Tag Archives: light

Heroes & Villains

Heroes and Villains

You’ve probably noticed that superhero movie franchises are becoming a thing these days. With every new year, the number of such movies released increases. And it is not going to end anytime soon.

The recent rise in superhero movie franchises is just the product of a sentiment that has been building up for ages. Throughout all time, we’ve all found ourselves intrigued by stories with heroes defeating villains, good triumphing over evil and happily-ever-after endings. We love these stories because of the much bigger picture that they paint. Or maybe this picture is all too familiar to us. Maybe we want these stories because we see ourselves in them, somehow.

Stories have come a long way since … well since as far back as they’ve been around. But we don’t just narrate events in our stories. Some say our stories influence our lives. I think our lives also have an impact on the stories we tell. It’s a circularly-causal relationship between stories (art) and life.

The classic ‘good-and-evil’ story thread was built on absolutes. They usually had heroes of impossibly ultimate charisma rising up to defeat villains with evil intent, monsters that were evil for the sake of being evil, in whatever form they took. The Heroes were people with good manners, good hearts, and conveniently excellent muscular form (wink). The Villains were dark and ugly to behold. Some deceiving through their words, some bruising with their might. Myths and legends of monsters terrorizing villages, and demigods rising up (or coming down) to defeat those monsters, sprang up through the ages. They filtered into fables and stories over time.

These days I find that I’m drawn to stories that have believable villains. When I was younger, the villains in most stories I came across were all evil just for the sake of being evil. But these days, stories have villains that actually think, and that you agree could exist. They are actually endearing in their own creepy, demented ways.

“D’you wanna know how I got these scars?” *

“There’ll be nothing but fear and darkness … and me…” **

“Showdown at midnight. Wanna trip, baby?” ***

Creepy.

If you did not get those references, the first is by the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), the second is from Pitch Black (the Boogeyman) in Rise of the Guardians (2012), and the last was from Marsuvees Black in Showdown (Ted Dekker).

In these guys –be they good or bad guys – we see a little bit of ourselves, and that is what makes them endearing or repulsive to us. Either way, they make us interested in the story.

This is what makes your story a winner: when your audience can identify with at least one of the characters, or the circumstances in which they find them. It pulls us into your story so that we subconsciously have a friend in your fictional world, heightening the reader or viewer’s senses and emotions, so that every plot point affects us almost as much as it affects your characters. Our new friend keeps us coming back for more, to check up on him or her, joining them on their journey through the pages.

(SIDE NOTE: Jesus did this in His parables too. Whether His stories were about a sower sowing in a field, or a woman looking for a precious coin, or a woman trying to get the attention of the judge before her case came up, His first century Judaean audience could identify with the situations described in His parables. This was part of what set His teachings apart from those of the liturgical sermons they were used to hearing. They could actually see themselves in His stories, and could see their application to life.)

Storytellers (writers, filmmakers, etc.) these days have realized this secret to some extent, and that is why the heroes in our movies are a bit flawed, and no longer the ultimate models of humanity that used to be iconic. The flaws may be personality problems or just unfortunate circumstances that scar them for life, making them more human to us. Bringing them down to our level, so to speak.

  • Peter Parker (Spider-Man) has acrobatic skills, a sense of humor, and can shoot webs, but he lives with constant guilt because he feels responsible for his uncle’s death. And his city thinks he’s a nuisance, no matter how hard he tries to convince them he’s not.
  • Tony Stark (Iron Man) may be a billionaire genius that has a mechanical suit that helps him fly and shoot lasers and missiles, but he’s still got a piece of shrapnel near his heart and he lives moreorless on life support. (Sure, he finally got rid of it in the movies, but he’s got more challenges coming his way. Trust me.)
  • Bruce Banner (the Hulk) may be the strongest there is, but he still can’t control his rage or himself. And, seriously, who wants to go out with a big green rage monster? The future only gets worse for this guy, no matter how much good he tries to do.

I could go on and on with—

  • Oh yeah. Bruce Wayne (Batman) lost his parents when he was a boy. He grew up in this dark and brooding phase that’s affected him, even as an adult.
  • Thor has got complicated family issues—

OK! That was me geeking out a bit there. Sorry. The point is that the writers make us see that these heroes aren’t so perfect after all. And we’re OK with that because, we know we’re not perfect either. We may not be so far off from these guys, after all. And if they can save the world, so can we (on a different scale, no less, but still…).

But it’s not only typical of superhuman stories. Some of the more human stories show people without a chance of winning any battle suddenly rising as the hero through selfless acts. Characters like the little hobbit, Frodo in Lord of the Rings, who saved Middle Earth by taking the evil ring to the place where it could be destroyed; or Samwise Gamgee, his devoted friend that encouraged him along the way and helped him up when he was weak. We like these guys not because of their strength or abilities, but for the strength of their hearts.

 

And then, [Scottish-sailor’s-accent kicking in] “Therrre be Villains…”

Now, if you’ve noticed, the best Villains are those that believe, in their own demented way, that they are actually doing the right thing. There is nothing as dangerous as a man who perpetrates evil and yet sincerely believes he is doing the right thing. The suicide bombers on the news today have taught us that. This approach to the villainous character amplifies his (or her) humanity. We loathe and/or fear them for the evil that they do, but we also understand that they’ve just been affected by something or an incident in their past that warped their sense of right and wrong. As they say, “It all takes one bad day.” Just one bad day that messed up with the rest of their lives. We empathize with them, and wonder just how the hero is going to defeat this character. Somewhere deep inside us, we hope for his (or her) redemption or satisfaction. We do not want to admit it, but it’s there.

