Stranded suitcases sat in the middle of the living room. Wade and I collapsed in our respective beds after the ten-day road trip. I reminisced about my conversation with Maria. I had no intimate feelings for her. I knew letting go of those precious pearls was the best thing I could have done. I stared at the ceiling listening to the dragon puffing smoke. He marched in circles outside of the apartment door reminding me of his presence. Relentlessly, his intimidation grew stronger with louder and more frequent outbursts. And he was not the only one.
Days and nights collided together as my nightmares grew steadily worse. I maximized my rest from four hours of sleep to five with daily naps if possible. Angels and demons clashed their swords against one another while beasts growled outside of my bedroom window. I held onto the vision I had for Russ and Diane, the missionaries in Germany. The vision I had for them stood true, so all of the spiritual world must be too.
The vision I had for them stood true, so all of the spiritual world must be too.
In my mind's eye, the rusty sixty-year-old fire escape appeared through my bedroom wall from the outdoors. A slender man climbed the steps with a five foot twisted beige rope. Shouts could be heard coming down the dimly lit street as a drunken man stumbled into his apartment. We both glared at the frustrated, drunken mess until he unlocked his door to get inside. The slender man looked straight ahead and eerily looped the rope into a circle and placed it around his neck. He slowly turned in my direction, made eye contact then looked straight ahead again. His tiptoes kept him at the edge until with a small leap he freefalled downward as if making a pencil dive piercing into the dark. The short freefall successfully snapped his neck at the impact of reaching the bottom. Death welcomed him at the strike of two in the morning. And in an instant, the flesh color of his skin disappeared changing into a metallic deathly gray as the stench of death filled the night air inviting the demons to surround the corpse. Black cloaks embroidered with purple thread covered their bodies to prevent them from being recognized by outsiders. The demons shook with overwhelming excitement as they convinced this one to die.
A metallic dagger appeared from underneath one of their cloaks. The fake gold handle with ruby gems twinkled in the night to the creature’s movements. His hairless dark skeletal hand moved the dagger horizontally to slice the noose above the corpses’ head. The deceased body plopped to the ground without a care for further injury. The creatures moved in a circular direction as the gray corpse pulsed up and down on the ground.
The celebration ignited a resurrection, yet the flesh tone never returned. The man’s gray fingers clasped onto the rope and with a swift yank tossed the rope aside. The corpse pushed himself off of the ground with the creatures cheering with eerie, deathly shrieks like fingernails on a chalkboard. The man twisted his neck back into position. He grasped his fingers together, stretched his arms in front of him as his knuckles cracked. He shook each individual leg as if waking up from a short slumber and begun walking towards the descending stairs next to the apartment building. The creatures joyfully jumped into each other as if in a mosh pit at a rock concert then followed the corpse’s leading. The corpse pushed open the emergency exit door, where the dragon woke for his companion.
A slow, eerie knock echoed into our basement apartment. I crept my way out of bed to the door to assure myself Wade would not wake up. I unlocked the deadbolt, turned the doorknob and slowly opened the front door to the grey man standing in front of me. We kept our gaze at one another with the dragon hissing in the background with the minions. My head tilted like a curious puppy as I searched behind the death in his eyes. I knew him intimately. In agreement, we took one deep breath as he stepped forward into my body and we became one. I violently shook as my dark brown eyes glossed over to the darkest of blacks. The demons shrieked in their victory as they stripped off their cloaks and pushed themselves into the living room to watch the finale.
Fear shook me as I cradled myself into the fetal position on the corner of my bed.
Death reigned as I dashed into the kitchen searching through cabinets. My arms swept through the cabinets as plates and glasses fell to the ground. Glass pieces spread across the floor as my bare feet crunched the larger remains. I flung coffee mugs against the wall with deep screams of pain. The stove top turned on without help from me. I purposely burned my extremities as a scent of burnt flesh filled the air. Steak knives stabbed my arms as more blood poured onto the white tile floor. I quickened my breaths before turning to the closed bedroom door.
From the edge of my bed, in reality, I stared at myself through the wooden door. Fear shook me as I cradled myself into the fetal position on the corner of my bed. I placed a feather pillow over my face hoping it would all go away.
I repeated an internal mantra, “Don’t look at him, he isn't there. Don't look at him. Don’t look at him, he doesn’t exist. Don’t look at him.”
My shallow hums turned into tears as the grey skinned man methodically knocked on my bedroom door. I started to pace around the bedroom unable to sleep from the creatures’ squeals and the slow pounding from death at my door until the sun rose.
The next morning, I hesitantly made a phone call to a Christian Psychiatrist in hopes that he or she would understand the spiritual warfare dynamic and not put me on a new zombie-producing medication regimen. I swallowed my pride and made the call.
