My Imaginary Friend

Sometimes, I feel like a 5 year old with an imaginary friend.
I surround myself with fake feelings of security, false promises of a selfish future.
I reject the logic of the world around me and ignore the reprimands of those with me.
Of my Father.
I walk around with a pasted smile and convince myself and others that I’m happy.

I hear God telling me to let it go.
But like a child I run and pout.
The sounds of my temper tantrum ring through the air.
My denial is stronger than my logic.

I know that to let go would be to gain so much more.
But the fake reality is so much more appealing.
There is less pain.
Less fear.

But as a child grows up and abandons his imaginary friend, so must I come back to reality.
I must realize that pasted smiles and empty laughter do not give life.
They take it away.
So I leave my imaginary friend, hoping to find something real.

Dead End (The Short Film)

Those of you who are familiar with my blog might know of my flash fiction Dead End and its sequel Remembering the Dead End. If not, you can follow the links on the titles to read them.

These two short stories have just been made into a short film, thanks to my amazing friend Jarrett. If you have read the stories (or even if you haven’t), you should check out this short film adaptation (and maybe subscribe to Jarrett’s YouTube channel…). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Fantasia (Flash Fiction)

The glistening city of Fantasia appeared overnight. Before it, the only reality we knew was darkness. This darkness was not simply the absence of light; it was the absence of anything but ourselves. To the individual, it was the absence of all but self. There was nothing to hold onto. The sudden appearance of Fantasia with all of its light, music, and smiling faces was overwhelming, but in a good way.

For years, the darkness was nowhere to be found. Its disappearance was a gift. All of a sudden the world had light. It had life. It was beaming with love and companionship that for so long had been naught but a distant thought. I, and those like me, breathed a sigh of relief at the blessing that was this new life. Nothing was going to take it away from us.

That is, until the darkness returned once again.

Fantasia was the city of light, the city of dreams, the city of hope. The darkness had been not only a sad reality, but a lack of reality altogether. Fantasia was our first and only look at what reality actually was. Or so we thought.

The darkness came slowly back. It began with an odd dimness around the edges of the city. Storm clouds seemed to lurk on the edges of the horizon. Everyone noticed, but nobody acknowledged. For there was no way that something that isn’t real could penetrate that which is real, right?

But the darkness continued to move in. No matter how much light the city produced, nothing could penetrate the darkness that was coming. Little by little, the outer edges of the city fell into darkness. Though everyone knew what was coming, nobody seemed to notice. As darkness increased, so did pasted smiles. As seeming nonexistence penetrated our reality, people became more and more determined to ignore it. To continue to live in the light of Fantasia as if nothing was wrong. As if the darkness was not getting closer and closer by the minute.

I was no exception.

Even to the last minute, when no smiling faces were left, and the only light left in the world was a small cylinder in which I was standing, surrounded by an ever increasing blackness, I pasted on a smile. I thought to myself that Fantasia would come back. That the darkness was simply a dream.

I was fooling myself.

As the darkness overcame me, and the last light of Fantasia blinked out, I finally admitted to myself the truth. Fantasia was not my reality. The darkness was the only real plane of existence, and Fantasia was nothing more than a construct of my mind, an attempt to escape the permeable darkness. I had lived in a pseudo-reality while silently ignoring the voice in the back of my head that told me it was all fake.

Fantasia was never there. I guess you could say it was only a fantasy.

Define Me

I scream “Define me.”

I feel nothing.

So I surround myself with the normal culprits. Jokes, music, “I’m fine” and “Praise God,” lies that only I and few others can see through. From all perspectives, I am doing well. I have great classes and wonderful friends and I am deeply in love with a woman who is in love with me, but introspection reveals shattered glass, held together by painter’s tape.

I look to You, for You saved me in the past. I bled my heart at the altar, one more sacrifice to You, and You reached down and picked me up. Gave me joy, took my pain. I know You suffer with me, but I can’t feel the companionship. You’re beside me but I feel alone. My anxieties and fears surround me. I’m Jacob but instead of wrestling You, I am wrestling my own demons. This is one battle that I can’t afford to lose but alone I can’t win and yet I just can’t release the control. All I have left to fight back with is paper shields and cardboard swords. I’ve painted them to fool my enemy, but the deception will only last so long.

