Monday, December 22, 2014

The Difficult month of December: A Cold Journey

“Whenever God means to make a man great, he always breaks him in pieces first.”Charles Spurgeon 


I've struggled hard over this month of December to get words to flow out of my soul, onto these pages.  I've been met with mixed results.  My spiritual life has suffered recently.  The old depression approaches around this month.  For a variety of reasons I'm sure.  The truth is, it's tough.  There is a lot of hurt today, buried somewhere in the past, affecting today.  There is a lot of hurt yet to come as well.  


 Around such difficult times.. I try to hunker down and reclaim old, cold wonders.  Old fascinations.  I listen to songs that inspire.  I watch movies that perplex me.  I read words that remind me of times long ago, when winter crept into the bones, and these eyes saw snow falling, slanted, just so the side, in the great forest nights of the Great Lakes.  

Life is a twisting, turning adventure that at times seems joyous and sublime, yet at other times seems to be so devastatingly terrible that one wishes for nothing but for it to be over. I've experienced life in both extremes.  


My life, like a dying camp fire, I watched it slowly dim.  Like a sunset, I fought to clinch the horizon and hold it in it's place.  I didn't know there would be a new beginning on the other side of spiritual death.  I didn't know I would wake up a new man.  But before the new man could come, the old Justin had to die.  And he died slowly.  He truly did.  And then he died.  He remained dead for a time.  Then Jesus.  And then the new man.


 Dark times remind us of the light.  Only in darkness can we see the stars, the moon.  Only by the sun's light can we see the world.  And the only reason I can breath, that plants can grow, is the sun.  Very similar, is Jesus Christ.  


Everything exists by him and through him.


Without which, not. 


There are things, that without them, life is completely meaningless.  


Let's see if I can weave the strands together, of my journey to death.  


I always thought, in retrospect, that the reason for my self destructive tendencies was the collapse of my family during the divorce.  I realize now, it wasn't that.  The divorce was certainly part of it.  A hot part of it.  But there was something much more fundamental going on.  


I could feel it at still quiet moments of my journey downward.  For some reason, every once in a while I would know, and think deep down.. this has to happen.     


 There is no other way.  The psychiatrists and doctors and friends would tell me this was my "self fulfilling prophecy."  Certainly a reasonable conclusion for a naturalist to make.  Of course it was nonsense.  I had tried to force myself, by sheer will, determination, out of my predicament time and again.  Always trying to fight the collapse.   But eventually, like a dying cancer patient, you accept your situation as exactly as it must beNothing, after all happens in God's world by mistake.


 At the core I was suffering from a lack of meaning in my life.  I was suffering from a lack of Jesus Christ in my life.  And without him, life is nothing.  Life is simply, what I made of it.. phone Kyle.  Dxm?  Yeah.  Great.  He comes and picks me up.  We drive over to Target, and walk down the medicine aisle.  I grab four packages of Coricidin Cough and Cold from the shelf.  We buy them, drive home, slam 32 red pills each, and then fade away into my dark bedroom, Bear McCreary playing in the background "Something Dark is Coming" or Clint Mansell's "Death is the Road to Awe." 


There was something very honest about that.  Nothingness.  Sheer slipping away... A complete rejection of the consumer society and it's hollowness.  There seemed to be nothing there for us.  For me. 


Something so fundamental... as destruction.  Self destruction.  Embracing darkness and death.  That was one strand of it.  Yet there were so many others.  


I think of a hospital visit in 2009.. as I recorded it then:


I was in the sun room.  I was wearing all black that day; a black hoodie and black pants. Sun was shining through the tips of the bare oak trees. A bit of snow was on the ground outside. It was warmer out there. The warmth was breaching into the long room. I had been sitting in one of the large leather seats, but had stood up.
There was a white board against the opposite wall. There were a few random statements jotted down on it. I stood up, staring across the board reading the random comments. I smiled, and lifted the blue pen to the board. As I was writing my statement, the door opened and a girl walked in.

The girl was wearing a red polka-dotted shirt, and dark blue pants. She had long curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

"Hi," she said with a funny voice.

"Hi," I replied, smiling.

There was something different about her. I couldn't quite place it.

"Your tears will rise up to soar with the birds," She read what I had written on the board.

The sun was shining against her face as she spoke. A swift wind was blowing against the blue sky out the window, among the shining silver-brown tips of the oak trees. Clouds passed over the sun quickly, some wind blew creaking against the side of the building. We stared at each other. She sat in a chair near mine. The soft dark broke and the sun was shining in again. It blasted against the board lighting up the words I had written.