I’m not saying that these guys are good, and I’m not saying I agree with them. I do NOT. They are evil, and that’s that. But those strong stories accentuate their humanity by showing, for example, how much these guys love their own children, or loved ones.

  • The Evil Stepmother wants her daughter, instead of Cinderella, to marry the handsome prince. It’s not her fault that her daughter’s not as pretty as Cinderella. (you can blame the Disney artists for that one … lol)
  • Gothel (the Witch in Disney’s Tangled) stole Rapunzel because she wanted to always look young. The girl’s hair gave her the power to prevent aging.
  • Erik Lehnsherr (aka Magneto, from the X-Men series) is a mutant who hates humanity because he grew up among people that hated and maltreated mutantkind. His parents were even killed in a concentration camp. So his entire life is one long crusade to create a world where mutants can live free, even if humans have to be trampled on to get there.
  • The Joker (Batman’s foil and archenemy) just wants to have some fun. He’s crazy and demented, yes, but he wants the thrill of some real fun; be it through chaos or … more
  • No one believes in the Boogeyman (Pitch Black in DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians). How else would he get some attention, except by scaring people with nightmares? [and seriously, his ‘Night-Mares’ were actually dark horses that ran at night. I loved that pun]

Some stories, however, dare to shatter any hope that there’s any humanity in the Villain(s) and present us with some of the darkest creatures, with no love or life left in them. They are not just evil for the sake of being evil, no. They show us just how evil they are… and it could get really dark. These are also interesting in that they show us that evil is just that: Evil, and not something to be meddled with. Deeply, dark, demented and torturous evil. It pushes the storyteller, who wants to wrap up a good story, to write a reasonable hero or a believable heroic circumstance with as much depth and power and goodness to defeat such an evil character. How the storyteller pulls this off will tell on the quality of his or her story, and on his or her heart as well. If they could get the story to such a dark point, they should be able to bring us back to light.

But even these dark villains have a goal. They want devastation and destruction and death because that’s the only way they could ever get satisfaction.

 

In his classic ‘Mere Christianity’, C.S. Lewis explained that because creatures were made by God, the Good God, that’s why they all desire something good. Be it love, or satisfaction, or a thrill, or a home. We all want good things, deep down. For Villains, it’s not so easy to figure this out. But deep beneath all their quests for power and control is a desire for something good. Our quest is supposed to lead us back to God—the Good God. But sometimes we don’t see that far. What makes the difference between a hero and a villain however is how we go about getting that good thing we desire.

A good man asks. A bad man steals.

A good man works. A bad man kills.

The Good or evil we do is a result of the contents of our hearts.

The truth is we are all Heroes in our respective stories. Heroes, flawed by weaknesses but still trying to do what’s right. And we fail. Time and time again.

But we are also the Villains of our stories. Villains, making selfish decisions and feeling selfish emotions that tear us apart until we have attained or apprehended what we desire, no matter what we do to get it. Don’t believe me? All it takes is ‘one bad day’ to show what’s really in our hearts. When push comes to shove, how do we respond to the impossible circumstances and conflicts we face? How do we take on the battles we face without and within?

How do we get those things we desire?

Heroes at heart, but Villains too.

One bad day away …

This conflict we face on the inside is what pulls us toward the conflicts we see on the big screen, or in books, or even on the news. Whether the story is set in Middle Earth, or Narnia, or a dystopian future or the Victorian past, we feel we are in the same world with the characters we have come to love so much because we’ve been there before, facing those familiar struggles.

 

How do we get that ‘Happily-ever-after’ ending that we desire?

Is there a Happily-ever-after?

Did God put this desire for good in us and leave us to wander? Like a sick Toymaker winding his toys and leaving them to simply jerk around the room until they are simply wound out?

 

No.

Heavens, NO!

Ha!

 

He is the Good we want. He is the Love we’ve sought. The Freedom we’ve ever hoped to gain.

He is the Spring to satisfy our souls’ deepest thirsts. The Fountain to cleanse us from all that is bane.

 

Coming to Him for help would mean burning away a lot of pride; the very same pride we’ve built up as a defense to protect ourselves from the antagonism around us, but the very same pride that’s also killing us from within. That which we want to be cleansed of keeping us from That which would cleanse us.

Surrender.

Not to the evil, but to God.

Surrender everything that you hold so dear to yourself. Surrender all that you’ve accepted yourself to be and accept who God says you are. Surrender your will and your right to complain, to act, to live … to be. Surrender yourself.

Myself.

It’s very difficult, but it is the only way we can truly be free. And when we do, we find that we’d been prisoners all along. We wonder why we had not surrendered sooner.

 

So the Hero and the Villain are at war to this very day. To this very moment.

That ‘one bad day’ will come. The Bible calls it ‘the day of adversity’ in Proverbs 24:10. It says:

[If] you faint in the day of adversity, your strength [is] small.

The ‘day of adversity’ may not be an alien invasion, but it could be something as small as an opportunity to get what you want by lying or cheating or taking advantage of someone. It could also be an opportunity to do the right thing – it depends on how you see. How do you see?

The one that will rise up in that day is the one who has won in the heart. Good or Evil.

We were never meant to fight this battle alone.

We weren’t made to.

 

There really is a Happily-Ever-After, my friends. It is not going to be a mushy lovey-dovey ending, but a satisfying one. And there are many confrontations and battles between now and then.

But only Good can really give us the Good we desire.

Only God can bring us to God.

And He did. Through Christ. The battle that needed to be fought has been fought and won for us by Him already. He only asks us one thing.

Just one choice can make a difference that would ring through all eternity.

Surrender.

Advertisements

Why so Puddleglum?

Puddleglum-COLOURED_labelled

What do you do when all you’ve ever known to be true suddenly doesn’t feel so true anymore?

