Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rescue in the Labyrinth, Darkest Hour

Hebrews 10:25
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I'd like to shift gears entirely if you don't mind.  I knew you wouldn't mind.  You're so accommodating. 

If I were to ask you to imagine what it feels like for a soul to slowly die, what might you imagine?

Many of us have been there.  Many of us have felt just that way.  Maybe for some of us, that's today.  And no, becoming a Christian doesn't take all the pain away.  There is comfort, in a way, yet there is also crafting.  And I'm not the crafter, I'm the clay.

So I've been sick for a few days now.  I'm also on break from classes for a few weeks.  It's given me plenty of time to think.  I've been playing computer games, and more so just watching old movies in my collection.  Strangely enough a few romance (kind of) movies came across the screen.  Naturally, knowing me they were strange and somewhat bizarre renditions of outside the box love (to say the least) but hey it was fun to take a stroll down memory lane.

First up was a movie called Manic, made in 2001.  This one pushes all my buttons internally, let me tell you.  I don't know who how what or why, but it's intense.  The music, much of it put together by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth just blows me away, because Thurston Moore and his beautiful sounds make my heart go yay, and whispers terror and forgotten sadness through the halls of my brain at the same time.  The best music makes you feel happy, but sad.  That's my views anyway. The movie is about a kid who gets thrown into a mental hospital, and the experiences he has while hes there, including a romance with a girl whos there.  See why I love it so much?  It's how I spent the last 10 years!

I'll include a music track from each of these movies, for your enjoyment.  I certainly enjoy it:

The identification I feel with my kind of past suffering there is nothing short of.. transformational, in and of itself.

Do you know what happens when we go through avid years of darkness?  It tatters us.  It rips us apart.  Receiving Christ removes our sins, we receive the Holy Spirit, we start to change.  We start.  But the past doesn't disappear.  Our punishment for it disappears. 

It's still in our heads.  Theres no memory wipe.

An atheist was recently interrogating me on my spirituality.  She asked if I considered myself intellectual, dark, and wise?  I said yes, absolutely.  Later when I revealed my allegiance to Jesus Christ, she snapped back with the question, how can you say you are dark?  I replied, there is still great darkness tucked into my head.  For the things I've gone through.  And for the things I have yet to heal from.

I was recently spending time with some new friends I made up at Highland Church, an evangelical free church in town here.  They have a youth ministry, for people in college, so I figured I'd stop by and awe them with my brilliance (just kidding).  But I made some friends, we all hung out new years eve.  And I just reveled in observing them.  I'm an introvert, that's a lot of what I do is just observe and take notes in my own head.  And my goodness.  They are so sweet.  They are so wonderful.  Or maybe, I have just chosen to love them as my family, because that is what they are.  But you know what else?  They are so very innocent.  I'm sitting there, watching them play board games and giggle together, and I'm thinking to myself, and I truly was, "wow, places like this still exist, people like this, free of the endless enslavements of the ugly world still exist, hiding out in the suburbs, free in Christ, playing board games."  I was legitimately amazed.  And I still am.  More, I would do anything, anything at all to protect that in them.  I would go to great lengths to see them never have to endure what I did.

I was telling one of my new friends just what it was like to be without the Father, without the Son, and adrift in the wake of the divorce of my parents.  I said:

It's like you lose your foundation, because your foundation isn't God.  It's your family.  And when it's gone, you wake up, and the world isn't the same anymore.  You aren't the same.  The people around you aren't the same.  Your house isn't the same.  It's like awaking in a labyrinth. 

Dark skies overhead.  Red walls.  All manner of dangers.  Burden upon your back.  Too tired to move.  For ten years I walked through that labyrinth, sleeping against the sides of the maze every night.  And inside, it's a race against time.  Cold and barren.  Because somewhere in the center is the truth, of what's really going on in your head.  Why am I crumbling?  Why am I so depressed? 

I was on a journey to discover the source of my pain.  And I tried to do that with writing, with drugs, with introspection, with any idea I could muster and any book I could read.  But as you got deeper and deeper into the labyrinth you'd realize that there was no time, even after years, when the whole of my mind would accept such a realization.  Instead my mind lead me in all the wrong directions.  Doctors and counselors did the same.  They would treat the symptoms, not the cause, miss the cause, mistreat the cause or ignore the cause entirely.  Pills, and all the while I was acquiring new burdens.  New sins.  New addictions. 

