Zachary Levi: Faith & God’s Timing
Our conversation with Zachary Levi was so meaningful and deep that we couldn’t fit it all into once feature… so we continued talking with Zac about what his relationship with God has looked like from a very young age, to when he felt the furthest from the Lord, to where he’s at now. Plus who could have planned the way his career has gone when it comes to being available for American Underdog and for the sequel to Shazaam to move up so that it’s released in the same year as his new book Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others. Don’t worry Risen got all the details!
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: One of the things that I love about your book is that it’s not like, Hey, I’ve arrived. It’s hey, get in the trenches with me. What are some of the things that I’ve learned that I can help you with so that way maybe you can learn it a little bit faster, earlier, or more quickly so that some of it can maybe be avoided? And one of those things that I like is that you’re super honest about your relationship with the Lord and what faith looked like in your life when you were a child to when you thought you lost God, or did, to where you’re at now. So will you talk just a little bit about that? It’s not a religion where you go to church on Sunday, things are good for two hours, and then you go back to your life. It’s an ongoing relationship for most everybody that has that in their life.
Zachary Levi: Yeah. I mean, one could even argue, although this might upset a few people, but one could even argue that church is almost like the social media of our real relationship with God. And not church and the people, but church and the let’s say the liturgical practice of we put on our best clothes and we go Sunday and we sit in the right seat.There’s all of these things that are a lot of times there, we’re doing it because we think, Well, if I do these things, then God will love me a little bit more, or I’m checking off the list of what God likes. And I don’t think God’s really concerned with any of that stuff, to be perfectly honest. I mean, I do think that it’s important to be part of community and church has provided a lot of community, because that’s crucial to what it means to literally just survival in life.
But I think not just survive, but to thrive, to really feel actual joy and connectedness and feel God through other people. Because I think we, as humans are one of the coolest conduits of God’s light. I think God is in and through all things like the force in Star Wars. I think God is in every blade of grass and every puppy and every cat and every falcon and every mouse and whatever. You pick a thing that’s alive and God is in it. And maybe all the things that aren’t alive, too. I mean, I don’t know. I’m not God. God gets to do whatever God wants to do. But when I was four and I was starting to kind of understand the concept I think of God, I got it right away. I don’t know why. I don’t know how, but I was like, Oh yeah, totally.That makes sense. And I believed that God was a God of love and I have throughout my life believed that and held to that and through thick and thin and lots of other darkness and depression and things, I’ve been able to make it through. But as you said I got to moving to Austin and feeling like I was following God’s direction in my life and then I felt completely alone and abandoned and I was just consumed in darkness and the lies that that darkness wants to whisper to us and I didn’t want to live anymore. And then I went to this incredible therapy, but even while I was there, I didn’t know that I really believed in God anymore because nothing was really helping me. It took about two and a half weeks for me to even have a breakthrough.
And during all that time, it felt very, very thankless, fruitless, hopeless. But then I did have a breakthrough and that breakthrough had a lot to do with this incredible woman who was literally a manifestation of the hands and feet of God, of what it means to be an angel. I mean, she just she prayed me back to life. She was the conduit of a mother’s love to me in that time. And all of the instruction I was getting from all of those incredible therapists and professionals, that’s all well and good, but none of it really means anything if I don’t think I’m deserving of applying it to my life because I don’t love myself. And this woman really helped me to at least get the initial ball rolling of you are worthy of loving yourself and you are worthy of applying these things to your life.
And that helped bring me out of that darkness, at least in that moment, enough to grab onto that light and feel God again. And also I have felt God so powerfully in how all of this season of my life continues to be guided and redeemed. I thought I failed my life entirely, and then in that failure birthed this literally I was still in therapy, finishing therapy when I had this random audition for Shazam, not even for the role of Shazam. I might talk about it in the book. And then a week later I’m Shazam and then I go promote the movie a year later or whatever and I get to talk about all this kind of stuff when I’m promoting it. And then Harper Collins sees that and says, maybe you should write a book.
And now I’ve written a book. And now hopefully that book touches people’s lives and impacts them in a way where they can love themselves and love others and truly do that. Not conditional, love is not conditional. I mean, Radical Love is a title that is actually kind of redundant, ironically, because I really do think that love in its own definition is radical. It’s radical. That’s what Jesus was talking about, love your enemy, pray for your persecutor. Who does that? Almost nobody. Certainly not a lot of people who follow Christ. I know plenty of Christians who all they want are for their enemies to die. I mean it’s like what we’re conditioned to believe. Well, those evil people over there, they should not exist anymore. And Jesus would be like, What are you talking about?
