I am a Christian. Christians are supposed to imitate Christ, who is perfect. I am also human, which makes that task much more easier said than done.
Sometimes I have doubts. Sometimes I have fears, worries, anxieties, all that fleshly nature crap flying at me twenty-four seven. This is my battle. Most of the time, I try to keep my shield up, blocking out these flaming arrows. However, my arms get tired and every so often, I lower my shield, allowing an arrow to sink into my heart.
Sometimes I don’t believe in God.
I start thinking about if God makes sense. Why doesn’t He show himself? Why does He allow evil in the world if He’s as benevolent as He claims to be? Why doesn’t He just cut to the chase and come down to earth with all His glory, power, might, and majesty?
These are fair questions I hope everyone who believes in God has asked. But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if I try to fit God into a mold that suits my life, my wants, and my yearnings.
Sometimes I believe in the God I want to believe in.
Maybe He doesn’t show Himself because He wants us to trust Him. Maybe He allows evil because He also allows free will. For what is evil but the perversion of good, which God has created? We take the good things God has created (love, passion, and loyalty) and distort them to our own evil desires (rape, violence, and treachery).
The book of Revelation promises God’s return. The second coming of Jesus Christ. Who am I to demand that it comes now? Is it because I think my timing and my plans are better than God’s? Don’t I believe God is more intelligent than the life He created?
Sometimes I simply say I believe in God.
The truth is, what I say I believe doesn’t mean shit if I don’t act upon it. If I don’t aggressively dive into God’s word, find out what He has to say, and follow his commandments, then I’m wearing nothing more than a paper Christian mask homemade from AC Moore. Who said the Christian life was a breeze? Maybe after we die and go to eternal paradise with Jesus, our lives will be a bit more comfortable, but until then, why am I wasting time finding comfort in this temporary life? Or maybe I don’t really believe in heaven.
Think about it. Every time I choose earthly pleasure over heavenly treasure, I’m involuntarily saying I don’t believe in heaven. It doesn’t matter whether I think it with my brain or say it with my mouth. Like the oldie but goodie saying goes: actions speak louder than words.
Have I read God’s word thoroughly and discovered how He wants me to live? Better yet, am I living that way? Or am I wallowing in my selfishness and doubts, waiting for God to prove Himself to me before I put my full trust in Him? Technically, that wouldn’t even be trust if I had absolute certainty.
This is my battle, the war I wage ‘til the day I die.
I once heard a story about a man with two invisible dogs. The first dog was named Doubt. The second dog was named Trust. Someone asked the man which one was bigger. He replied, “Whichever one I feed the most.”
“If you get scared, just yell stop and we’ll take you back out,” the doctor reassured me as he stuck two plugs into my ears. “It’s going to be really loud.”
I nodded, unable to do anything else, since the rest of my body was strapped to a cot. Behind me sat a white tunnel, where I’d be spending the next forty minutes in complete isolation. Not my ideal afternoon.
Sometimes we’re brave because we don’t know how dangerous things really are. To the doctors and everyone else who knew I might have a brain tumor, maybe I appeared unafraid and confident. Inside, the idea of dying didn’t compute with me. I couldn’t die. I was only eleven years old.
The plastic walls enveloped my body as my cot descended into the mechanical hole. I practiced breathing. Tempting as it was to tilt my head up and look out of the tunnel, the doctors told me I couldn’t move. Be still like a statue, they said. I took one last deep breath and tried thinking about nothing.
The first noise ruptured through the machine.
M.R.I. scanners can be as loud as one hundred and twenty-five decibels, louder than the front row of a rock concert. Except this wasn’t music.
A giant alarm clock blared through the tunnel like rapid gunfire. With every piercing buzz, my earplugs shriveled under the clamor. An army of tiny robots crawled outside the scanner, beeping and shrieking in bizarre robot voices as they did. Amid the chaos, a slow thumping began building up. Some enormous creature rammed itself into the machine over and over again. Earthquake. The world around me detonated into a million pieces of debris as I screamed.
Everything died down. My cot rolled out of the tunnel and I went into extreme panic.