I silently prayed that no one would answer as the phone rang. The male receptionist greeted me, announced the psychiatric organization and asked how he could help.
Are these ‘male issues’?
I simply stated my name and asked if I could set up an appointment. Instead of answering my question, the man began to describe the different services the organization provided. At the end, he abruptly switched topics and inquired, “Are these ‘male issues’?”
“Excuse me?” I asked. Without missing a beat, he began to describe how some men have anxiety when dealing with pornography and masturbation. Bewildered on why someone would call a psychiatric service for those issues, I interrupted him to state it wasn’t that nor had it ever been.
“Oh, okay. What do you need an appointment for?”
“I have been seeing a lot of demons and different visions.”
I paced in the apartment, uneasy with his long abrupt pause.
“Is this like the book of Acts, where young men dream dreams and have visions?”
“Yeah… I think so…”
“Sorry, we can’t help you.” The phone went dead then to an empty dial tone.
I mumbled to myself, “Not even a Christian Psychiatrist would take me… Not even a Christian Psychiatrist would take me…” No one wanted to deal with me. I sat on the couch in shock and then turned to tears, uncertain of what to do.
The short three-mile drive to work turned into a war zone. The Jeep Wrangler turned into a military vehicle as I sped across the grassy median into oncoming traffic. I screamed with rage, aiming head-on for a beige Cadillac. I locked eyes with the driver as I stepped on the gas to ensure his death. The horror in the balding white man’s eyes turned to an empty stare as he was killed instantly on impact. I crawled out of the open window and grabbed a tree limb from the median, which I used as a makeshift dagger. Vehicles slammed on their brakes, uncertain of what had happened. One women turned to get out and escape. I ran towards her, jumped over the hood of her car and jabbed the dagger into her gut. I yanked the bloody stick out of the woman’s torso and howled in victory. The traffic buildup had become an obstacle course as I jumped from hood to hood, murdering drivers and passengers sitting stunned by my deranged self. The others would suffer with me.
My body shivered trying to shake off the visual hallucination. My knuckles turned white as I clutched the steering wheel, reassuring myself I would not murder anyone today. I slowed my breath to be in unison with the worship music blaring through the Jeep's speakers. I reminded myself my evening server shift would only last four hours then I could go home and try to sleep again.
I’d memorized the ceiling pattern during my sleepless nights. Rejection filled me as I reviewed the prior week’s conversation with the psychiatric office. I could not separate reality from the spiritual world anymore.
I rolled over looking through the wall separating me from the living room. The grey man returned to knock on my door and without my answer he turned around to stand amongst the beasts. The demons’ glee heightened as snares and empty laughter filled the space. Their scaly tongues stuck out to lick their lips in anticipation as the grey man would become their prey. Teeth gnashed together in contrast to the rumbles of the creatures’ hungry stomachs. Without warning, a fox-like creature jumped onto his back as he stumbled around. Yellow fingernails from another beast pierced into his neck as another choked him. He stumbled and violently shook his torso with an attempt to get free. The moment’s wrestle could not be withstood as the other creatures jumped onto his tired body. Teeth sank into different limbs as blood splattered everywhere. He did not scream. Only defeat settled in.
In a panic, I jumped out of my bed and turned on the light in an effort to stop the vision. I sat on the edge of the bed. With fingers intertwined, my hands held the back of my head as I shoved my face between my lifted knees trying to rock myself like a fussy newborn.
“Don’t come in here…. Don’t come in here…. Don’t hurt me….” Tears dampened the carpet.
Unable to soothe myself, I rushed to Wade’s bedside and violently shook him to wake him up. Startled, Wade yelled, “Go read your Bible and go to bed!”
“Go read your Bible and go to bed!”
Wide-eyed I raced past where the creatures devoured my body. The sounds of their chewing echoed in our apartment walls. Why couldn’t Wade see or hear them? I rushed into my bedroom, tossed clothes into a navy blue hiking backpack and left the apartment. Deep blue fire circled me from the dragon’s mouth as I ran up the basement stairs and out of the building. I jumped in my car and drove to a friend’s place.
On the drive, I called Cliff, who I knew would be awake on the west coast.
“Nate? What’s wrong?”
“They are eating me! The creatures are eating me! The creatures want me dead. What’s wrong with me?” My words shook as they left my vocal chords. Sobbing tears overwhelmed my repeated questions, “What’s wrong with me, Cliff?! What’s wrong with me?”
Cliff’s cries echoed mine as I attempted to gain clarity.
“Nothing is wrong, Nate. I don’t know what’s happening to you.”
“What do I do? What’s wrong with me, Cliff? Why is this happening?!”