I am Yours. You made me and called me. You equipped me. You are right here with me.

Define me before my pain and anxiety defines me once again. You took that definition. I struggled to find my worth in You for so long and once again I am finding myself with no grasp of an identity. I was pain. I was sorrow. I was anxiety. I was fear. I was inadequacy. I was self-deception. And I was strangely content.

Then You came and took away my pain, sorrow, anxiety, fear, inadequacy, and self-deception. You gave me a cure. You gave me joy. You gave me peace. You gave me courage. You gave me adequacy. You gave me security. And I was gracefully complete.

But they’re so far removed that I am lost once again.

I am searching around for the definitions that I once had, and I am liable to grab onto the closest one that will take me. The difference between the former and the latter is blurring; my sight is failing.

I know this is my own doing. I put everything else before You. I looked at everything You had given me and I thought to myself, “I can do better.”

Well, here I am, Lord. Fallen again and searching for a hand to pull me up. Pull me out again; grab me by my shattered self and remake me. Burn away my impurities; hold me at the hottest part. Don’t hold back.

This time I’m not giving up.

Define me.

Quiet Isn’t Always Violent

Sometimes, quiet is violent.
This lyric from twenty øne piløt’s song Car Radio has been my motto ever since I heard it. You see, I used to battle with major depressive disorder- for years. When I discovered twenty øne piløts, and Car Radio in particular, I finally felt as if somebody understood. Despite the fact that I may never meet Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun to tell them exactly how much they’ve helped me, I felt as if I had a deep connection to them and all of the other few, proud, and emotional.
Notice I talk about my depression in the past tense. This is because, for those of you who are new to my blog, God healed me of my depression this past winter. I know this may sound odd or overly charismatic, and I’ll never truly be able to prove it, but God came down to me when I was at my literal worst, numb to everything but the pain that consistently gnawed away at my mind, while I kneeled at an altar and cursed Him for letting me get this low. He flooded me with love, peace, and assurance that I hadn’t felt in years. This isn’t the type of youth conference spiritual high that goes away after a week or two; it was a real, honest miracle in which God cured me of a disease that was honestly and truly killing me (by causing me to almost finish the job myself). It’s gone, with the exception of some occasional situational depression that is much easier to fend off, but the walls and mannerisms that I developed as a defense might be more difficult to get rid of.
I’ve come to notice something about myself in the past couple weeks- mainly because I’ve started driving by myself a lot and therefore have a lot of time for thinking. When I was deep in the pit of depression, I would never allow myself to be in silence.
Sometimes, quiet is violent.
It was during the silence that I would begin to think about everything that was wrong with me. Everything I was doing wrong. Everything that life was throwing at me and everything that I couldn’t do to fix everything. I tried to cover it up by never allowing silence, and I filled every waking moment with music, Netflix, or conversation.
I’m forced to deal with what I feel, there is no distraction to mask what is real.
Even though my depression is gone and the violence but a memory, I still do everything I can to avoid the silence. When I’m driving by myself or walking to class with nothing but my thoughts, I find myself unable to stand the silence. I listen to music, I talk to myself, I call my parents or grandparents. In short, I do most anything I can to avoid the silence.
Sometimes, quiet is violent.
This is the mindset that I had for so long taken as truth. Because, at the time, it was. But due to the grace of God and the miracles of love He performed, it’s no longer my reality. Not anymore, anyways. I still overthink my assignments and freak out about bills, but there is no need to tie a noose around my mind, loose enough to breathe fine and tie it to a tree and tell it “you belong to me.” 
Sometimes, quiet is violent.
But here’s the thing. “Sometimes” means that there are times that aren’t included in the statement. Silence is what allows me to meditate on God and spend time in prayer with Him, pondering His call of my life and the reason for my past. I need the silence to bring me closer to Him.
Sometimes, quiet is violent.
And sometimes it’s not.