At the same time the pain within festering, and your actions become more and more desperate.  You're in jail, you're in mental hospitals, you're attempting suicide on roads in the midst of night.  After years of that, the load has become so heavy, that even if you found the source of your pain and somehow discovered how to mend it, the burden has become too much, the sins and addictions too many, piled on the back, and you know you'd never make it on the trek back out of the labyrinth alive.  That is precisely where I was. 

If you think this metaphor, this illustration is perhaps too severe, ask me about the details, and you will discover, I grossly underestimate the impact, if anything.  We all do, with the random tragedies that beset us over life.  These things decimate the heart, the mind, the soul.  After 8 years in the labyrinth formed around me, finally my body itself begins to give way.  I'm waking up not in mental hospitals, but now emergency rooms.  Suction cups on my kidneys.  Doctors telling me things like, "we weren't sure you were going to make the night."

Until one night in the black rock of the labyrinth, Father God made it possible that I might call out and scream, "Jesus Save Me" desperately into the uncertain skies.  Uncertain skies of red and orange sunset, that claimed nothing of any creator.  That said nothing of any Savior.. but none the less.  And much to my surprise.. A light shined into the darkness, driving off the demented beasts that feasted on my flesh, arms around my shoulders lifting me gently to my feet.  Removing the burden from my back.  So I might finish the journey I had begun, to the source of all the pain.

For some reason the movie Manic reminds me of all of that.  It reminds me of precisely the kind of uncertainty that was inside of me at that time.  The question wrapped in thick layers of uncertainty and fear was always at the fore-front of my mind when within psych wards, rehabs, and jail cells: When will it end?

When will I understand the bit of hidden knowledge deep within me, that might unravel this puzzle?  But what was it?  Was I even headed in the right direction?  Does it even exist?

I say very clearly, that I was not even looking in the right places.  It was like looking for a drink of water in the middle of the hottest desert on the planet, and then being prompted, entirely externally, to call upon the sky above, and have a fountain appear within me.  How?  I cannot say.  Still to this day much of what I read and attempt to understand about my heavenly Father clashes with everything I had understood or do seem to know about reality and about knowledge and science and math.  My answer very simply to that thought is: Good.  The better my God does not line up with my prior knowledge, the better it must be, because my prior knowledge can also be summed up in one word: Useless.  It's logical end was death and nothingness and espoused the philosophy that I ought to be content with that because it was the most simple and logical answer.  

There never was any hidden knowledge.  Or was there?  Maybe the hidden knowledge was Jesus Christ, and the Bible.  Hidden knowledge I was incapable of knowing, since, it was right in front of me.  There were Bibles stacked around me.  And you know what, even in the end, the last two years of my disaster I carried a Bible with me in a backpack everywhere I went.  I studied it and read from it.  But you know why?  Only out of literary interest.  I was taking ideas from it and planting them subliminally in a book I was writing.  When I'd looked back on that over the past year, I'd always thought that the Bible I carried around then was a foreshadowing of the coming moment of salvation, of conversion, of acceptance of Christ.  But maybe there is something even more profound there: Despite having a Bible directly in front of me, despite reading it, the words soaking into my drug drenched brain, only by God the Father making my mind able to call on Jesus Christ, was I able to truly receive what was being communicated in that book.

The second movie I watched is called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind.  Yet another weird movie, about a guy and girl who date and end up erasing their memories of each other.  The movie follows the main character during his memory wipe, as he relives the memories, changing his mind throughout the story of wanting to have them deleted but being powerless to stop it because hes asleep.  I know, amazing right?  This one always pulls my heart strings too.  Not to the extent of Manic, but still quite powerful.  Why, would I be so nuts as to torture myself with these movies?  Obviously the fever must be driving me insane.

I'm attracted to romance tales like these because they're different.  I like different.  Not to mention in Eternal Sunshine the male character Joel is the classic introvert.  I love it. 

What is love anyway?  I've had a few days to ponder that.  But more I've been wondering, what is love in the idea of marriage as a communication from God regarding his love for me?  Jesus Christ and his joining with humanity, with me, with you, with us, is often compared to a marriage.  Believers and Jesus Christ are married together in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  So perhaps the institution of marriage on Earth is a picture of God's love for me.  Perhaps, when I meet that young woman who I am to be with, I will be one step closer to understanding God's love for me.