“I don’t know, Nate. I don’t know. You’re loved. You didn’t do anything to make this happen.” Cliff sat listening to the whimpering tears.
I arrived at a friend’s apartment and with exhaustion I fell onto his couch. I continued to cry unable to explain what was happening. He kept saying it was going to be okay handing me a blanket and pillow to sleep with. I let my tears lead me into my sleep.
The following morning, I took a hot shower in hopes to regain some normalcy. Water rushed from the showerhead down my naked body as I prayed for redemption to overflow.
“Sweet, sweet redemption, please come to me now,” I prayed.
My eyes opened to the shower water trickling down the drain. The clear water turned into a crimson red as the smell of blood rushed to my nose. I turned around to see a naked male body laying in the bathtub beneath me. I stared closely in order to recognize the dead man’s face. The mangled grey man killed in my apartment twelve hours earlier laid beneath me. He was me. Laughter filled the bathroom from an unknown source rejoicing in my death. I did not stand a chance of living.
I closed my eyes to allow the warm shower water to rush over me, drowning out the blood fumes, haunted laughter and the dead body. I turned the water off and dried myself. I put on clothes, retreated to the couch and napped for several hours before a shift at the restaurant.
The world grew bleak as the sun and the moon disappeared without a cloud in the sky. A faint light from an unknown source lit the dark, desert like field. Shades of gray and black colored the plains and mountainous backdrop. A few hills added depth to the horizon. An aroma of death filled the atmosphere. The rumors stood true. The light had lost. Dry bones were stacked in piles throughout the land, indicating the light’s martyrs.
A gust of wind knocked over the bone piles as a piercing light pushed the soil straight into the skyline. The ground shook as soldiers came out of the ground and began running across the field in search of those who needed to be saved. Their hands touched the dry bones. A simple touch from the soldiers of light rattled the bones and gave life to unforgotten martyrs. The resurrected army ran with the troops.
The war did not end like the world and the darkness thought.
The war did not end like the world and the darkness thought. The resurrected troops’ armor glowed from the light within them as they raced forward. They did not need headlamps or flashlights because their mere identity lit the way. They ran faster than Olympians seeking a gold medal. No time to stay standing. This was not a practice run.
Balls of fire began to fly over the mountaintops onto the valley that the army of light raced across. The darkness’ tactic to get us off course. Deep rhythmic breaths kept the pace of their footsteps. I raced with them. I knew what was within me. I had trained for this.
An unexpected explosion shook the ground near me. The blast of the ground forcefully flung my body into the air. I bounced on the ground until the dirt slowed my body to a complete stop. The landing shocked my system as I tried to make out what had happened. The war around me turned into a blur. My white helmet rolled across the sandy ground away from me as I lay defeated listening to the war around me. The blasts and yelling began to subside as I questioned why I joined the light.
“It’s over,” I quietly told myself as tears trickled down my cheek bones. I closed my eyes knowing my part of the fight ended. I called it quits.
I woke to hear rummaging around me. The battle cry heightened as arrows continued to be shot, swords clashed against one another and balls of fire continued to be hurdled at the soldiers of light. The war intensified and I could not understand why.
I distinctly heard one set of footsteps growing louder and coming to me. My muscles tensed unsure of who or what came near me. Would the darkness take me away as a prisoner of war? I kept my eyes closed, hoping to be overlooked and left for dead.
“It’s time to get up. We need you.”
A gentle hand slid beneath my head and lifted it upwards. I opened my eyes to see burning flames in the eyes peering down at me. The man placed my helmet back on my head and stated, “It’s time to get up. We need you.”
I rolled to my side as I watched the God-man move from soldier to soldier rescuing those of us left as casualties. Each of us received an individualized healing touch to keep us going. The palms of my hands acted as the springboard to push myself off of the dirty ground and into motion again.
I woke from the vision and walked out of the bedroom to see Wade making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the kitchen. My body shook and I was unable to speak.
Wade simple stated, “You saw Jesus, didn’t you?”
I nodded my head and burst into tears. Wade walked over to hug me then guided me to the couch, so I could rest. Jesus himself showed up.
One evening, I came home from working a late shift at a restaurant. Wade had been going on dates and would be home at an unset time. I unlocked the apartment door to see all of Wade’s belongings suddenly disappear before my eyes. I stood there with sadness and uncertainty of what it would be like to be single forever. It felt lonely and cold.
A moment later, from the air itself, the apartment transformed as the living room filled with toys, puzzles and diaper bags across the area rug. I looked down as a blonde toddler ran up to me and grabbed my left leg to welcome me home. I heard shouts of “Dad!” come from different areas of the apartment as two other boys darted in my direction. I picked up and hugged them one at a time. With one of the children still wrapped around my leg, I looked up to see a woman gracefully walk across the living room. She placed her hands on my arms and greeted me with a kiss.
