Walking In Another’s Shoes, Like Jesus Did For Us: Harris Faulkner and Omar Benson Miller
Harris Faulkner: What I did get from my parents that I’m able to pass on to lift up others is this idea of redemption. Through the Lord, we find that, and it isn’t for a man or woman to judge whether or not we deserve it. So I will sit and talk with anybody and everybody. It’s not my job, my responsibility, or my divine assignment to judge them.
Walking In Another’s Shoes, Like Jesus Did For Us: Harris Faulkner and Omar Benson Miller – Episode #336
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Perhaps you’ve heard the sentiment, “you can’t really judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” This thought goes beyond the idea of just a reprimand against being judgemental. It’s one that reminds us to have empathy and understanding of others’ experiences and actions with an open heart and mind. The greatest example of walking in someone else’s shoes is Jesus, being fully God, who stepped into humanity’s shoes by being born into this world—so we could know with certainty that He experienced the same kinds of trials and losses, wants and needs that we all experience as humans. When we tune into how Jesus lived, we in turn can begin to tune into others, and like Jesus, show them love even when we don’t understand or agree with them.
Our guests this week are people who’ve had experience stepping into other people’s shoes—one as a reporter who makes it her job to understand the people she is interviewing to best be able to tell their stories, and the other an actor, who has had to inhabit the lives of the characters, real and fictional, that he brings to life in TV and film. News anchor and author Harris Faulkner shares how the loss of her parents opened up a side of her that helped her relate to people in a more compassionate way—one that shows up when she’s interviewing people about their own experiences, good and bad. Actor Omar Benson Miller tells us how he walks into each role he’s been given with the intention to gain the full experience of someone’s story and how each character he played has shown him the value of giving kind consideration to everyone’s story.
Let’s start with Harris.
Harris: I’m Harris Faulkner, and I am a news anchor. In addition to being a journalist, I’m also an author. I think I’ve always known that my voice would be a way that I would do something in life. But telling other people’s stories and getting the news about them and from them has always been a part of my life.
Learning from Each Other’s Stories
My dad had served in Vietnam for two tours. And so when we were stationed stateside and around each other, he always wanted to hear me read the news. He wanted me to be up on current events, no matter what they were teaching in my classroom. He thought everything needed to have the perspective of the past, present, and future, and nothing does that like unfolding stories.
There’s a lot that we can learn from each other’s stories. I mean, there’s nothing new under the sun. And my dad would always say, “What you see in front of you and what people will tell you first is not the beginning and the end of the story.”
My dad would pray a couple of prayers [while he was on tour]. One, he wanted to come back to us, but he needed to be successful in the mission that he’d been called to do. And my father was able to make sense of what he knew was his “divine assignment.” That’s something I coined, because I do believe that we each have one. And so one of the prayers was that he would have a successful mission, and that he would come home to us. But when he prayed for me and my mom, he was very specific in saying, “I want them to find peace, joy, and health when I am not with them. Lord, I need You to be a protector for them when I am not with them.” And that’s especially true now in terms of how I walk out my own faith. Those words are truths.
“When [my dad] prayed for me and my mom, he’d say, ‘I want them to find peace, joy, and health when I am not with them. . . .’ And that’s especially true now in terms of how I walk out my own faith.” – Harris Faulkner
I am that person who is always making sure the truth is told. And sometimes, that makes you pretty unpopular. So I’m not always skipping with joy, because I’m sometimes having to catch people in situations where they’re not telling the truth, or they’ve committed a serious, violent crime, that sort of thing. But I will say, “If you have any problems with how you’re living your life right now, you should pray about that.” And that’s as far as I go.
But I do find that people take that seriously, because I’m gathering the story. So I just report it, but I always leave that nugget of what I consider to be divine hope. There is some place where you could take what you have done, and what you would want on the other side of those prayers may look nothing like what God is going to give you. But it may bring you the kind of peace that you can’t get in the world right now. Because I believe God loves all of us.