NOTE: If you want to read about the Art of Puddleglum, i.e. the picture up top, you can follow this link.

Puddleglum is a character in The Silver Chair, the sixth book (or fifth, depending on your point of view) in C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia. He was a marshwiggle, a weird creature who lived by a swamp, and had a mildly amusing pessimistic outlook on life. In the story, he joins Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole on their quest to find the lost Prince Rilian, following a set of clues given to them by Aslan.

I would have told you the story, but I feel that it’d be a mega-spoiler (and you’re like, “C’mon! The book’s like 50 years old already!”). Let’s just say that by the time they find the prince, he’s the brainwashed prisoner of the evil Lady of the Green Kirtle. They release him, but then the Lady walks into the room.

She doesn’t snap at them, but she cheerfully hypnotizes using the enchanting tune of her harp and the whiff of a secret powder she dumps on the fireplace.  With every word she speaks, with every strum on her harp, she almost fully convinces them that everything they’ve known to be true was made up, all in their heads.

First, they knew that they were in the kingdom of Underland (yes, it was literally miles underground). They knew they had come from Overland, the land above the surface. Or had they? Were they really sure there even was such a land among the rocks and mortar in the roof of the cavern? (Another character later comments on how weird it would be to live in a world like ours, a world without a roof, with just open sky above) She made them believe there was nothing beyond the dreadful world underground that they could see at the moment.

Then they asked about the Sun. About Narnia. About Aslan the Great Lion. And she convinced them that those concepts were merely flights of fantasy based on things they could see around.

Her words (however enchanted they were) made them reconsider their beliefs in these things; things they had always accepted to be true. Sure they had fleeting memories of daylight, of their home world, of the Lion, and of words spoken to them before. But these memories were fading as she spoke and strummed on her harp (or maybe it was a ‘lyre’ … see what I did there? 😉 ), the mist of the ‘Decepto-powder’ filling the room.

Until Puddleglum stomped out the fire and ended the enchantment, to the Witch’s horror.

Here’s that part of the story and what he said:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

Wow.

 

I like Puddleglum because of his decision to believe in the Truth –to fight for it— even when his mind did not agree. Even when he was being convinced otherwise, he still held on in faith. It was not easy, but he did.

Life may present us with a couple of facts. But that’s what they are: Facts, and nothing more. But don’t let them make you doubt the Truth. The facts are like holograms, translucent 3D images in space. They last for a while, but they only appear under certain conditions. They would change with time. They look real, but they are not necessarily real. We may feel them, but our feelings are really subjective neural experiences (OK, enough geekspeak from me).

The Truth, like Ted Dekker (one of my top favourite authors) loves to say, is just beyond the skin of this world. Beneath and beyond all we can see is another realm where everything is the way they really are. It’s the Kingdom of God, a world where everything is in obedience to God. You’d see that something actually happens when you pray, that something happens when you speak, and that there’s a lot more going on around us than we can see with these eyes.

Jesus is the Truth, and what He says is true. No matter how the facts appear, don’t make the mistake of thinking the facts are the Truth.

You may have no family with you now (FACT) but that does not mean you’re abandoned.

You may not have money in your pocket at the moment (FACT), but that does not mean you will never be successful in life, financially or otherwise.

You may have failed a course or two … or more (FACT), but that does not mean you’re a failure.

You may have prayed for the sick and nothing seemed to happen (FACT) but that does not mean Jesus was lying when He said you would pray for the sick, and they would recover. It doesn’t mean that your salvation is inferior, either.

I guess Faith counts when its feels like there’s no reason to believe. That’s when it counts. And that’s when it’s hardest. We can’t do this on our own. We weren’t made to. Hang on. Ask for His help. He will help you. You’re not alone in this.

I should know. I’ve been there. A lot of times, actually. One of such times I cried and cried for strength, but it didn’t seem to come as suddenly as I expected. I was too scared to let anyone in on what was bothering me, so I slapped on my trademark smile. I didn’t want my doubts to bring them down too. I felt so alone deep down, desperate to scream, to breathe. Trusting in God suddenly felt futile. I know I encourage others to remember that He is always with us, but I didn’t feel Him near right then. I didn’t feel Him at all, period. I felt like a fraud, like I was just going through the motions. I gotta tell you, it was scary.

But He was there. Is here. Man, He is. He’s been here all along.

You know what? I guess I got used to feeling that way. I preferred to ignore God. And when I didn’t, I felt as though I was the one person in all history that He had wronged. It felt easier to ignore Him and His things. But He had not wronged me. What had just happened was that, like the kids in the story, my ears were filled with the wrong tune and that’s what I was listening to. The Liar’s lyre.

So what did I do? I don’t know, really. I’m supposed to tell you that I prayed more and studied the Bible more, and that that’s I got more strength, but that’s not what happened. To be honest, I didn’t feel I’d get anything from praying. When I read the Bible, it was as if there was no life. That’s where I was. I was supposed to stir up strength from my spirit within, but I felt too weak. Worn. Tired. And because my mindset was warped, so were my decisions. And, sure enough, somewhere deep inside, I blamed God for all of this. To most readers this scenario may sound weird, especially to those that know me personally. But I hope there’s someone out there that understands. Even if no one does, it’s OK. You don’t have to go through that. Just keep your mind on the right stuff. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thank God for exposing me to the right words. Like that verse that talks about how God is our Hiding Place, Who surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Though I was blinded to see His faithfulness towards me, I could see His faithfulness toward others, so I knew He was still out there somewhere. It’s like being in a dark basement, with a few pinpricks of light stealing in through cracks in the wall. I sought those spots where the light was peeking through, ‘cause that’s where I felt safe.

