Archive for February, 2007

Bondage (Finale)

Posted by on Wednesday, 28 February, 2007

I saw a bumper sticker last week. It had a black background with white letters that simply stated: All Else Failed. I could only think, “Ain’t that the truth?”

(The story so far: Part I, Part II)

For the next few days, I kept catching myself actually singing worship songs… and you know how much I loath worship songs. (I had another song in my head too, but that one deserves a post in itself, so remind me later.)

So, it was mid November, and I spent the next six weeks trusting in God and chasing every potential social and ministerial opportunity that I saw; trying to endear myself to an increasingly cliquish group who mostly did not seem to care if I was around or not; trying to restore a relationship with someone whom I was too blind to notice was screening my phone calls and unwilling to devote more than a few minutes to talking to me. “She’s just really busy…” I kept telling myself. Until it became obvious that she was perfectly willing to make time for other people. Several other people.

One morning in late December, I was still lying in bed, just thinking things through, and became suddenly so overwhelmed that I let out a bellow of pain. That’s no way to start a day. I let out another later as I beat my fists against the shower wall. (Which at least was less destructive than the last bathroom experience. Why all this rage in the bathroom? I tend to do a lot of my deep thinking in the shower as there is literally no possibility for distraction there… and when I think about certain things, I get angry.) Anyway, it was then that I realized with horror:

I had not been freed from anything… they’re just taking turns!

Who is, you ask? Well, did you do your homework on this post? (I told you it would be relevant.)

When I talk about this kind of thing, some have mistakenly thought that this “Scarecrow” I speak of from time to time is in fact some kind of demonic entity. That is not true. In one of those old posts, I was amazed and delighted to discover the statement: …a Scarecrow is simply a straw man, hung on a cross, to ward off Blackbirds. Wow. One sentence, three metaphors, all TRUE. I wonder how long it took me to think that up?

Anyway, there was a specific point in my life when I “created” this scarecrow in order to protect me from something even worse. (Which I really should have kept in mind when killing him off.) Sometimes even people who believe in God are unwilling to accept the existence of the Devil. Interestingly enough, I technically believed in the Devil first… I imagined a dark presence that sits upon your shoulder and whispers all manner of despairing things in your ear, or maybe straight into the back of your mind… I just called him The Blackbird.

As for the other… I have not mentioned to anyone what exactly I was doing last summer, when my friends had all left or were otherwise occupied, as I turned away from God. Maybe someday I will, but suffice to say for now, as the record that I did leave indicates, I identified a new demon.

So then, the Blackbird and the Wolf. Or as Radiohead so succinctly put it:
Sometimes you sulk… sometimes you BURN.

The problem, obviously, is that I said I was trusting in God’s plan, but I was still looking to this girl as a sort of “litmus test.” I will know God is real when He restores this relationship. I had given myself the loose deadline of New Year’s to get things straightened out. It had seemed like plenty of time, yet it didn’t happen. I couldn’t help but think that if I had only had my breakthrough a month earlier, I might have gotten somewhere. For everything had started to change back in October, but I wasn’t ready to move until November. As the year drew to a close, it was clear that I had fallen once more.

I put my trust in you
pushed as far as I could go
for all this, there’s only one thing you should know…

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter!

–Linkin Park

So that about brings us to here. It really makes no difference how much I love her, the fact remains that she did not respect me. Traditionally, I signal the end of a relationship by cutting off all of my hair. This posed a slight problem at the end of my third relationship, because I had actually never stopped cutting off my hair since the last time.

Are you ever in luck…
For as it turns out, at this point my hair was probably the longest that it had been in about six years… but I worked hard on that…
If you consider not doing anything for months and months “working hard.”
But I had been wanting to try something new, let it grow; I had been wanting to dye it as well, but was never properly motivated to undertake that operation.
That’s nice… Gone!
But it’s January…

So I cut it all off again. I had also been trying some facial hair at the time and when I looked in the mirror the first time, my only thought was, “Man, you look like you just got out of prison.”


But I didn’t necessarily want everyone that I met thinking the same thing, so that had to go too. I looked in the mirror once more and realized, “Now you look like a monk.”


Yeah… don’t push it. Anyway, not a monk, but a soldier. I had named my demons, and I was ready to put on the full armor of God, look them right in the eye and say, “I know what you’re doing… AND YOU CAN STOP NOW!”