Moonrise Kingdom was the third movie I watched.  It was for the most part fairly stupid and uninteresting, aside from the main story between the young boy and young girl.  It was just the picture of two misfits falling together that I found so astonishingly wonderful.  I just love that.

Really I fear that the young woman I marry might become too close to my heart.  Like Abraham with Isaac.  But what would it mean to finally feel that... so coveted.  It's as simple as that, as I walk through the labyrinth in search of digging out the pain buried deep in my heart, to pull it kicking and screaming into the light to be burnt out of my soul.  Along the journey, that I might meet another mental patient in the livid halls of the human condition, to walk hand in hand with, as we are guided by the dove to the Holy Light.  

God is so loving.  God is so kind.  God is so gracious.  And I am so undeserving.  

1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."

Grace is a word that continues appearing, as I feel the Holy Spirit on me.  In meetings, when I give words.  Then I receive words.  It continues appearing.  I'm drawn to it.

Is there ever an accident?  Did the flu enter my body for no reason, or is there a reason for everything?

I dreamt a week ago, a terrible thing.  I had been reading and studying messages by a certain Doctor Bradshaw, a Christian doctor, teaching on healing of the inner child.  I had found it to be quite Biblical.  I drifted off to sleep, one week ago today early in the morning and I saw something quite terrible.  I saw myself as a child, in a room tattered with trinkets, memories of all the pain in my life.  The child, myself, terrified on the floor, terrorized, devastated.  Locked in a basement.  All manner of sadness, all manner of insanity.  The walls splattered in blood.  I began crying, and I cried.  And I cried, as I watched.  Then I woke up, crying out as I woke up, eyes wet with tears.  And I realized at that moment, that there is so much to heal from, I hardly know where to begin.

At the same time I struggle, oh do I struggle to remain loyal and obedient to God.  I fail him everyday.  And just in prayer this morning I called out to him, really yelled and said that I give all the problems over to him.  All my issues.  And I demanded, that I am your mess Father!  This is so very true.  Later today, I watched a sermon by Mark Driscoll on the book of Malachi 1:1-10 regarding how God has loved his people and in response, we yell at him and slap him while we sit on his lap.  And he doesn't do anything in response, because he has loved us.  We just have to realize that.  And I have to realize, that God isn't going to get on board with what I want him to do.  And all I need do to discover how much he loves me, is to imagine what my life would have been like if he had not drawn me to receive Jesus Christ his Son.  It doesn't take long to realize that I would be dead, institutionalized, or a vegetable.  Trust is as foreign to me as peace of mind.  I know very little about trust, but that I may offer it, with risk.  But even then, it's a struggle to get it to stick where I want to place it.  There is a long way to come from.  I want to be honest about that much. 

Nevertheless, what a testimony, they might say.  This is a process that will take much time.  In many keys areas I must try to recover and heal.  When you go through so much pain and beating, abuse, sexual abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, loss, most of it self-induced, you tend to hide parts of your mind from yourself.  It's something psychologists call memory suppression or repression.  There are entire spans of my life, years that I hardly have cognizance with.  So much of my time is spent journaling, an extremely painful process that often means repression.  Things I pull from the mystery, slide back into it to varying degrees.  But as I see parts of my past years re-added to my memory as a whole, I see vital parts of myself returning.  I am reminded of what Justin was like at age 14.  I am reminded of what Justin was like at age 8.  I am reminded of what Justin was like at age 18 and 19.  That is a beautiful process.  It brings tears to my eyes.  As my love of music returns.. as the quality of music analysis comes back into my mind.  As I start to remember how when I was younger I would make mental notes in time to mark what it felt like to experience a year.  Or half a year.  I remember realizing just how naive I was..  Driving new roads through a once dead mind, to rediscover, once finished, what I might be like when the broken pieces and fragments of half forgotten memories are restored through this long process.  What the whole of me might one day look like upon reflection... Seeing the truth.  With Jesus Christ it has become possible, that which was impossible, as I lay dying in a maze, a labyrinth, of my own terrible design.  

Isaiah 43:19 NIV "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."