I realized that though I may be special, I’m not so special that His loving kindness would extend to all except me. I was hearing His words, but I wasn’t listening. For the longest time, I wasn’t listening. But He got through. Ha! He made sure He did. No matter how long it took, He hung on.

Why did it drag for so long? I guess I was a hard nut to crack. God did not leave me be. He kept making sure His words broke through the thick clouds around me, until I could finally really hear His songs of deliverance again. His words of Truth and encouragement.

He was trying to get to me all along.

That’s the annoying thing about Grace. No matter how hard we try to earn points on His scales, He shows us that He’s the One that gave us whatever points we’ve got. He’s the One helping us up.

I still have lots of questions, I won’t lie. I still do. But I’m learning to trust.

I’ll trust.

Man, I don’t usually get so personal in my writing. I prefer using a character in a convenient story to pass the message across, but I guess I just wanted to do this. Hope it’s worth something, though.

This is real life, man.

But, enough about me. Back to the point.

 

Sometimes the lies look like facts. Sometimes it’s easier to accept the lies than to fight to listen to God’s Voice of Truth.

We may be walking in caves as dark as Death with no light in sight (FACT), but we must not let that make us forget that there ever was a Sun. That there is still a Sun out there.

Don’t let circumstances make you forget that there’s a Son, either. And He’s not just ‘out there’, He’s ‘right here’ with you. The Son of God that died and rose to make you fully free – free to live, free to be! He’s alive! He’s broken the chains and blown the prison doors and nuked the concentration camp and placed you in another country, so you have no excuse for allowing the tunes of the Liar’s lyre to become your reality. God is holding you up, so trust Him. Let His words, His songs, break through to your heart. They are working on you. He’s working on you.

You may not feel it, but He’s after you. He’s surrounding you. Ah, if you could see His hands around you, trying to squeeze the darkness away. If your eyes could be opened so you can see what’s really going on!

There’s a battle going on, my friend. A battle for your soul. There’s a wooing going on, and each side is desperate for your heart.

One in seduction, One in Love.

One for destruction and One for Life.

The Liar wants to keep you shrouded in a cloud of darkness. The Truth wants to make you free, and truly free at that.

His words are real and true. Let them be your reality. Keep on studying what He’s said, and talking with Him. It’ll change your mindset.

Your feelings may not all change in an instant. But they also could. But whether they do or whether they don’t, you’ll be fine. Even when you mourn, Jesus says you will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). It’s not His desire for you to mourn, but even if you do He’s got you covered.

You see, the lies may be like those holograms. Holograms are particularly crafted to appear through some optical hijinks, subject to the directed lighting in the room. But the Truth has always remained. It’s the Pure Light that drives away all illusions.

And the Truth is that God loves you, and He’s got you. He would not let any evil come to you, and He would help you make an impact so great it would blow your mind (in a good way J ). His plan is for you to be satisfied and fulfilled in life. To thrive, not just to try to survive. What’s waiting beyond is so much better than anything there’s ever been. We can’t even imagine it, but He reveals it to us by His Spirit in us, His children.

So trust Him. He can be trusted.

And when you do, that’s when you’ll find the strength to stomp out the lies and shine Light into the Darkness, to encourage and comfort others.

To remind them that our Father has never left us. He’s right here.

Even in the deepest throes of Underland.

 

‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…’

PSALM 139:7, 8

FREE INDEED: The Story Behind the Cartoon

Most of you have seen the cartoon on which this is based before, but I never told the story behind it. Well, here goes…
It’s amazing how God places the right people for the right purposes in our lives, at the right times. The friends and family He has given to me are a testament to that.
Earlier this year, I’d just had a wonderful evening discussing and sharing ideas with one of such friends, Seun Akappo, when he gave me the album, The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North (thanks, man!). Later that evening, while I was working on some stuff I played the title track, The Struggle.
The chorus of the song goes:
Halleluyah! We are free to struggle
We’re not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children drop your chains and sing!

The images, goaded on by some things God was laying on my heart in those times, started forming. Many believe that the Struggle is inevitable. You know, when people say we all ‘try’ to be good. That we’re all trying to break free from the limitations imposed on us, sin and temptation being a part of them. So it seems the struggle is inevitable.
But Jesus came to set us free from that struggle (to that struggle, we are free). He has made us free to be all God intended for us to be! The struggle is no longer a factor because, now, God wants to live through us. So it would not be us ‘struggling’ to do what’s right, but God wanting and actually doing what’s right through us. (Philippians 2:13)
We are free and truly free indeed!

So in the ‘toon, this guy’s chains have been undone for a long time already. But he’s still been sitting in the prison. Jesus, Who broke the chains, comes by (and I love how His shadow is actually Light, in the shape of a cross) and asks “Hey, didn’t I set you free?” The guy suddenly lights up in realization and goes, “Jesus, You’re SO right!” And, next thing you know, He’s running out of the prison.
When we suddenly realise the Truth, we wonder why we have not realised it sooner. Jesus is the Truth, and when He reveals His Truth to us, His Spirit in us agrees with Him. Remember where Jesus said, “And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” in John 8:32? He was talking about Himself.
So, think about it: what would you do if you suddenly realised that there was really no limitation ever again? Eh?
That’s what Christ has brought to us. Total Freedom, to live abundantly.
So, dear friends, the chains have been undone. If you are a child of God, you are free completely. The pain and shadows and limitations do not apply to you anymore. Christ, the Truth Himself, defines your identity.
You are no longer a slave to sin.
You are now a son of God.
You are not bound.
You are Free!
Do you get it?
Nice to meet you; can I call you ‘Free’? For now, with Christ in you, you are the definition of Freedom.

I am Free!
Are you?