“I believe God loves all of us.” – Harris Faulkner
The Loss of a Parent, The Impact of a Life
When my father died on Christmas Day in 2020, I was so broken, having lost a second parent in my life in a very short period of time. I was so broken that I prayed a lot less and I cried more. I didn’t think that God could hear me. But I worked through some things, worked my way back, and I also know that my parents were praying for me from Heaven. The protection on my life they had prayed for since I was born, that protection pulled me through. I leaned back into God, and He leaned into me, and I was able to go forward. I prayed more, and things got better. But it was in His timing, not mine.
“I leaned back into God, and He leaned into me, and I was able to go forward. And I prayed more, and things got better. But it was in His timing, not mine.” – Harris Faulkner, on the season she lost her parents
My father had an impact on a whole lot of people. And he had a lot of loss in his life as well, a lot of tragedy in his life. Going to war is something that changes you, he would say. But through it all, he was able to live out his divine assignment to be a warrior for others.
And on that day that we said our final goodbye to my dad, his brothers were with me, his younger brothers—and, well, the whole family. But the two of them specifically were the people that he was probably closest to besides my mom. They were laughing and joyous. And I said, “Oh, Uncle Tim and Uncle Ronnie, how can you be like this?”
They said, “Because this is what he wanted. We’re together.”
Mind you, we’re freezing. And it’s a pandemic, and we can’t stand next to each other. But we’re going to find a reason to go on and to be joyful, and to sow the seeds of peace. And I think back on my dad’s funeral, and it was one of the happiest days of my life, because I was around people who really understood his mission, and that he had fulfilled it.
My mom told me growing up, “Give all of your worries and sorrows in life to God. And don’t forget to pray when things are going well, too.” When I remembered my mom had said that when I was praying less and crying more in my loss, what it reminded me of is that there will be days that will go well again, that this too shall pass. Loving our parents and losing our parents will never pass, but that point of anger with the Lord will. And we must work on that. He can handle us and everything we bring Him. He already knows before we know.
My dad told me during tough times and in what he would call the sparsity of life, the darkest moments, he said, “Be sure that you do battle with the tough times, not with God.”
“Loving our parents and losing our parents will never pass, but that point of anger with the Lord will. And we must work on that.” – Harris Faulkner
So what I would pray and perhaps what I would share with anyone listening who has suffered a great deal of loss, it doesn’t matter where you are in that season. It could have been five years ago. It could have been ten years ago, and you’re still harboring it. As something that drives you every day, to hold back on your joy, because that’s what we do.
I felt guilty that I was still here. I felt guilty that I’ve been so mightily blessed. But I was so incredibly sad, and I didn’t want my children to see that I hadn’t fathomed a world where they wouldn’t have my parents in their lives right now. And I want them to know that they can go on. They don’t have to do it alone. The Lord will listen. And if you are quiet enough, you will hear from God, too.
Harris Utilizes Her Platform to Lift Up Others
I’m very open about talking about my faith. I’m glad to do it. I don’t want to make it the breaking news topic of every conversation, because I don’t want it to be about me. And I’m always really pressing the point that, yes, you can see the color of my skin, and you can see the texture of my hair. And I’m Black. But I’m also a free thinker. In a society where people are canceling everything that maybe doesn’t fit their point of view, I consider myself to be walking in yet another lane of diversity.
What I’ve tried to do is utilize the platform that God has given me to lift up others. So for instance, when I go on the scene of a tragedy, I’m not the reporter who, in a very amateur and junior way, will ask, “Well, how did it make you feel to lose your house?” I share with people that we have all suffered loss as human beings, no matter what we look like on the outside, what people assume about our lives—it’s through the connective tissue of that loss that I understand where you might be right now. And if you’d like to talk, I will listen.
“What I’ve tried to do is utilize the platform that God has given me to lift up others.” – Harris Faulkner
That’s made me a very effective interviewer, because I actually do listen, and I’m silent when I listen. So this platform, I don’t take for granted. Everything in life comes in a season. I’ve had a particularly long season, and I’m extremely blessed for that. And along the way, the good Lord will do His divine expectation on me, and give me maybe a nuanced version of that assignment. I am called to be a witness. And in being a witness, you gather the facts, you disseminate them, after much listening and investigation.
When the Storms of Life Come, God Is There
The one way that I think my life has changed in the two years since my dad died is to really understand the power of praying before, during, and after the storm. When the storms of life come, you know God’s listening because you talk to Him every day, and He hears you.