“Get me out, get me out!” I cried. The doctors tried restraining me, quite successfully since I was a skinny little kid, and called my mom back into the room. It took about ten minutes for her to calm me down. During that time, something inside me clicked. This is real. I’m lying here, strapped to this cot, because I am going to die. The loud noises inside the scanner weren’t scary; they only foreshadowed something truly frightening. Death. For the first time, I began to understand it.
Only thirty minutes, my mom promised me. I bit my lip as I descended back into the scanner. The beeps and buzzes thundered through my ears once again. Despite being slightly more prepared, I still found myself dreading every second of this auditory torture.
“Josh, you’re moving around a lot. You’ve got to stay still in order for this work,” the doctor told me over the intercom.
Breathe. Breathe. A Bible verse my parents taught me popped into my head. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. I repeated the verse to myself about a hundred times, and started to hum it in a simple tune. Surprisingly, it helped take my mind off the violent commotion clattering around me, to the point where it didn’t intimidate me anymore. The noise hadn’t gone away, but it no longer sounded like a gargantuan shredding machine ready to devour me. Instead, I heard voices. Singing.
Maybe I was hallucinating. Maybe not. Either way, all fear had gone away. I came out of the machine a bit more confident and feeling a lot braver. It was over. For now.
The M.R.I. did find a brain tumor in my pituitary gland, an inoperable spot in my head. My parents didn’t tell me. I was confused why we stopped going to the doctor, but didn’t question them. We got a second opinion. Same result. This doctor suggested we wait six months, then take another M.R.I. to see if anything’s changed. But we didn’t. If it was inoperable, it was inoperable, my dad figured. There was nothing to do now, but pray.
Long story short, I’m still alive nearly ten years later, and I probably will be for the next couple decades like the average person’s lifespan. God could’ve avoided putting me through this experience altogether, but then I wouldn’t see each day of my life as a gift. A treasure. An opportunity to smile and make other people’s lives a little bit better. It may be cliché, but we really don’t appreciate how much we have until we almost lose it. In the midst of life’s hardships, I sometimes forget how lucky I am simply to have a life where hardships reside. And that’s something I hope to never take for granted.
Time to get some thoughts out.
Some of you know I recently got a job at a music video marketing company and can finally pay for my gas bill. That's all I really cared about. I'm not in the city anymore. Having gas in the car is almost equivalent to my ability to walk here in New Jersey.
In the past month, I've watched a lot of music videos. More than I ever have in my entire life. Literally. And every so often, a Christian video will appear much to my pleasure. But 95% of the videos I process are hip-hop videos filled with cursing, drugs, sex, and money. Even worse, the music sucks as well.
I just can't stand the hypocrisy in some of these videos. Oh wait, I thought only Christians were supposed to be hypocritical, right? Wrong. So many of these videos have rappers claiming how much money they have, or how they're the hottest thing right now with all their fame and stuff. Then I watch their video and it's shot on a home camcorder. One guy couldn't even afford a real gun. He waved around a plastic water gun in his music video to show how tough he was. Ooh, scary.
Honestly, it really disgusts me. I practically loathe some of these rappers and their pitiful lives. I told one of my co-workers, "I used to like rap until I took this job." Watching all these pathetic rappers makes me really appreciate real hip-hop.
But today, God convicted my heart of the sin I was committing: judging others.
"C'mon God...it's valid judgement! These guys don't give a crap about you. All they care about is money, sex, and plastic water guns!"
Doesn't matter. They're sinners just like me. Comparing my righteousness to them may seem like a big contrast until we compare it to God's perfect holiness. It's like comparing any number to infinity. It doesn't matter how high or low the number is. We're all in the same boat.
What truly moved my heart was the song, "Jesus, Friend of Sinners." Some of the CEMC kids did an awesome body worship to it last year. I used to think the song was okay. Now it's one of the best songs evahhh.
"You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast. For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came."
"LORD I WAS THAT LOST CAUSE AND I WAS THE OUTCAST. BUT YOU DIED FOR SINNERS JUST LIKE ME, A GRATEFUL LEPER AT YOUR FEET."