Remembering the Dead End (Flash Fiction)

I remember the damp, unlit street that lead back to my apartment. It’s been a while since I walked that road. The last time was on a particularly terrible night. It’s the night I died.

I remember the words echoing in my head. The feel of the cold steel against my hand, against my head. The words getting louder and louder in my psyche, each repetition forcing my finger to push a little bit harder on the trigger.
“DEAD END. DEAD END. DEAD END. DEAD…”

I remember a split second of searing pain as the bullet pieced through my flesh and skull. I remember flashes of lights- the ambulance that showed up 10 minutes later. I remember the faces gathered around me of people who had lived next to me for years but never thought it necessary to do so much as say hello. Of course, I didn’t either.

There was the guy that lived to my left. Kevin? Kyle? I can never remember his name. There was the elderly woman who lived to my right and always had the TV turned all the way up. Mrs. Freeman? Fremont? It doesn’t matter anymore. She is the one who called when she heard the shot. It’s a miracle she heard it at all over the sound of her Soap Operas that she watched over and over everyday. I remember their concern.

I remember the weeks of recovery. So many doctors. So much pain. Session after grueling session of “Why did you do it?” and “Do you know why you’re here?”

Silence was my response. For months. I was conscious and able to talk. I just didn’t want to. I spent hours staring at the walls without saying a word while doctors and nurses and well-meaning neighbors came by to give me an intoxicating cocktail of medicine and sickly looking flowers.

I remember the day I left. I had nowhere to go but I knew I couldn’t stay at the hospital. I couldn’t go back to the apartment where so much pain had been manifest. I had to go somewhere.

I remember living under a bridge with a guy named Jasper who talked to the shadows as if they were his children.

And people say I’m the crazy one.

I remember seeing a church with a warm light, a welcoming beacon when the world around me was frigid and Jasper wouldn’t let me near the fire. He claimed it was scared and if I came close it would run away.

I remember walking into the church and finding food. Good food. Homemade green bean casserole and honey glazed ham.

I remember the man in the blazer who called himself Reverend Mark. He offered me a cot in the sanctuary with only one request: that I stay for the service the following day. 

I remember the music and the preaching and the judgmental stares. People that called themselves Christians but treated me like garbage. Granted, I wasn’t my biggest fan either. I was the one who shot myself, after all. But I remember Mark. He showed me love. Compassion. He gave me a purpose. A Savior. A Home.

I remember the day that I died. A bullet had pierced my skull and yet somehow I lived.

I remember the day that I began to live again. A meal had filled my stomach and love had warmed my heart.

 I remember my Savior. My Salvation.

I still have doubts. Fears. Nightmares that wake me up in the middle of the night. But I have love.

I will always remember when I came to life.

Miracle or Reprieve?

For the last 10 days, I have enjoyed life. Experienced joy. For the first time in years, I was 100% depression free. God has blessed me in ways that I could never comprehend. Because of this miraculous gift, some questions began to form. One in particular stood out.

Miracle or reprieve?

I have endured this depression for so long that I didn’t know what life was like without it. It had become a part of me. A shadow that was always around.

Because of this, I found it that much more amazing when it was gone. I was finally able to see my life for what it really is- a gift from God. A blessing.

All of my doubts, my fears, my hesitations- they were all gone. The clouds that followed me had given way to sunshine.

So, naturally, I wanted to know.

Miracle or reprieve?

For the past 24-48 hours, however, the clouds have begun to lurk. It’s like they’re on the edge of the horizon- just close enough to hear the distant thunder.

And now they have begun to roll in. Once again, shadows have returned to my life. Not to the extent to which they were. But they’re there.

So that answers the question- it was a reprieve.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a miracle. These past 10 days have been amazing. Even though I may suffer with depression for the rest of my life, I know that God is with me. He watches over me. He blesses me.

He gave me this 10 day reprieve when I needed it most. And for that I am extremely grateful. God has done the most amazing thing for me- He has given me perspective.