“When the storms of life come, you know God’s listening because you talk to Him every day, and He hears you.” – Harris Faulkner
It takes a real deep understanding of your relationship with God to know how to pray for someone else. It’s something you will often hear people say to each other, “Oh, I’ll pray for you.” And I guess maybe some people do. But I know that people struggle with prayer for themselves. So being an intercessor, actually praying effectively for someone else—meaning you lift their name, you need specificity to talk with the Lord about them—when you pray for someone, you ask God to take care of them. You speak their name. You speak their circumstance, as much as you know. And you try to be as specific as possible about what would help, if it is God’s will. And I know having someone who prayed fervently for me—both of my parents did—has made a huge difference and continues to in my life.
“It takes a real deep understanding of your relationship with God to know how to pray for someone else.” – Harris Faulkner
Jesus Listens, March 19th:
Help me to follow You one step at a time. I know this is all You require of me.
As I look ahead, I see huge mountains looming and I start wondering how I will ever be able to scale those heights. Meanwhile, because I’m not looking where I’m going, I stumble on the easy path where You’re leading me right now. As You help me get back on my feet, I tell you how worried I am about the cliffs up ahead.
You lovingly remind me that I don’t know what will happen today, much less tomorrow. Our path may take an abrupt turn, leading me away from those towering peaks. Or there may be an easier route up the mountains that is not visible from this distance. I know that if You do lead me up the steepest way, You will equip me thoroughly for that strenuous ascent.
Teach me to walk by faith, not by sight—trusting You to open up the way before me.
In Your compassionate Name,
Narrator: To learn more about Harris Faulkner, follow her on social media. And be sure to check out her book, Faith Still Moves Mountains, wherever books are sold.
Stay tuned to Omar Benson Miller’s story after a brief message.
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Narrator: Our next guest is actor Omar Benson Miller, who’s appeared in over a dozen movies such as Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Things We Lost in the Fire, Shall We Dance, and Lucky You. Omar opens up about being a person of faith in Hollywood, how his profession has actually led him to be more empathetic to others’ stories, and how we all, as Christians, can lead with love.
Omar Benson Miller: Hey, everybody, I’m Omar Miller. I am an actor and creative in general. I grew up in Southern California.
God Turns a Negative into a Positive
I grew up in the church. My mother was a Sunday school teacher for thirty-five years. All I wanted to be was a baseball player. So that doesn’t necessarily fit into what I’m doing now, but it fit in in a great way that I dedicated my life to playing baseball. And baseball is a team sport with individual highlights and dynamics, and that has come into play with making television and film and cartoons and stuff because this is definitely a team sport.
So I went to school with my eyes set on playing baseball, but I played my whole life and had a couple of bad experiences with some coaches and whatnot and decided to take a little time away from the game and stumbled into the theater. And it was an absolute blessing from God. I stayed away from the game, got deeper in the theater. And it kind of fit how my life was, because I grew up going to films, watching movies with my mother and with my brothers and my sister.
I’d done plays when I was in junior high, but I never really thought anything about it. I never took it seriously. I never thought that there was a craft or path to being in the movies or on television. I went to school in the San Francisco Bay area in San Jose. And I ran into some fabulous professors, one in particular who took me under his wing and cultivated my talent and mindset, and kind of opened my eyes to what was possible and started to do a bunch of plays. I was touring all over the Bay Area and just really fell in love with the theater. And that led to another professor [who] saw me at the school and connected me with a friend of hers that was an agent in Hollywood. And I met up with him and he said, “Yeah, I can find you work.” And he started to send me out. And one of the first gigs I got was 8 Mile, actually.
And that movie changed my life. And, you know, talking about some of my favorite roles, that’s one of them, playing Sol George in 8 Mile, playing Sam Train in the Miracle at St. Anna, Spike Lee’s war film. If I just had to choose one, it would be Sam Train because it was a process where there was a physical component outside of the acting component as well. Because I was playing a football player in the film before I did that, and I ended up losing eighty pounds to be in the movie to play a soldier. That was very difficult. I enjoyed playing Walter on CSI: Miami, there’s a lot of great roles that I’ve been able to play.
