Half Asleep Ramblings

What if we lived in a world where doors disappeared?
Seamlessly blended with walls as soon as they were closed.
You’d have to remember where you came from.
And how that helps you leave again.
Would you remember the doors?
Or stay in the room, defeated?

When I Write

When I’m overwhelmed, overstimulated, and over it, I write. Not necessarily anything of substance, not necessarily anything that will ever be posted. But I write. Sometimes it’s as simple as the Greek alphabet (so I don’t forget that always useful lifeskill), sometimes it’s a random French phrase that finds its home in my head and randomly comes up for air.
I’m not often surprised by what I write. After all, this is my brain it’s coming out of. But sometimes, I notice the words that are traced in half-assed cursive. Sometimes, I notice certain trends that to a third grade literary critic would raise some red flags. Phrases like “j’ai terminé” and “je veux mourir” sometimes spill out. I didn’t intend it. I don’t seek to scare anyone that dares to read my scribbles over my shoulder. I tell myself it’s because they’re easy to write in cursive and I love the way that the J goes so beautifully into the AI to form “j’ai” in what could, with the biggest imagination, be considered calligraphy. Sometimes I tell myself it’s because they’re some of the few French phrases that I still remember. But the patterns are undeniable and the words tattoo themselves onto my forearms and forehead and foresight because I know what’s coming.
So I silently close the notebook, resume my regularly scheduled procrastination, and shove the phrases right back into their home in my head.
Not today.

The Fight

The world is a dark place.

Sometimes you wonder if Thanos was on to something.

Maybe Daenerys was justified.

After all, the evil in this world seems to have pervaded every aspect of humanity. The government oppresses the weak. Leaders of the church abuse those who they swore to protect. Brothers turn on brothers for their own gain. World leaders murder their own people over who they love and call it morality. Political systems are built to increase the power of the few at the detriment of humanity itself.

But just as the dark seems to have won, just as the last few specks of light seem to have flickered out, you see them.

Children rising up and demanding change in the name of a better future.

Women coming forward to testify on the horrors they’ve endured at the hands of men with the hope of gaining an equal ground.

Corporations donating their tax breaks to the protection of our world.

Men with their husbands and women with their wives showing the world that love is love and only light can come from love.

What Thanos didn’t see, what Daenerys was too blinded by her own ambition to realize, was that humanity becomes the strongest when the darkness closes in. We gather together and fight for the lives and dignities of all people in all places of all walks of life. Together, as one species, we stand up and tell the darkness it won’t win. We look in the eyes of the evil and let it know it has met its match.

So even though the powerful voices in our world tell only of the darkness and our powerlessness to defeat it, we rise together and prove that we can.

Humanity is one. And we are bringing light to defeat the dark.

Why the tattoo?

People ask me why I have the tattoo that I do. Here’s my reason:

Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My entire life I have wished I could fly. Not just in an airplane or with an epic jet pack, though those would be great as well, but I myself, with no outside assistance, flying through the air. Not even in the Superman type of flying where I can soar through the sky at inhuman speeds, though that would also be cool. More in the way of floating.

I’ve suffered from depression for years. There are seasons of wonderful reprieve, and there are seasons of terrible darkness. As I have had to cope with the dark seasons, I have learned of the peace that can come from a long walk to nowhere particular. In my darkest moments, this is my therapy.

A few months ago, I began to process through some things that I had suppressed my entire life. All of the pain that I had hidden away came crashing to the surface and poured into the forefront of my mind. The feeling was overwhelming, and there were nights that I couldn’t imagine continuing. A few nights in particular, I strongly considered taking my life.

On one of these nights, I did what I always do and went for a walk. As I slowly walked down the dark street, trying my hardest to avoid openly weeping in front of some stranger’s house, I closed my eyes. I continued to walk down the street with closed eyes, aware of my surroundings yet no longer fully present.

I pictured myself slowly rising, my head turned heavenward as the earth slowly fell away. The pain, fear, despair, hopelessness, and desperation fell with the earth, leaving only me and my breath. I was weightless; the problems of the earth below had no hold on me. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I was free. I slowly kicked my feet back and forth, the rhythmic sway in tune with my heartbeat. For a few seconds, in this mesmeric trance, I was free.