So thank you, Lord. Thank you for this gift. And for those that you will continue to give.

Don’t feel bad for me- pity is useless. I am thankful for the gifts and the trials- because it is through both of these that God is preparing me for His work. I am blessed beyond words.

Thank you, God, for the miracle reprieve. 

 

Revival

You may have seen my last post. It was an admission of defeat. I was overcome. Numb. Tired of fighting. It’s funny how quickly things can change.

As a student at a Christian University, I have the opportunity to attend Revival at the Nazarene church on campus every semester. I’ve gone to most of the revival services since I started here, and have attended revival services my entire life. During my first semester last year, a professor told me something that I had never heard before: Revival is for the Church.

I mean, sure, it is an extremely powerful time for saints and sinners alike, but the entire purpose of revival is to revive our relationship with Christ. And man, did God come through this week.

I didn’t want to go to the service tonight. I was defeated, my head was pounding, I was exhausted, and I had tons of homework to do. Basically everyday for college students.

However, I had committed over the weekend to greet at every evening revival service- no matter how I was feeling. So I went.

I am so amazingly glad I did.

At the beginning of today, when I posted my previous blog entitled Numb, I had given up. Not on life. But on feeling anything. I had resigned myself to being a desert- because to allow any feelings into my life was to allow the possibility of depression to drag me down once again. I couldn’t face that possibility. So I chose apathy.

Then God revived me.

From the very beginning of Dr. David Busic’s message, I knew God was going to speak to me. The text used was Psalm 22. It’s a Psalm of lament. It’s not everyday that you hear a sermon preached on lament. Every word that Dr. Busic spoke as he read the psalm tore deep through my apathy into the emotion that I had tried so hard to abandon.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer.

I am a worm and not a man.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

The Psalmist- presumably David- is crying out to God. Asking him why. Why did you abandon me? Why do I not feel you? Why am I alone?

Dr. Busic made a point of saying that 70% of Psalms are of pain and not praise. Lamenting is a good thing. Being honest with God is a good thing.

And you know what?

The Psalms of Pain always come before the Psalms of Praise.

I could feel my sorrows come rushing back to me. Everything that had weighed me down over the last 7 years came to the surface at once. I had to lament. I had to ask God why.

Why? Why was lamenting to the God that for some reason I blamed for my pain a good idea?

Because lament is a result of a faith in a God that is present in the darkness- in the pain- in the sorrow.

God listened. He loves.

The desert of numbess that I had created for myself was suddenly inundated with refreshing, painful, amazing, scary, and wonderful water.

I am relying on Him. I am choosing life. I am choosing revival.

I am choosing to feel again.

Praise God.

Numb

I feel nothing.

It’s not that I can’t feel love or hate or anything in between. I can. I know I’m loved and I love in return.

But I can’t feel anything. It’s like all of my pain has hollowed me out. Like there is nothing left.

And you know what?

It’s not terrible.

I mean, yeah, feeling happy and joyful would be great, but that always ends up with me once again buried in a pit of depression.

You know, I hate that word.

I only use it because there are no words to describe what it’s like. But I hate it. It’s become such a large part of my vocabulary since I opened up, and every time I hear it, read it, or say it, I flinch.

I’m so tired of hearing it.

But now… I’m not depressed. I am just here. Emotionless.

Numb.

It’s like I’m in a desert. Water is life. Emotion. Pain. Sorrow. But there is no water. Just sand. Just openness. Solitude.

I don’t know how long I will stay here. On this comfortable island of numbness. I will miss feeling happy- but I am protected from depression. I know that as long as I’m numb, I will not fall into depression. I will be free from it.

To open my mind and my heart to feelings once again is to make myself vulnerable to the issues that have for so long plagued me. I’m just not ready for that.

So I wait. Not for anything specific. Not for any specific time. Just for clarity of where to go from here.

Do I move forward?

Do I stay numb?

I am pretty sure I put myself here.

As a defense.

So why leave?

For now, I’m content.

I’m okay with being numb.