Each role is different and each production is different. And how you approach it sometimes stays the same, but oftentimes you have to adjust to the dynamics and the wrinkle of what it is that you’re bringing to the role. What is your job within this role? That’s the key.
They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love
One of the things that’s great about acting is you go into different circumstances, scenarios, and situations openly ignorant. I can’t act like I know what it’s like to be a forensic scientist because I didn’t. So I had to go to crime labs and speak to scientists and do the stuff that I need to do as a craftsman to make my portrayal of a role believable.
[In my person life] I don’t know people’s stories. I don’t know what they believe. I don’t know what they’ve been through. I don’t know who they’ve hurt or who has hurt them. So I like to go in with a blank slate. And some of the most wonderful people that I’ve been exposed to in my life all around the world have been of various faiths and some of the heaviest disappointments that I’ve had have come from people of my own faith.
I think as a unit, the body of Christ would do better to actually stay in the Word and read more of the Bible and comprehend it as the Word tells you, to study and “show thyself approved.” I think it matters because the noises that are out in the world are all over the place. It doesn’t happen with one profession.
And I don’t think that my situation is any more unique than anybody else’s. I think that there’s more exposure, so every misstep is amplified and there are more opportunities for missteps because I have more exposure and opportunity towards more people in life and being around more circles and more people.
And the challenge is laid out that you are going to have a hard time doing the right thing because that’s what this life is. So the closer you draw near to the Spirit of God, the easier that will become.
“You are going to have a hard time doing the right thing, because that’s what this life is. So the closer you draw near to the Spirit of God, the easier that will become.” – Omar Benson Miller
One thing that’s beautiful about acting and arts in general, it’s a key that unlocks so many doors of so many different walks of life. Because when you’re playing different roles, the one thing you have to do is research roles, and to research roles, you have to research worlds. All of that is a factor and you get exposed to things. So I don’t think I have any more or less distractions, if you will, than any other person. I think that being a person is hard, being a human is hard. This is why it’s so important to have kindness and so imperative to try to make allowances for other people, because at some point you’re going to need allowances yourself as well.
The goal, in my opinion, is really to let your light shine, to have people attracted to you, to ask you why your light is shining as such, so that you and your life can be the example of the body of Christ. Because the truth of the matter is, I can’t save or condemn anybody. I don’t have salvation powers. I am flawed and a sinner like everybody else. The basic tenet of the Christian faith is to do unto others as you would do unto yourself. And this is a critical component of every part of the faith.
“Being a human is hard. This is why it’s so important to have kindness and so imperative to try to make allowances for other people, because at some point you’re going to need allowances yourself as well.” – Omar Benson Miller
I am constantly reminded of a scripture that my mother pressed upon me when I was a child that “to whom much is given, much more is required.” So I believe Jesus when He said that He came for us to have life and life more abundantly. And I pray to God for that abundant life to cover the body of Christ, myself included.
I have had plenty of periods where I have to look in the mirror and get on my own knees and wear out myself through prayer to try to get myself back in line with what I believe. And to me, that’s the biggest struggle, because it’s easy to stray. The struggle is making sure that I don’t step out of the light of God. I don’t want to do that. I’ve been there before, and it’s dark. and it’s cold, and it feels disconnected. The best way that I have learned to do that is through daily, weekly, constant connection to God and to the Word of God, which connects us to God.
These are the ways that I try to get myself back on track, because when we’re honest with ourselves, we all have different feelings when we can feel ourselves get distant from God, you know? The Lord is waiting for us. He’s there.
Narrator: To learn more about Omar and his latest projects, follow him on social media.
If you’d like to hear more stories about being empathetic, check out our interview with Ben Higgins.
Next Week: Maggi Thorne
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from 7-time American Ninja Warrior Maggi Thorne, a champion both on and off the course. When Maggi was faced with a traumatic brain injury, she clung to the phrase that’s gotten her through all of life’s hardest moments: never give up.
Maggi Thorne: “Never give up” has always been so meaningful to me in a number of ways. I believe God calls us to be uncomfortable, and that can be in conversation, in our community, being able to step outside of our comfort zone. It doesn’t mean we necessarily have the sense of being fearless, but we have faith and we’re learning how to unleash our faith. And what does that look like? That’s stepping out, not knowing what’s ahead. It’s like walking through fog.