I know I can’t fly. I know I never left the ground. My feet were still chained to the pavement, with no hope of defying gravity. My problems never really fell away.

But for a moment…

These verses remind me that even though I’ll never be able to fly on my own, I can still find freedom. I will get weary. I will stumble and fall. But if I hope in the Lord, he will strengthen me, and I will soar. No longer bound to the earth and its entanglements, but finally free.

I may not be able to fly. But through the Lord, I can be free.

That’s why I have this tattoo.

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.

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.

Definitions- A Self Evaluation

Who am I?

I have been asking myself this question for a long time. Over this past semester, I have been examining myself on a level that I have either ignored my entire life, or recently discovered existed- I haven’t figured out which yet. This has been, understandably, a very long and hard process. The weirdest part is that I didn’t even know I was doing it until now.
You would think that with having been working on this for so long, I would have some idea of who I am. Some modicum of what makes me the way I am. The truth? I am farther from knowing myself than I have ever been before.
My best friend once told me that self evaluation is extremely important. I never really understood why. I knew who I was. I’m Thomas. Except at school, that is, where everyone calls me Tom. I mainly have two personas- Thomas and Tom. I act different at home than I do at school. One isn’t better or worse than the other; they’re just different. But who am I?
I was having a conversation with someone close to me. I was talking about how I was feeling that depression was what had come to define me. Ever since I opened up in a very public way, I feel that the only thing people ever see is my depression. I have come to hate the word. I am beginning to think this is due to the fact that I have given them a reason to see this. I told this person that I am so tired of being defined by my problems- my pain. That I wanted people to see me as ME, not as that depressed guy who may or may not be off his meds.
But then I thought about it. What am I without it? Who am I? It’s easy enough to say, “Oh, I’m a child of the One True King! I can find my definition in Christ!” While that’s true, and I am very thankful for the grace and love of my Savior, I still find it difficult to comprehend who I am. Without the labels.
There are just so many labels- Son, Friend, Brother, Christian, Theology Student, College Student, Preaching Ambassador, Depressed 20 year old, Star Wars fan (I mean, seriously, The Force Awakens. SO GOOD.), and so many more. I’m not saying labels are bad. In fact, I rather prefer them. It’s nice to know where I stand and where others stand with me. They aren’t the issue- except when I am trying to figure out who I am. I know my identity lies in every one of these aspects- especially Christian. But who am I really?
I have started to make 2 lists. One is entitled “Struggles/Concerns.” The other is entitled “Things I am Passionate About.”Unfortunately, the latter is quite a bit shorter. The current score is 23-2. I am not going to write arbitrary items. I’m not going to lie to myself. I am only putting on the lists what I have come to realize deserves to be on the lists. I hope that, at some point, my struggles can leave that list and be put on the passions list. Maybe it’s good to have a short passion list. Otherwise, would I spread myself too thin?
I have struggled for so long with this. I have endured a lot of pain- and I think it was because I was ignoring this. Have I had an epiphany? A Eureka moment? I don’t know. As soon as I think I’m coming close to an answer, 500 more questions surface.

I need definitions.

Dead End (Flash Fiction)