‘Halleluyah, death is overcome
and we are breathing.
Halleluyah, our stone hearts become
flesh that’s beating
Halleluyah, chains have been undone
and we are singing.
Halleluyah, the fire has begun
Can you feel it?’
(from THE STRUGGLE by Tenth Avenue North)

“Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
by Jesus in John 8:36

(My friend, Seun Akappo, is also an amazing brother with a heart for God. It would be months before I realised what an amazing writer he is as well. You can check out his blog at http://www.wedontderserveitbutgotitanyway.wordpress.com.
God bless you, bro! 😀 )Free Indeed_veritoons

TASER | Episode 5: The Real World

WRITER’S NOTE: Hi there! The series is approaching its finale. But, if you haven’t read the previous episodes, don’t feel left out. The links are right here.

Episode 1: The Cop

Episode 2: The Trap

Episode 3: The Ultimatum

Episode 4: The Alternative

And now … let’s get into the story, shall we.

The Real World

As the man awoke, his senses were suddenly pelted by numerous sensations. Memories and data waiting to fill his mind poured in.

He would not ask who he was. The people in his dream –or nightmare— had called him Jerry. Jerry Jenson, if he recalled correctly. He did not really think about this, he just knew. He was Jerry Jenson.

He had been sleeping, but it must have been for a very long sleep. His limbs felt numb. It would take a while before the blood returned to the parts of his body that were still asleep. How long had he been in the same position?

It was a laboratory, he could tell. Computer screens dotted the walls, connected by wires and tubing. Overhead fluorescent lights flickered ominously. The back of his head hurt terribly. Someone had probably been running some tests on him. Maybe that was when he had blacked out and dreamt of that hideous place called Towne. Why had that dream felt so real? Why did it still feel so important?

But what overrode all his sensations was the Light ahead. He was lying down in a dark room, with flickering fluorescent bulbs overhead, but there was a strong Light somewhere ahead and above. There were many others beside him, but they were still asleep. But he was enthralled by the Light beckoning from a deck above. The darkness in this room felt so hideous compared to that Light, that he wanted to get to it. Everyone knows that Light means safety, security, and probably food by a candlelit dinner table. But how he felt was akin to a man struggling up a pit for his life. He needed to get to the Light.

Something from his dreams popped up in his mind. A voice. Someone had said it.

“Run to the Light.”

That did it. With all the strength he could muster, he sprang to his feet. At least, that’s what he tried to do. His sleepy limbs did not budge. Come on! The more he stared at the Light, the more he felt a tingly excitement inside. He tried to exert more power in his limbs, but he still could not move. He gave in. There would be no moving until his limbs responded.

Suddenly, just when he relaxed, the Light shot out towards him. Literally! With a whoosh, a stream of Light burst down toward him and swallowed him whole. He gasped as he was yanked to his feet, and into the air. It sucked him into itself.

Now, like any other regular human, Jerry had never seen this kind of thing before. It was too fantastic to be true, but it was so real. He bit his lip to confirm, and sure enough, he felt the pain. It felt stupid to even doubt if this was real. He was actually flying in a vortex of Light!

Now he was rushing forward in this endless tunnel as if it was the most normal thing ever. It felt weird, but it was the good kind of weird. He could touch the Light all around him, feel it. It sent jolts through his body, but they were not painful. They were actually tickling him. He felt more thrilled than he had ever felt in his life. Ever! It was like a rollercoaster ride. The further he went, the brighter it was, and the more his excitement increased. He was hurtling towards the source of this Light, the point from which it was emanating. This could only get better.

He could hear voices, like there were others with him.  He turned, but there was no one else flying here. The voices persisted as whispers. When he turned, he saw the first of them.

A floating screen appeared in front of him. It was not really a screen, more like a display without the screen. It just floated a few feet ahead of him. Before the details even registered, he knew that this was not supposed to be here. There was a boy on the screen, but his face was wrinkled in a horrific manner. That expression was called a ‘frown’ back in his dreams … that were not really dreams at that. But then the boy looked so familiar. He looked just like someone from those dreams. Perhaps someone he saw very frequently … in a mirror…

And then it dawned on him … that he was the boy. All big and stocky, even at his young age. He saw himself in high school, enduring the bullying and name-calling of the kids around him. He remembered that moment well. But the scene had moved on. The young Jerry turned and ran his fist into the face of another boy, sending the latter to the ground with a bleeding nose. Ooo… that did not feel so good, watching it now.

But then another display popped up a few feet ahead. Hey, what’s going on? This time he was huddled in a corner, crying, where no one else could see him. Remembering that moment brought a lump to his throat. He had had many of those growing up. What was this place, bringing up scenes from his life?

And then another screen popped up, and another, and another. They just kept popping up, showing him scenes he remembered, some he had long forgotten. Some were wonderful memories, some were funny, and some were just painful. The day he got enlisted in the police academy, the day he got his first house, the day he finally got married to Hayley after years of asking and asking, the day his daughter was born, the day she accidentally threw up on Santa’s lap! He sniffed as his eyes watered, remembering that day. Marty had decided, anytime she remembered that event, that she was really ‘Claus’-trophobic! Ah, the memories.

But he noticed that, from behind him, the Darkness from the previous room was creeping up through this vortex, blotting out the Light. The scenes in front of him started to change. While Marty had been born, he watched as Hayley’s life ebbed away. As the darkness crept over, he felt the pain afresh in his heart. Other painful memories crept up, from things he experienced to things he had actually done. The numbness crept over his body, even as he tried to get away from it, thrashing with all his might.

And then he saw Marty’s body in that gutter, her hands bleeding from cutting, her eyes glazed. So terrible was the pain that he howled, but it got stuck in his throat. Marty… He had pushed her out into that world.

