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The Cards You're Dealt

UPDATE: For a more intimate and detailed faith-related interview, check out this INTERVIEW.

According to Variety, more than half a million U.S. Netflix subscribers finished the entire second season of House of Cards within the first weekend.  Maybe you’re not quite that crazy, but if you are a House of Cards fan, you might have noticed a moment early in the new season when a Christian worship song drew one of the show's characters into a church service. The Hillsong tune was performed by a single vocalist using a black acoustic guitar, sitting on a stool in the background of the scene. That musician was me. And that experience was just the latest way in which I feel I am being called to do more with my music. Furthermore, I continue to find these opportunities to be quite surprising and unexpected.

The most common question I have received is "How did you get the opportunity to appear on House of Cards?" I know it sounds hard to believe, but I did not seek out an opportunity to sing or act. A good actor friend of mine from Los Angeles, has always been supportive of my talent, and put in a good word with the producers of the show. Eventually, I found myself being asked to sing in a small church scene. I had not even seen a single episode of House of Cards before this happened.  I strongly feel that this opportunity was not merely coincidence either and I’ll share more specific details about my experience a little later.

So here I was getting ready to appear on a political drama known for its dark, corrupt subject matter and I was going to be singing a "Christian" song in a "church" scene. I know many Christians have asked why from that particular perspective, but why not? I found it to be a great opportunity and even a bit ironic since I don't consider myself to be, nor wish to be labeled as, a “Christian musician.” I am an artist and I am a musician. I happen to be a follower of Christ. The only way these things connect is that I feel called to create music to the best of my ability, with passion, excellence, and love. I felt that this particular opportunity, no matter how small, would itself prove worthy.

Just a few years ago, I thought I was being called to a career path in medicine and business and received various opportunities to do so. I only recently made the choice to pursue music as a calling, a leap of faith that has taken me all of my 20s to take. It was only earlier this month that I shared my own original music with others for the very first time in a live show setting. And now I find my singing has appeared on a hit television show. I think a lot has to do with timing and purpose as it relates to my faith. I hope to combine my life experiences with my passion for music and writing to connect with others. 

I already feel fortunate to even have the opportunity to share music with a wider audience, given my history as a pediatric oncology patient for more than a decade. I was first diagnosed at age 17, undergoing intensive chemotherapy, and again midway through college after relapsing. I’ve also had other health-related hardships going in and out of the hospital over the last 13 years. Unfortunate things happen in life. I personally feel that my suffering allowed me, and even those around me, to draw closer to God. Music happens to be another instrument by which to tell my story and to encourage and inspire others. 

I don't know what the future holds but I'm not really worrying about that. I'm enjoying the journey. Recently, I've had so many doors being opened, so many opportunities to connect with different people... both believers and non-believers alike. And I'm thankful for that. I don't want to share my music in only churches. I don't want people to listen to my music simply because they happen to be a part of the same "organized religion." I want to love and connect with others and meet them where they are, much in the same way that we are loved and are met where we are. 

The House of Cards experience was a wonderful one. I was blessed to come onto the show in a credited Principal performer role (rather than as an extra) and had some amazing experiences getting to connect with some of the actors and actresses, as well as even some of the others involved with the show (sound and video tech guys, show creator and writer Beau Willimon, and many more). I had an unplanned conversation about my faith with the sound guys. I had a chance to eat lunch with the actress who plays the prostitute on the show. At the end of the day, when I got home from filming, I broke down in tears at a realization. I deeply felt that these interactions were carefully orchestrated. Each smile. Each word spoken. Each sentence heard. Each interaction was meticulously crafted and I was moved to love. It didn’t matter whether they were Christian or famous or happy or sad. They were simply people just like me; imperfect people in need of love.

What I found to be most valuable through this experience was what happened apart from what is shown in the small scene on Netflix. The highlight wasn't singing and playing on the show. The highlight isn't being listed on IMDB now. The highlight won't be whether my career takes off or whether I receive better opportunities because of my HOC appearance. The highlights were in the intricate and beautiful moments written by the Author. The same Author who is giving me opportunities to love others through my passions. The same Author who continues to write the story of my life. 

Jae Jin