As I wondered down the damp, unlit street that led back to my apartment, I began to think. I know, thinking can be dangerous. Especially for someone with a brain like mine. Anyways, as I was walking, I began to let those ever dangerous thoughts into my head. What was I doing with my life? Here I am, 34 years old, with a gut that would make an overdue pregnant woman look thin, living by myself in a tiny apartment with the salary of an entry level McDonalds employee. Which would be okay, since I work at McDonalds, but I have worked here since I was 16 years old, and I have yet to be promoted.
“I am at a dead end.” I loudly pronounced to myself, though it was loud enough that the rats on the edges of the street scurried away.
This realization hit me really hard. I had no real future. I was useless. I walked over to my answering machine (yet another statement on how depressing my life is– I mean, who still has an answering machine?). I noticed there was 1 message. I felt a little glimmer of hope swell in my chest. Was I finally going to get a phone call?
“Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a cash prize! Visit www.cashprizesforyou.com to claim it now!”
A telemarketer. That’s what I had gotten so excited about. A good for nothing telemarketer that thinks I am so pitiful that I will fall for his stupid tricks. Well, I guess this was no different from any other night. No calls, no messages.
That brings me to now. Here I am, sitting in my dimly lit apartment, slowly picking at the remnants of a TV dinner. What a sight I must be. I almost giggle to myself as I think of what the caption would be if a picture of me at this exact moment were to ever appear in a newspaper.
“LONELY MAN MAKING THE REST OF US FEEL AWESOME BECAUSE HE IS SO PITIFUL.”
I know, it’s too long and most likely unrealistic, but I do feel like that lonely man. There is nothing here for me. I now realize how useless I am.
As I flip through the channels on TV, my eyes drift over to the coffee table. Many times I have looked at the drawer in the middle of the coffee table. I know what’s in it, but I haven’t been able to open it in months. I’m afraid of what I would do next. At least, I was. Tonight I begin to think about opening it again. This time, I know I have no other choice. I have to open it. I have to remove what was in it, and I have to use it. Its time.
I take one more bite of the crusty yet runny macaroni and cheese that was left in my TV dinner. I guess this is it. I slowly lumber off the couch and over to the coffee table.
“Dead end. Dead end. Dead. End.”
My words from earlier echoed in my ears like a sick, teasing child. I take out what was laying in the drawer. I feel the cold metal against my hand. After all this time, I finally built up the courage to open that drawer. A little bit of pride passes through me, but I don’t let it last. There is nothing about this that should make me proud.
“Dead end. Dead end.”
There is nothing else to do. It’s not like a band is going to come out of the hall and play a sweet song to serenade me into it. Now is the time. The voices are getting even louder now. I guess there is no escaping them now. Only one thing to do.
“Dead end. Dead…

Convictions

We all have convictions. Whether it’s an unwavering belief in a certain political issue, or an adamant belief in a Higher Being, we all have convictions. It’s what we do with them that matters.

I know in my own life, convictions are important. Or, at least, I like to think they’re important. I can walk around every day and say, “Oh yeah, God is real. I know He is. Every fiber of my being believes it to be true.” But what if that is as far as my convictions go?

Let’s say something difficult happens in my life. It’s not too hard to imagine. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m a 20 year old college student with Major Depressive Disorder- among other things. So in the wake of this hypothetical difficulty, I can do one of two things- I can stick to my convictions and rely on God, or I can run away and retreat into myself. More often than not, I’m afraid, I am prone to the latter. The thought of relying on anything- even the One who created all things and loves me with a love that I will never comprehend- seems too much to handle. In the midst of this hypothetical hard time, my mind goes straight to self preservation. That means that I close myself off and try to minimize the damage. Does that mean I abandoned my convictions? Or am I simply holding on to the only thing that I know to be true- myself?

What about when we have a certain conviction against something? Say, for example, that I have an issue with drugs (I do, as a matter of fact, have a problem with drugs. I think they’re dumb and illegal for a good reason). Now let’s say that someone we are close to not only doesn’t have the same conviction, but actually acts in a way that contradicts our conviction. In this case, we will say one of my close friends has a problem with drugs- and doesn’t see it as a problem (remember- this is hypothetical). Do I stick to my convictions and approach them about it? According to the very definition of a conviction, this is something that I believe very strongly against, and for me to attempt to ignore that would only create friction in the future. But at the same time, what if it didn’t? What if I was able to simply live and let live? Sure, the argument could be made that this was going against my convictions, but what effect does it have on me if someone I know is doing drugs? As long as they keep me out of it and do it to where I won’t notice, what does it matter?

But I will still know. This hypothetical situation can be put off for an indefinite amount of time, but at some point I am going to realize that it does in fact bother me. This person that I have a close relationship with is doing something that I feel very strongly against, and because of this I feel that they do not support my conviction. I’m not being close minded, I just know that at some point, the way that they are living is going to mess with my convictions. So once again, I must abandon my convictions or else communicate my discomfort with my friend.

I’m not saying that every conviction is going to set us apart from our friends. Religious beliefs (or lack thereof), while being some of the strongest convictions, can, for example, easily be diverse among a group of friends and not create an issue. It’s the other convictions- the ones based on habits or actions- that can create issues. These can set us apart. So do we let them? Do we let our convictions separate us from those around us?

It’s easy to say live and let live. But can we really do it without abandoning our convictions?