked me, gazing at me from behind his big wooden desk.
Are you kidding me? ¡Sí, señor!
Long story short, another interview followed and I was offered the job! I was going to be a director! I was told a contract would be prepared for my signature within a few days and I headed home to share the good news with my family.
But… as you might imagine…
It wasn’t long before I began hearing the proverbial “two voices” on either side of my head. Cigarettes? Alcohol? It gave me pause. “Come now, Cristóbal,” pooh-poohed the louder of the two voices. “How is smoking cigarettes in a place like Mexico City any different from walking outside and breathing the air there?” And it was true. At that time (1990), studies indicated that breathing the polluted air of Mexico City was the equivalent of smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. Even on a clear day it was difficult to see across the street in Mexico City.
“You’re right,” I said, nodding in agreement. “No harm done.”
Then the other voice chimed in: “No harm done, or no GREATER harm done? You yourself don’t smoke because you know it’ll harm your health. Yet, you’re going to use your filmmaking skills to make smoking look attractive to others, especially young people? Shame on you!”
Likewise with the beer and liquor commercials. First the worldly-wise voice: “Doesn’t the Bible say it’s okay to have a little wine with your meals?”
“Indeed, it does,” I agreed quickly. “And not only that…” (I had brought out my Bible concordance by this time), “Psalm 104:15 says that ‘wine gladdens the heart of the son of man and brightens his face!’ Surely, the same can be said of José Cuervo and Dos Equis, right!?”
“Of course!” said the first voice.
Then the second voice: “And if you succeed and do your job well, and you sway a young person to get plastered on beer and go out and drive drunk… Have you weighed that in the balance?” I hung my head. Yes, I had thought about it…
Back and forth it went. I half-prayed, half-inveigled the Most High. “How about a compromise, Lord?” I asked, finally. “You say in your Word that the wealth of sinners is stored up for the just. How about I take some of that wealth for a year or two, maybe three, pay off my bills and set aside some savings, and then—with more of a reputation established, more practical experience as a director under my belt—I’ll move on to making the kinds of films you called me to make for Messenger Films: films to declare your glory among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all peoples. How does that sound?”
The silence was deafening.
Then, the oddest thing. The production company in downtown LA didn’t call me to come in and sign the contract. They didn’t write me either and the owner was never available when I called to speak with him. No one would tell me what was going on. It was as if I had never had an interview… as if they had never even offered me a job! I didn’t leave it there, of course. I pestered everyone who answered the phone for at least a month, asking to speak with the boss, looking for an explanation. I never got an answer. It was like a bad dream, a door sealed shut.
And so… I went back to my old delivery job with the company in Burbank. When time allowed, I walked the backlots of the studios and prayed. And—I will admit—I began to question if I would ever be a filmmaker.
Then, a few months later, I got a call from the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach. They had seen my film Ropa Nueva para Felipe (the first film produced under the Messenger Films banner) and were interested in distributing the movie throughout Latin America for evangelism. This in turn led to CBN offering me a full-time job as a bilingual producer in their international department. In short order, I was producing docudramas and commercials—in Spanish—spreading the good news of the gospel in Mexico and Central and South America. So I ask: Did God have a hand in that? I think he did. Furthermore, CBN allowed me to maintain Messenger Films as a ministry and even partnered with me to produce my second film in 1995—¿Con Quién Te Vas?
Is there a moral to the story? I daresay I think there is, and the passing of the years has brought it ever more sharply into focus. I belong to a jealous God and he brooks no rivals. “I will betroth you to me forever,” spoke God through the prophet Hosea (Hosea 2:19). That commercial production company in Los Angeles I was so desperate to work for never had a chance. I had been “off the market” ever since I gave my life to Jesus by the banks of the Motala River in Sweden in 1981. God had no intention of sharing his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8).
How about you, my friend? Do you want intimacy with God? Do you want him to lead you in the way you should go? Surrender yourself to him completely and without reserve. Allow him to sweep you off your feet and take you into his arms! Yes, he is a jealous God. He’s jealous with a capital “J” and that is to your eternal good. As Saint Augustine said long ago, “He made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.”
God bless you!
¡El Señor les bendiga!
I am pleased to report that we have been recognized by two film festivals in Barcelona: the Indie House Film Festival, where we have won the award for Best Feature Film, and WSXA Barcelona, where we are nominated for Best Inspirational Film.
I hope you will watch Let Me Have My Son when it’s released worldwide on May 24!
We are less than three months away from the worldwide virtual cinema premiere of Let Me Have My Son. This means that wherever you live in the world, or wherever you have friends in the world, you can watch our award-winning film. We will also be in theatres in a few cities. Stay tuned for further details and set aside May 24 to experience Let Me Have My Son.
Have a look at our theatrical trailer, and always feel free to drop us a line by replying directly to this email!