Those ‘dreams’ were not dreams, after all. While the experiences were true, it felt unreal compared to the world around him now. But this real world was not much better, apparently. The pain and regret he felt inside were further amplified by the darkness creeping around him here. He had not lived the best of lives.

Dear God, have mercy on me! Please …

But the vortex had been pulling him to its centre all this time, even as the Darkness kept creeping in. And as the Light grew brighter ahead, he saw where it was coming from.

There was a man suspended on a crossbeam, up ahead. If Jerry’s eyes were telling him the truth, the Light was coming from that man. He was bleeding all over. His face was contorted in a cruel mess as he screamed to the sky, or whatever was above. Jerry realized that a cry had been playing in the background along with the voices all this time. Now, that cry was at a fever pitch as this man on the crossbeams mouth was torn in pain.

He was the Light.

The screens that had been assaulting Jerry swept ahead with a whoosh, and surrounded this man. Suddenly, they streamed into his body. One by one, they disintegrated into tiny luminous particles and flowed into the body of this man. Jerry realized what was happening there. Every single one of them, the good and ugly moments of his life, poured into that man, and the man kept screaming into the sky. He was sharing in Jerry’s pain in this way. His face mirrored Jerry’s pain.

The darkness still surrounded Jerry, and the only Light in the room came from this man. This Man that was also the Light.

Suddenly, his eyes fell on Jerry. Whatever strength he possessed fell away as he stared into those disarming eyes. In that small moment, Jerry felt a small connection with the man. They shared the same moments and memories, the same joys and pain, the same guilt and regret. He had seen it all and experienced it all. Perhaps even more, for he looked totally horrible … and hurt. And he just stared at Jerry with his weak pained eyes.

No words were spoken. Jerry was only struck by the pain this man felt. He blinked back the tears. Why would this man, who was the Light, deliberately pull him and all his experiences to himself? All the Light had been rushing from this man, and had carried Jerry with it.

He was still surrounded by the Darkness, and the Light just stared at him. Jerry knew he wanted to get away from the Darkness… but he could not. His limbs were numb. He stared up at the Light. Was there a way—?

And with that, the man that was the Light closed his eyes and inhaled. The hideous displays poured into him with renewed force. The Darkness was swept along with it in large chunks, like cinder blocks from a volcano … and so was Jerry. Like a pin to a magnet, he was picked from his place and slammed into the body of the man that was the Light, and clutched his arms around him for dear life. The Light’s hands wrapped around Jerry as the Darkness poured into the man.

Jerry shut his eyes, sobbing as all his pain and guilt poured into this man. He cried as the Darkness tore in, even as he was wrapped in the arms of the Light.

It is finished.

  And everything came tumbling down around them. Finally. Until there was nothing but silence.

The laboratory was no more. Everything was gone.

In all this time, Jerry’s eyes were shut.

——-

  The first thing to evade his senses was a laugh. It started deep, and just kept increasing until it was a full-blown hysterical guffaw. Jerry tore an eye open. And it stayed open.

They were in a beautiful meadow, with the greenest grass and the bluest skies. Birds flew across the sky in marvelous formation, and flowers dotted the fields below. Hills rose to the horizon in the distance. But in the midst of all this, what overcame Jerry the most was the unexplainable feeling he felt inside.

Describing it in words we can understand may be quite difficult, I must apologise. But do you know that feeling that comes when the last bell has been rung, and school is over with only the summer vacation ahead? Do you remember the excitement and anticipation that overtook your heart in that very moment? Now imagine that feeling multiplied a thousand times … and if it was not ruined on the way home from school. He felt better than that. It was as if, for the very first time, he could breathe.

Am I in heaven?

He turned and saw the Man again. The Light. He was different now, in magnificent clothes. He did not look old, but his eyes bore the wisened look of one that had seen many ages. The laughter on his face was enough to make the saddest child laugh as well. Jerry found a chuckle developing from within.

The Man wrapped his hands around Jerry again, and carried him into the air, laughing. “You’re ALIVE!” he bellowed. “Finally! You’re ALIVE!”

As he set Jerry down, the former cop stepped away, dizzy, his heart dancing within him. “What happened? Sir?” He did not know what to call the Man, but it felt inappropriate not to recognize His authority.

The Man laughed again. “You’ve come to LIFE, that’s what happened,” He said. “Finally! Ha!”

Jerry shook his head in wonder. “I was … dead?”

The Man cocked his head. “Anyone in the system is dead.”

He remembered the people lying asleep along the walls in the laboratory. “As I was…”

“As you were. But not anymore, Jeremiah! Because I beat the system, you did as well. You LIVE! Finally!” He was jumping in excitement. In our world, watching a grown man jumping like that would have made Jerry feel embarrassed, but here it looked like the most normal thing. In fact, Jerry wished he could jump like that. The Man stopped and grabbed Jerry’s shoulders. “Now we can get into the Great Story!”

Jerry blinked. “The Great Story?” And then he realized it. He sank to his knees as the full weight of the moment dawned on him. It felt like a memory he had known for so long, but forgotten. “Lord,” he gasped. “It is You… It really is You!” The Man laughed, placing His hands on Jerry’s shoulders. “You’re the One that writes our stories. You wrote me and all the worlds to being.”

He chuckled. “Indeed.”

“All these years, I doubted if You were real, and … now I know.” The arguments he had placed in his minds against His existence all felt foolish now, staring into His eyes.

The Man that was the Light, that was the Great Storyteller, smiled. “You are My joy, Jerry. Because you believed in Me, you are now free from the captivity of the Darkness.”