If He was here right now, I think He would be so heartbroken because there are so many people, whether they profess to follow Jesus or not, there are so many people that are still being led around by fear and hate. And that is the opposite of what it means to go and love, to really love. And it’s very difficult for people to wrap their head around that, secular or not, because you’re like, Well, why should I go love this person who murdered or raped or stole or abused or started this war, or is polluting the planet or is greedy and taking all the money in the world. There’s so many bad things going on in the world, and I can understand why it’s difficult for us to wrap our heads around the idea… wait, I should go love that person?How does that even work?
But love is not “like.” This is what I was saying. It’s not just amplified “like.” Love is a whole other thing. Yes, you can feel love. You can feel in love. You can feel warm feelings for people and you can call that love. But love is a choice. Love is a choice that you make to look at another person warts and all, and say, you are worthy of God’s love because you are an extension of God’s love, even if you are manipulating it and bastardizing it and not being a conduit of that love and that light and that life.
A lot of people are not. A lot of people are conduits of darkness, but I don’t think that’s because they themselves are evil. It’s because they grew up in really unfortunate circumstances that have made them that type of person. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still see the five year old in them. If you practice it and it’s hard, but it’s just empathy. It’s the deepest of empathy and we all need to be practicing it all the time.
RM: The world is so ripe for it right now. I feel like I am so glad that God keeps the bigger picture and that was able to align your steps the way that he has, because I feel like Radical Love is something that is so needed right now. The world has gotten so polarizing that it is very challenging. I feel that the book is perfectly placed and I love all the stories that you share in it and even down to how Shazam came about. So, of course I cannot let you leave without mentioning that the sequel is due out at the end of the year here…
ZL: Yeah. Oh, I mean, look, we never know what God’s doing when God’s doing it. It’s only down the road a little bit and you look back and you go, Holy crap, how amazing! Even American Underdog, I mean, I was never supposed to do that movie. I was totally unavailable. I was doing other movies and they were going to do it. And then the pandemic happened and then it all kind of reshuffled and all of a sudden I got to be playing this role that the Erwins always kind of had a vision of me playing, but they had let go of, because again, I wasn’t available. And then all of a sudden I’m playing this guy [Kurt Warner] who’s this incredible dude with an incredible story about hope and about perseverance and we all kind of hoped, maybe this could be a Christmas movie.
And then all of a sudden it was, and it happened to also coincide with the NFL season and the Rams having such a great season that they were maybe going to go to the Super Bowl and it was going to be in LA. Oh my gosh, now the Rams are in the Super Bowl, and then they win the Super Bowl, and I got to be in American Underdog, playing one of the Hall-of-Fame Ram quarterbacks while the Rams are doing all this stuff. And it’s like, I couldn’t have, I can’t coordinate. That’s God’s fingerprints all over that.
And as far as Shazam, we were supposed to come out next June, but the movie is done, it felt great when we were shooting it, the sequel and DC and Warner Brothers are so happy with it that they were like, You know what, we’re going to bring you up and now you’re going to be a Christmas movie.
I mean, what an incredible honor and blessing, and that, yes, it’s in the same year as this book. And I don’t know, I mean, I’m just so blessed. I’m so blessed and I’m so grateful, and I just want to continue to be a conduit, just keep being a conduit of love and life and light and truth and wisdom and empathy and joy and as many other positive fruits of the spirit that I can be.
We have limited time here and the world is hurting and it’s always been hurting. It’s not like this is anything new. In fact, if anything, we’re living in the most peaceful time we’ve ever had on Earth, which is crazy to think about. With all of the horrible stuff going on in the world, if you contextualize it, you go actually, well, it’s really not anywhere near as bad as it used to be. But it doesn’t mean that we still don’t have a lot of work to do. And I want to be fighting in that. I want to go help to make the world better than, certainly better than when I came into it.
RM: Well, I love that. Thank you so much for taking the time today. We will be spending Christmas watching you on screen as we do in our home every year because my family and kids are obsessed with The Star, so you will forever be Joseph to them.
ZL: I love it. I love it.
RM: Pleasure seeing you, and I cannot wait for everyone to get their hands on this.
ZL: Absolutely. Good to see you, Kelli, and we’ll see you down the road, I’m sure.
Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others is now available… and you can watch/read the first part of this feature at: https://www.risenmagazine.com/zachary-levi-mental-health-radical-love-forgiveness/
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