Of course, people can’t help but wonder why someone would cut off all his hair in the middle of winter, so I told people that it was my New Year’s Resolution to lose weight… which I thought was pretty funny.

…Yet so very very true.

Falling In Love (Is So Hard On the Knees)

Posted by on Thursday, 15 February, 2007

There is an inconvenient fact in my past, that a certain young lady has had, and continues to have, an incredibly dramatic impact on several areas of my life. I say “inconvenient” because her influence is severely disproportionate to her actual presence in my life. I only had consistent and meaningful interaction with her for a period of a few months, and that was several years ago now. Yet, the choices I made back then continue to dictate not only what I spend my time doing, but also where and to some degree, with whom.

It was because of this girl (or more precisely, because of her father) that I started going to church in the first place. I tried to keep that fact quiet for years, although I’ve been more open about it recently. So several people knew that already. What is considerably less well known is that I followed her from community college to university. Now, she was not the only reason I chose this particular school, and I have had no trouble explaining my choice to people without ever mentioning her. I would have at least considered this school regardless. But the obvious fact remains, of the schools I did consider, I ultimately only applied to one, and it was the same one where she happened to be.

So years later, when my search for God had left me as empty and broken as ever, and I was miserable at a school that failed to meet my expectations in so many ways, I could only look back with the painful realization that I did all this for her… for nothing.

It was also inconvenient because there was someone else who was far more significant to me, yet had nowhere near the same impact on my life.

I was in love with someone else when we met. I wish that were not true, but it’s undeniable. Even worse, for the entire duration of our relationship, there was a part of me that felt that I was doing the wrong thing, and that when our relationship would reach its inevitable end, I could get back to pursuing my “real” goals. That is probably the deepest regret of my entire life, and nothing I could ever say or do can erase it. It was only after it was over that I realized what a fool I had been. (I’m a special kind of dumb that actually waits until the basket breaks and then tries to put all my eggs into it.)

Things were different after that, but in a strange way, better. Our friendship was deeper and more honest. Our relationship seemed more “real” to me, which is somewhat ironic, because we did not have a real relationship at all. But even that was not to last.

So I spent a year, a solid year, just waiting, watching, hoping. I kept my distance, afraid to get to close, as other people came and went, as new opportunities lead to new disappointments over and over again. Through it all I remained convinced that deep inside was a little girl who just wanted to be held, and loved, and told that she was beautiful… who maybe one day would realize that that was more important than having all of her expectations met.

In the meantime, I wrestled with demons.

And what of that other “inconvenient” girl? How can someone who meant so little have done so much, while someone who meant everything to me did so little?

Little, I say? Did I not have to get a cell phone plan, because long conversations on a prepaid phone were too expensive? Why, I’ve called her just to chat more than I have anyone… and there is no second place, because that’s not something I ever did before. She did not so much force me to look critically at myself, for I was pretty good at that already, but she inspired me to grow and change in a way that no one ever has. Though that was a painfully slow process, it was nonetheless real, and one that I never wanted to end.

So there I finally have the answer I was looking for: that girl may have changed my life… but this one changed me.

It wasn’t until the week after Christmas, at 28 years old, that truly understood what love was. The actions and decisions this girl was making were driving me absolutely mad. But I still wanted to make things work. I started to identify with Hosea, although that’s not a reasonable analogy as I my own actions have been very far from noble and innocent. But maybe even that is the point. I’m flawed, she’s flawed, but I was still committed to loving her. True love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a choice.

And with that, another realization. I had been head over heels in love with my first girlfriend. So much so that I was completely blind to her real nature. And when that was revealed to me, I found that as much as I was in love with her, I really did not like her… at all.

My second girlfriend, I loved. I cared about her, I enjoyed spending time with her, I found her attractive… but I always felt that there was something missing. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise, deep down I longed for a certain spark, a certain passion that just wasn’t there.

My third girlfriend was the only person that I have both loved and been in love with at the same time. Now that is a truly amazing thing that is worth holding on to. Unfortunately for both of us, it took a great while for me to reach that point, and that “same time” did not quite coincide with the period in which we were actually dating.

Interlude: A Flashback

Posted by on Friday, 9 February, 2007

My narrative is not over by the way, but it’s taking much longer to write than I anticipated. Here it is February and I’m still talking about November.