Jerry could not believe he was in the presence of the One that had written him into being. The Great Writer of everyone’s story was staring at him. Jerry’s smile faded. “But, Lord, how did the Darkness come into Your story? I thought you were always good.”

“Indeed, I am. And, more than anything, I want my characters to live to the full forever. But I gave them the freedom of choice. It is a price I have had to pay, watching them choose the Darkness every time.”

“So all the bad things that happen…”

“Are the result of a world that chose the Darkness.” He pursed His lips.

“Even Hayley and Marty?” The Man nodded, with sadness on His face. As Jerry said their names here in the Real World, he did not feel the pain he had always associated with their memories. It was as if he were stating a fact, not with joy or sadness. Just stating a fact. “But … I saw the Darkness sinking into You. You destroyed it.”

“I took away the Darkness in you, dear one. That’s my way of defeating the Darkness, one character at a time, until that great day when it shall be smitten by My mighty hand.”

“Just like that.”

“Just like that.”

“But why can’t You just … write it all away? You’ve got the power.”

The Man smiled as he sat. “I cannot break My own rules, My son. It will remain as long as men choose it. But its days are numbered.”

Jerry felt like a child here, now seating with the One that penned his life to be. “It’s amazing, no one really believes you’re real down in your story.” Saying it here felt absurd, staring at the Man Himself. That was why He was the Light. He lit up the lives of His characters.

The Man arched a brow. “My story? We’ll get right down to that. But, even in your world, I slip in signs of my presence into the story. I light up the lives of my characters. And, for those like you who have come to life, my Light just keeps bursting forth. Though, of course, the Darkness makes me sound like a bad thing. Even in Towne.”

Jerry stared at him. “How?”

“You tell Me. You were a cop.” Jerry remembered it, but it was a distant memory. “Do you remember the one they called ‘The Taser’?”

Jerry’s eyes widened. How could he have forgotten about Gigi so soon? “I remember!”

He nodded, staring carefully into his eyes. “I wrote Grace into your stories – every single person’s story – to bring you to the Cross, the moment where I opened the portal from your World to Mine.”

Jerry shook his head, blinking. “What do you mean?”

“Whenever Grace was speaking, that was me talking to you. When I came into your world bodily, many years ago in your timeframe, I tore open the portal to Life, to My World. I did that, on that Cross, so that everyone can come here, into Life. Grace and Truth came through me. Now, in all times, Grace and Truth are always around to bring you characters to that portal; to that very same moment, so that you all may come to life.”

The images were forming in his mind as the Man spoke. Grace Verita. That had been her name. Verita, Latin for Truth.

“So she was not real?”

The Man cocked his head. “Are you real?”

“I think I am.”

“Well, she’s more real than you are. Unlike you all, she’s Me. Not all characters see her, you know. But she’s in every character’s story, waiting, ready to bring them to me. Not everyone chooses her way. The evil one always tries to make her look bad, like a terror, clouding their desire for me. He makes them think they’re already free.” He shook his head, staring into the distance. And a smile played on his lips. “But the Light still shines in the Darkness, and the Darkness has still not comprehended or defeated it. Nor can it. Ever.”

Jerry ran a hand through his hair, staring up at the sky. It felt good to be dead. To be free. To know that he was on the good side. To be alive with the Writer of his life. The Word, who was the Light.

He stood and beckoned for Jerry to join him. He led Jerry to the top of a hill, from which he could have a full view of the land below. There was a great city in the distance, and a river flowed from it, parting the land before them. Trees dotted the landscape, and various creatures grazed beneath. There were people too, flowing in and out of the City ahead, picking fruit and leading the animals. Everyone seemed so happy. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. It was what people in his world called ‘Heaven’.

“These are the many that have come before you, Jerry. They have defeated the Darkness through my power, and have come home to rest. This is your home too, Jerry,” the Man said. “So that where I am, there you may also be.”

Some people below waved at them. Jerry raised a hand. A chuckle formed in his throat. “Did you write this land too? You are the Light in this Real World as well.”

He nodded. “But it gets better,” the Man said. “Remember what I called the Great Story? To this moment, you have lived your own story, where Darkness reigned. Where you had no choice but to blindly follow the Darkness. But now, You are dead to the Darkness and truly alive; alive in Me. Now, you can live in My story. The Great Story.”

“Your Story?”

“You see, my Grace ignited you. Now, Grace and Truth are alive in you. The Light.”

Jerry stared at his chest. “The Light. Grace and Truth … meaning You?”

“Meaning Me. Now I am free to write your story the way I’ve always want to; the best way. Like I lived in your story through Grace, I will live in your story through you now. You will find strength where there was none before. The peace and love you need, and that the world needs, while shine in you and from you. Just like the Light. You will defeat the Darkness and ignite many, as the Light in the Darkness. Until the day I return and destroy the system.”

Jerry sank to his knees again. “I will forever be faithful to you, my Lord. But, must I return to that world again? Haven’t I already come home?”

The Man smiled and sat in the grass again. He patted the ground beside Him. “Come on, sit with me.” Jerry sat. “Do you trust Me?”

Jerry had never had a real father figure before. He felt like a child, staring in the eyes of the Man that was the Light. He nodded. “Yes I do, Lord.”

“Call me Father.”

Jerry nodded, overtaken by emotion in that moment. “You are my Father.”

“Don’t ever forget this moment,” He said, extending a hand to him. Jerry took it. “How does it feel?”

His hand was in the hand of the One that had penned him to life. “I feel … safe.”

“And you trust Me?”

“Yes, how can I not?”

“You know that I love you, right son?”

Jerry nodded, remembering Gigi using those words. “You know I love you, right bro?” Jerry smiled. “I love you too, Father.”

He nodded. “Close your eyes.”

And Jerry did.