"How long have you been here?" She asked.

"Oh.. A long collusion of days, marked by unending propaganda, and.. Little progress," I smirked.

"And I have just arrived, in such a place as this," She smiled, sitting down in a chair next to mine.

"What does that statement mean to you?" She asked, pointing to the board.

"Well, " I said rubbing my chin thinking. "It means that.. There is hope out here. In this wilderness we seem trapped in. We are lost. Being lost is what defines us. It hurts like hell.. We are dying. But that's the point. We have to die to live. Everything we do in life is trial or a nudge or a gift."

"So true."

"And we are on journeys.. To the bottom now. We cry at the bottom, in the mud, and the mud is made from us. But then... our tears rise up.. And sing songs.. They soar. This is a natural law. Water evaporates. Our tears will rise up. We have nowhere to go but up."

There was a short pause. I hadn't even realized I'd felt that way.

"You remind me of Donnie Darko," She said.

I smiled.

"But more, " I continued. "When I'm gone. When this destroys me, my tears will still rise up. Even if I am gone, some of me will still rise."

"Life is an endless circle," She said. "You'll survive this."

"What if I don't want to?"

"You'll have to. We all have a destiny."

"Yes we do," I replied. "Whether dark or light. It will come about. People like us.. And people like us are rare. We know this."

I smiled at her.

"It's such a gift to meet somehow right now," I said. "Right now, this moment."

I was staring out the window now, leaning against my chair for support.

"This moment," I emphasized, staring at her. "I mean.. Is it possible? Right now? It's so perfect. It's so fateful. We're in this moment right now. It's ours. I'm meeting you, you meeting me. Will we ever forget it?"

"I am honored to be in this moment, " She said.

"I mean it's so perfect, so real, so incredible, so-"

She stood up, and walked over to me, leaning down, touching her hand underneath my chin, kissing me softly on the lips.


Another strand.. the movie "The Fountain."  The hopeless war on death.


Another strand.. the movie "Donnie Darko."  Time paradox.  The search for God.  Saving the world.


Another strand.. the series "Battlestar Galactica."  The nuked colonies, the last 50,000 survivors of man kind fleeing into deep space, fighting to survive, against a deadly enemy..


Another strand.. a band called "Death Cab for Cutie."  The hopeless search for a perfect sexuality.


Another strand.. the movie "Dawn of the Dead."  Fighting the consumerist nightmare surrounding, living as a survivor in a zombified apocalypse.  


Another strand.. the movie "Star Wars."  The hope of victory over the darkness.  The rebellion fighting the evil empire.  


Another strand.. a song by Bear McCreary called "Something Dark is Coming."  The quiet acceptance of a dark time, a dark period of life approaching.


 Another strand.. The Mayan calendar, the date the world would end November 21st, 2012.  The hope for an end.


Another strand.. musicians named Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, dead beauty distributors that I hoped to join at 27.


Another strand.. The Matrix movies.  Escaping the control system, freedom of the mind.  


Another strand.. despair.


Another strand.. the three books, Jacob and the Meadow, David and the Fall, Joshua and the Rise.. predicting my own future.


 Another strand.. reading the Bible at Perkins every night.. strange fascination.


 Another strand.. the thousands and thousands of pages of free writing and journaling I did over the years.. seeking, describing, immersed, amazed, in awe.


Another strand.. dreams of the future.  


Another strand.. the night walks of quiet contemplation on spring, summer, fall, and winter nights.  Mind wandering freely.  


Another strand.. The Gospel of John movie, script directly from the book itself.  Over and over, in a dark room, bright screen, light shining in the darkness..


Strands upon strands, God weaving my thoughts together, allowing it all to fall apart.  Strands upon strands, folded in and out, pieces together, leading to.. something special.  Something beautiful.  That's what one might call a spiritual journey.  Always so different for all people.  Mine was a journey from confusion, to self destruction, to death, to waiting, and to new life, through Christ Jesus. Yeshua, the savior, the renewer of my soul.


Psalm 18:He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.  

“Only when holiness and worship meet can evil be conquered. For that, only the Christian message has the answer.”
Ravi Zacharias,
Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message

When God is our Holy Father, sovereignty, holiness, omniscience, and immutability do not terrify us; they leave us full of awe and gratitude. Sovereignty is only tyrannical if it is unbounded by goodness; holiness is only terrifying if it is untempered by grace; omniscience is only taunting if it is unaccompanied by mercy; and immutability is only torturous if there is no guarantee of goodwill.”
Ravi Zacharias