“Welcome home.” The sweet tone of her voice filled the air.
I let out a joyous sigh releasing the vision into its unknown timing.
I opened my eyes to see the apartment as it was before. Wade’s twin bed and belongings in perfect order like he always kept them. Unclean dishes in the sink and the air conditioner humming in the bedroom. I let out a joyous sigh releasing the vision into its unknown timing. Maybe I would not be alone forever. I did not know when. I knew it would be soon.
One day, my beautiful bride would welcome me home.
“Inbox: 1.” The computer’s cursor sat on top of the Inbox caption as I clicked to see who sent the message. Jonas, the German camper and now young adult I had not seen in many years. I loved that our warm friendship continued across the Atlantic Ocean. I could almost hear his voice speaking to me as I read his words.
“Nate while praying for you I had this picture in my head: You were standing in this darkness - fixed on this light in there. Just making worship (you in the presence of God). After that the perspective of this picture changed and switched a little bit back. It becomes a little brighter so that you could see more in this darkness. There stood this other person making worship too. But you were just fixed on the Lord. She just stood there making the same type of worship.
I had these words come to mind: Just fix your eyes on the Lord, the other ‘thing’ will happen. He will make it. Maybe it will help you in the future, too!”
Just fix your eyes on the Lord, the other ‘thing’ will happen.
I sat on the edge of the couch baffled by Jonas' e-mail, especially in relationship to the vision I just had. I became overwhelmed by this confirmation. Jonas did not even truly know the prophetic words he spoke into my life. I had stopped praying the “gay” away years ago. I had stopped figuring out what sexuality “meant” and kept pressing toward the Gospel. I often wondered if God would finish what He began. I still believed my college professor, Mr. Greene, had the right wisdom. I had wished for something to happen so much that I had visions of my wife and kids. But I believed these were to be ignored because of my natural sexual desires.
Jonas' message had perfect timing. There was no reason for Jonas to pray for me. But this is how God revealed himself to Jonas for me. A specific confirmation I’d been waiting for.
The following morning, I drove Wade to the local college campus for school. I told Wade about the vision and Jonas’ timely e-mail. Wade smiled and shared a few of his own thoughts. Wade vocalized his inability to see the differences within people or understand their feelings if someone does not verbalize them. I laughed in good fun because we both knew how true that statement was.
Wade continued with, “Nate. I did not want to mention it, but you are different. I noticed it a couple of months ago. Something happened. You aren’t the roommate laying on the couch saying ‘Gross!’ as I talked to you about making out with girls.”
Wade chuckled a little bit as we reminisced about that moment and concluded again, “You’re just different, man. You surrendered something and God is following through.”
I nodded my head in agreement. Maybe, this was real.
It took some convincing on Wade’s part, but the following week Wade got me to attend a local campus service called “Dirty Laundry,” a series giving college-aged students a chance to tell their testimonies and deepest struggles. Video testimonies were interwoven with live testimonies on taboo topics - sexual sins, drugs, etc.
A third year undergraduate student began to detail her struggle with anorexia. I do not know why, but her testimony captivated me. I rested my elbows on my knees to lean and catch every word she spoke.
“My friends told me I would deal with an eating disorder forever. Their concern became discouragement. I was told I had to pay attention to my daily calorie intake for safety reasons. It seemed like I would be giving power to the diagnosis I wanted to fight against. Crazy enough, it has been three years since the day freedom first came. It has been three years since I had an anorexic thought or counted calories. Freedom came!”
The crowd broke out with cheers and clapping as I sat in tears. For a struggle, especially a diagnosis to completely end, seemed impossible. I have watched friends move in and out of the same struggles over and over again almost never to find true freedom. Could she be right? Could diseases or mental patterns disappear? Can true, full freedom be found?
The service transitioned to a time of music as worship lyrics moved across the screen. The audience sang along with the worship team as I silently prayed, “God, I don’t want to deal with this anymore.”
I made no reference to what I wanted or did not want. Hallucinations and visions continued to haunt me. I still harbored jealousy as I watched Wade and other people go on dates with ease. If I was completely honest with myself, I wasn’t fully convinced I could end all of this - put mental health and sexual identity issues fully behind me.
“You won’t deal with this forever.”
I heard a bold “You won’t.” I looked to my right to see Wade watching the worship band next to me. Wade looked in my direction and smiled at me. My eyebrows caved in as I realized Wade wasn’t the one talking to me. I looked around to see who spoke those words.
Again, I heard the bold state, “You won’t deal with this forever.”
I took a large breathe to take in the freedom that college student spoke about and received whatever level of freedom Jesus would soon give me.