——–

  Oh no! This was not supposed to happen.

He was back in the laboratory. The place shrouded in darkness. “Father?!”

WHERE ARE YOU, SON?”

Jerry turned around on the spot, looking for his Father. “Hello? Father, are you there?”

WHERE ARE YOU, MY SON?”

“I’m in the lab!”

The place was silent again. Jerry was scared, staring out in the darkness in the room. But now, he could see the place more clearly. Even the spot he had been picked from. Along the wall, on either side of that empty spot, more people lay still, asleep. Dead. Their heads were connected to the walls via cables. By each person, a screen showed different numbers, in varying percentages. The numbers were reducing.

This was what his sister had meant. I was hooked to the system. Like a mainframe computer system, these people were connected to the evil system of Darkness. It controlled them, and whatever it was downloading into their heads was killing them slowly.

He ran a hand over the back of his head. The pain was gone.

WHERE ARE YOU, MY SON?”

Jerry turned again. No sign of the Light. “I … I’m sorry for whatever I did wrong. Please forgive me, Lord. I don’t wanna be in this place.”

“DO YOU FORGET SO EASILY?” his Father said. “HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN WHERE YOU REALLY ARE? WHY ARE YOU AFRAID, MY SON?”

“Because of the Darkness,” he was going to say, but then the truth dawned on him. All he had just seen could not be a lie. He had actually seen the Light defeat the Darkness. He had been in the midst of all that. And hadn’t his Father just said that He was now alive in him?

“YOU MUST BELIEVE, MY SON.”

Jerry smiled, despite his environment. “I wanna believe.”

“SO TELL ME, WHERE ARE YOU, MY SON?”

Jerry closed his eyes, trying to feel what he was about to say. “I … I’m seated with You,” he said. “I’m seated with You in that field, in Your heavenly place, far above, and … and my hand is in Yours.”

There was a pause. “NOW YOU ARE READY. NEVER FORGET THAT I HAVE DEFEATED THE DARKNESS.”

Jerry felt on top of the world. My very own Father.

I LOVE THEM AS MUCH AS I LOVE YOU,” his Father continued. “I WANT THEM TO COME TO LIFE TOO.THAT’S WHY I’M SENDING YOU BACK. IT IS A GREATER HONOUR THAN IF I BROUGHT YOU HOME IMMEDIATELY. YOU WILL BE ON THE FRONT LINES, SHINING MY LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. A VIRUS IN A SYSTEM THAT MUST BE DESTROYED FROM WITHIN.”

His gaze fell on the meters beside the people. The numbers kept dropping. “What happens to them when the meters reach zero?” he asked.

When his Father responded, he sounded pained. It was good to know that his Creator had emotions, and was not the aloof being he had always imagined. “THE DARKNESS WILL HAVE THEM FOREVER. THEY WOULD BE DEAD BOTH IN THIS WORLD AND IN THE NEXT, FOREVER TORMENTED IN FIRE AND SEPARATED FROM ME.” He paused. “WE CAN IGNITE THEM, JERRY. WE CAN BRING THEM TO LIFE. THIS IS MY STORY.”

Jerry smiled. “It will be an honour and a privilege, Father.”

“I LOVE YOU, AND WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU, SON.”

“I love you too, Father.”

Jerry was awake on his bed. He was back in Towne.

TO BE CONCLUDED… in A NEW STORY

Tune in to the Series Finale!

If you’re new to this site, you might as well check on some of the other amazing stories here, filled with humor and unforgettable lessons. They include Bill’s Car, Unchurch, The Elevator, and many more articles. You might also want to check up on the first feature presentation on this site, The Love Revolution Trilogy. You’re gonna love ‘em.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

God bless ya!

Thanks for reading.

The Shadows Prove the Light

An Artist’s impression of Light usually requires the depiction of shadow.
I think there’s a song about that by Switchfoot. I saw a picture that brought that fact to me on Ted Dekker’s facebook page some months ago. It seemed really cool to me. But it just seemed to become so real recently.

It came alive as I drew a sad man looking down, kneeling, facing away from Light. That’s how I felt back then. Alone. Cut off from all that was dear to me. Like I was stuck in a dark cavern. It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by people that day. What I felt was deep … hurting me inside. I was in the Shadow. And so I drew. I usually draw figures depicting how I feel. So the man was definitely a lot like me.
Anyway, this guy’s face was cloaked in shadow. He was oblivious to the fact that Light was shining behind him.
I figured that when we feel down, or lonely, like we’re walking in a place of deep gloom and shadows, we can choose to remain gloomy.

Or…

Or we can choose to look Up.
When the man looks up and turns to the Light, his face is illuminated. It doesn’t matter that there are shadows behind him. No! Heavens no!
His eyes are enlightened.
His heart is ignited.

So when I walk in the Shadows, I remember that the shadows prove there is Light. That’s what they tell me now. They only seem darker because the Light is shining…
BRIGHTER!

We can choose to look down and mope, complain, grumble and wallow in self-pity. But when we look in the Light, we can truly see that we have good reason to be thankful.

I learnt that. Looking into God’s Light, I found that I had friends and family to be thankful for, even though we were not together. I got to meet new friends, and… the Light got brighter and brighter.

David also learnt this, you know. In Psalm 23:4 he says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
God is with me. That makes all the difference in the world … and beyond. Ha!

He is the Light. He made both Light and Darkness. When I look to Him He gives me the strength and comfort to be the Light for someone else.

Why don’t you do the same? You can choose to look in the Light. I learnt to choose to be thankful.
NOTE: Looking up is a deliberate decision. Just look up.

And the Light still shines,
piercing the darkness,
replacing gloom with bliss
in its glorious glare.

Aaa…