A quick flashback then. If I’ve never mentioned why I frequently go to Mexico (and I’m not sure that I have)… then ask me about it later. Suffice it to say, I was in Mexico in September. The place at which I usually stay has amenities like electricity and plumbing. This was my first time staying at “The Ranch”, which is located in the middle of nowhere, a 45 minute drive away from the main stretch along a windy, rocky, dirt road, does not have such luxuries. (Perfect for an electrical-engineering-hating luddite such as myself.) The sleeping accommodations consist of about a dozen single room “loft houses” in two semi-circles (like an “m”). For whatever reason, I could not get to sleep one night, and perhaps out of boredom as much as necessity, I got up multiple times to go to the bathroom. Being male, I did not feel the need to walk the several hundred feet to the outhouse, and chose to simply to do business around the back of the house.

The first time I was up, I was perplexed by a rapidly dancing point of light coming from a different part of the camp, that looked as if someone was erratically waving around a small Mag-lite. I could not think of a good reason for someone to be doing this in the middle of the night, and figured instead that it must have something to do with the dying embers of the camp fire which was also somewhat in that direction. However, when I looked in the opposite direction, away from the camp, no people, no fire, still I saw the same dancing light.

The second time I got up, as I was making my way to the back of the house, I distinctly heard what sounded like someone running off in the distance. As I stood wondering about this, the sound changed so that it seemed to be coming straight towards me. It was dark, but I could still see well enough to know that there was nothing moving in the clearing in front of me. So my ears were telling me that something was coming straight at me and my eyes were telling me that there was nothing there. At that point I decided that I really did not have to go to the bathroom after all, and scurried back into the house and to bed.

“What?” I chastised myself, as I lay there. “I thought you weren’t afraid of anything!” Well, first of all, I don’t recall making that claim. But assuming for a moment that I did, even if it were true that I am not afraid of anything in this world, if something that I can not see is running toward me, I simply did not want to be around when it got there.

I don’t know what all that was about. I was in an unfamiliar place, late at night, and my eyes and ears were just playing tricks on me is all. There’s no reason to think anything supernatural was going on, right? Right?

For outside of your comfort zone… Here be Monsters.

Bondage (Part II)

Posted by on Saturday, 3 February, 2007

(Read Part I)

As I have mentioned, I started going to a new church service in October. The music was good. Really good. It made me cry. But what does that mean? These were not tears of joy, or relief, or anything like that. I picture a poor orphan boy, a street urchin if you will, standing outside a toy store window on Christmas Eve, looking in at all of the decorations and lights and there are stuffed animals and a colorful Ferris wheel and a model train going around and around… but he’s standing out in the cold, and despite all of the wonder and the hope… deep down he knows that none of that is ever going to be for him. And like that little boy, I cry.

In November, I was reading some of my blog posts from LAST November, and from the past year, and I was shocked to realize that they might easily have been written in the last week. I had been hurting for a long, long time. I had spent so much time just waiting for something to happen; something to happen with God, something to happen with school, something to happen with a certain someone from my past… just waiting. For something. Anything.

After years of waiting…
Nothing came.
As your life flashed before your eyes,
You realize…

I’m a reasonable man
Get off
Get off
Get off my case get off my case

The first Sunday of every month, my church group gathers in its entirety (supposedly) and studies Ephesians. I do not remember the specific passage that night (somewhere around the end of chapter 4, beginning of chapter 5, I think), but I vividly remember feeling that I had a very heavy weight upon me, such that I could barely keep my head up. I wanted to lie down on the floor right then and there. I didn’t though. What I did do was unscrew the lid of my water bottle, stare into it for a moment and then replace the lid without taking a drink – three times in rapid succession. Which I suppose must have tipped someone off that something was on my mind because at that point I was invited to step outside.

There have been two points in my life when I have looked into the sky and told God to “Bring it.” The first time, I had no idea what I was in for. This time… maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. At that point, someone else came outside and, um, exploded… and my friend and I ran for it and spent a good hour in hiding. That’s right, hiding. At church. The absurdity of the situation was just plain comical. I needed that.

Anyway, that situation was “resolved” somehow (I don’t know… I wasn’t there). For the first time in a long time, I was cheerful. I had hope. I was almost giddy. Things seemed to be aligning just right, the way I had been hoping for so very long… But in the end, it was not right enough. From higher hopes comes a greater fall. I went home, and never even made it from the garage into the house. After another mild, yet increasingly-too-common violent episode, I collapsed against the door that leads into the house. I could no longer pretend that I did not understand what was really going on here… that I did not see the writing on the wall. I could not do this to myself anymore. I did not want to ever feel that way again. Ever.