I would have broken down into tears if there weren't other people around me. Here am I, deeming these rappers unworthy of the kingdom of heaven when I am just as broken and just as unworthy for the gift of eternal life. What made me think I was better than any of them? My pride? My ego? Isn't that the same thing I was accusing them of?
God, help me to remember who I am. I'm not some super-Christian who thinks I've earned Your love. I could never earn Your love. But You love me anyway. I'm Your adopted son, saved only by the blood of the Lamb. Help me to see others through Your eyes. The same unconditional love You've given me is the same love You desire to spread to others. Help me to be a catalyst for Your love. Help me to walk in accordance with Your will. I am Yours, God. My life is dedicated to Your glory. Thank you for these little reminders. I love You, God.
The following is a note I posted to Facebook in late 2013:
Earlier in 2013, I posted about my music video endeavors with MC Jin. Just wanted to write a quick note concluding that journey.
In short, it didn't work out. I sent two cuts of the video in for review, but neither of them were approved. A full reshoot was scheduled. Then Jin's own schedule put him in California for the next couple of weeks. He wouldn't be able to reshoot in the East Coast. Another director was hired in LA.
Jin's managers still paid for the incomplete music video, which pretty much blew my mind. They told me they still supported me and believed that God had great things in store for me.
So that's the good news. I'm still working with Jin on some new video projects.
When I got that phone call letting me know I was being released from the project, it was disappointing yet relieving at the same time. The pressure of delievering a high-quality MV had been slowly crushing me.
I went back to working on my young adult novel. As I began looking for volunteer editors, something felt different. I couldn't look at my work the same way now. It was despairing. "This is crazy," I would tell myself. "What if this fails just like the Jin video?"
I told myself I was over the music video. God has better plans for me, I tried convincing myself. And it worked for the time being. But no less than a week later, I would fall back into confusion, wondering what happened to my dream project.
Last week, I went to the College of Prayer, a small conference hosted by Risen King Alliance Church. Every time I've been there, God never fails to show up in new and powerful ways. I came to the conference feeling lost and needing direction, but got something completely different.
It's difficult to describe exactly what happened. All I remember is the speaker briefly talking about fear at the end of the first session. The fear of man's rejection. While he's doing so, I'm thinking, "Is he talking to me?" It was like God orchestrating everything to address my current issues and problems.
When we take risks, sometimes we fall and get bruised up. And when that happens, we don't feel like taking risks again. It hurts to fall! It's scary and unpleasant and I rather just avoid it if I could.
It was a huge risk to take on the music video project for Jin. And it was a great experience, but I failed. It made me afraid to risk again.
But by the grace of God, I know now that I don't have to be. God's already approved of me. I don't create art for His acceptance, but from his acceptance. Every piece of art I make is for His glory and His glory alone.
On Chinese New Year, Jin texted me and thanked me for my passion and understanding with the music video. It was a nice way of moving on. Back then, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to watch the new music video, but now I'm excited to see the new product. As long as God is glorified, how can I complain?
When I write stories, I make a "Positive/Negative" map for the characters and the plot. This is a story principle that after every positive event, something negative must happen, and vice versa. Like an emotional rollar coaster that finally ends at the climax of the story.
Negative: Mark gets trapped in the Mansion
Positive: Mark organizes a plan to escape: find the three keys.
Negative: The three keys turns out to be a trick. Chelsea is captured.
Positive: Mark and Billy team up to rescue Chelsea, Roland, and Gordon and get out of the Mansion.
The past few weeks have been an emotional rollar coaster for me, so I decided to make my own Positive/Negative map of my life.
Negative: I am asked to reshoot the MC Jin music video
Positive: I finish a second draft of "The Mansion."
Negative: I am released from the MC Jin music video.
Positive: I get an internship interview with Trendsetter Media
Negative: I find out that my original self-publishing plan is invalid.
Positive: I devise a new publishing plan and embark on it.
The thought came to my head that it would be really cool if God was writing my life the same way I write Mark's (from The Mansion) life. He gives me choices, and as long as I adhere to His will, everything will be okay. But not immediately. 'Cause that would be a really boring story.
Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future."