I had been debating leaving my church group for some time. But these were my friends, my community, and I had come to realize that it was very important for me to be around other people. I knew that walking away would mean stepping into a very dark pit. I really wasn’t looking forward to that, because I felt that I had just come out of a very dark pit. Yet I had begun to accept that maybe it was necessary to go through that darkness just to emerge on the other side.

The next Sunday, I woke up convinced that that evening would be my last time at 20 Somethings. I did, however, consult with one last person , who ultimately talked me out of it. As chance would have it, I could not be there the next Sunday anyway, because of a school field trip. (Which also marked the first time that I missed church for a completely non-Christianity related reason. And… TIME! Three and a half years… 182 Sundays.) To my recollection, I only told one person that I wasn’t going to be there that week. The next week, no one asked where I had been, if indeed anyone even noticed that I was missing. So this is what I’m fighting so hard to hold on to.

I’m confused now as to the order of things. I know all of this was going on in November. At some point, I was in Pomona, lying on the floor again, as was my habit. I had no more strength. My simply head could not take anymore theology. I could wait no longer. I had no more strength. I could not go on, not just in my walk with God, but with life in general. I had nothing left. But the words of the new worship leader kept echoing in my head. “Cry out to Jesus.” “You don’t have to clean yourself up first.” “Jesus will meet you where you are.” “Cry out to Jesus.” “Cry out to Jesus.” Well, I had never actually done that before. So what if I just put aside the endless debate of theology vs. skepticism in my head? What if I just see what Jesus can do? What happens when you reach the end, the absolute bitter end, and then you just close your eyes and keep walking? I rolled over onto my hands and knees (or perhaps more accurately, my face), and I cried out. Maybe audibly, I don’t remember.

So what does happen? Well, nothing at first. But I spent an awful lot of time on my knees in the following days. Over and over I prayed that my eyes would be opened. By this point it was almost Thanksgiving, and starting with that business about my mother, my eyes were opened to a great many things. I was telling someone about a month later that ever since trusting Jesus, I had been getting my ass kicked. He told me that would be “The Adversary.” Really? I had just assumed that it was God himself. I have stated before that around Thanksgiving, God kicked my butt for four days straight, and just to keep it interesting, on the third day he punched me full in the face. Starting that Wednesday evening, every conversation and interaction that I had with people revealed my place, my significance; with my family, my “friends”, my church group in general. Most of these seemed to indicate that I was completely expendable. I was also (unintentionally?) mocked with an impromptu song set to the tune of (of all things) a Radiohead song. God certainly knows how to make it personal.

The “punch” came while watching Batman Begins. I had seen this movie before, but somehow this particular line failed to capture my attention:
Patients suffering delusional episodes often focus their paranoia on an external tormentor, usually one conforming to Jungian archetypes.
In this case, a scarecrow.

Well, that certainly made me sit up straight. Come now, that was simply uncalled for.

Four days of this kind of stuff. On the fifth day, I decided that, hey, as long as I’m getting my butt kicked anyway, I might as well just go straight to the source: The Epistle of James. Have I ever mentioned how fond I am of that book? I came to God in the first place while reading it. Now only two verses in:
Count it all joy my brethren when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Wait, steadfastness is a good thing? Here all this time I thought I was just being an idiot. Well then, in that case, “Bring it! Bring it, bring it, BRING IT!” This was Sunday again, and after church I went for a walk. Finally, I felt that something was different. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. I felt free. I also felt that somewhere I had lost an enti
re year of my life. No more waiting. I decided to pounce on every opportunity that came along and trust that God would lead me through.

Later that day, I wanted to communicate this change to the only person that I thought would understand. Unfortunately, circumstances between us had long been such that I was only ever permitted an extremely narrow window of private conversation in which to get my point across. I prepared myself: You get one sentence. Maybe two. GO. “I’m not really sure where I’ve been for the last year, but I think I’m back now.”
“Back where?”
“Back… here…”
Bugger, focusing on the wrong word. And that was that. The point I was trying to convey was that I, timoth, (for that is my true name) was back, and that whoever had been running things (if anyone) for the last year or so had been relieved of command.