What It Means to Fall in Love

A nineteen-year-old young man shifted a little in his chair as he held his notebook and pen, writing down a few minor details before beginning. As he wrote, a man slightly older than him (maybe mid-lower twenties) twiddled his thumbs with a childlike contentment. Once the young man was finished with his preparatory writing, he set his pen down on his notebook and looked up. The man smiled kindly in acknowledgment to the young man, and they both took a deep breath.

“So tell me, what does it mean to fall in love?” asked the young man. The man across from him let out a minor laugh and sat up straighter with a grand smile, meanwhile crossing his arms with interest. “Well, that’s quite the question,” he said as his eyes fixed on the young man, studying his intent gaze. “Why would you like to know?” The young man paused in surprise. That was a question someone like his mom would ask. “Because I’ve yet to find a solid answer.”

The man nodded, understanding the young man’s dilemma. “And why do you think you’ve yet to find a solid answer?” he asked. The young man hesitated, looking upwards to think. After a few moments of hindsight, he replied, “Because no one’s answer seems to last.” At this response, the man accumulated a peculiar twinkle in his eye. “How’s that?” he asked. The young man scooted forward in his seat, meanwhile beginning to flip through his notebook, glancing at all of his writing.

After finishing flipping through his notebook, he looked up and said, “The young couples that I ask give the same answer that the middle-aged couples give. And the middle-aged couples that I ask give the same answer that the older couples give. All the while, the young couples appear happy. The middle-aged couples appear slightly happy, yet somewhat monotonous. And the older couples, sometimes retaining a fragment of happiness, seem somewhat distant. Therefore, because their uniform answers ween over time, I consider their answers invalid. i.e. not solid.”

“And what are their answers?” asked the man across from him. The young man sat up, sorting through his previous thoughts. “If I were to boil all their answers down, to fall in love is to ‘realize that the other person is “the one” and pursue accordingly’. The younger couples lean more towards the response of emotion. The older couples lean more towards the response of choice. But they all sort of mix together.” Once again, the man nodded. A moment of silence ensued as the young man waited for a response, but none came, so he asked, “But what do you think? What does it mean to fall in love?”

The man chuckled. “What makes you come to me if I’m not married yet?” This thought had occurred to the young man before he came. “I was told you’d have the right answer.” This response caused the man’s eyebrows to lift in curiosity. With a sly voice, he asked, “Who told you that?” The young man’s eyes grew slightly large with embarrassment. “Well-uh, I-I’m not quite sure exactly.” The man laughed and nodded, uncrossing his arms, and folding his hands on his lap, releasing some of the momentary tension. “You’re a Christian, correct?” asked the man. This brought a certain light to the young man’s face as he joyfully responded, “Yes! I am!” The man nodded, being well pleased. “Okay, okay. Let me ask you some questions:

Does God love mankind?” “Yes!” “Does He ever stop loving mankind?” “No, never.” “Will mankind ever do anything that will change that fact?” “No.” “Can you define love?” “1st Corinthians 13:3-8 says, ‘Love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.‘”

The man nodded in agreement. “Good. When do you suppose God fell in love with mankind?” This question took the young man off guard. He had not expected a question like that. “1st John 4:8 says that ‘God is love.’ It’s not that He ever fell in love with mankind, but that He is love. It’s an eternal fact that forever has been and forever will be.” “Does mankind know true love without God?” “No.” “So then, is it possible for man to truly fall in love with another without God being in the picture?” The young man paused to think hard, but couldn’t respond. “How did God show His love to us?” “Romans 5:8 says,But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.'” “So then, when God comes into man, how does He ultimately reveal His love through us?” “We are to lay down our lives for each other.”

“Now, is that an emotion or a choice?” “A choice.” “Did Christ want to be crucified on the cross, or did He chose to be crucified on the cross?” “Mathew 26:42 says that He chose.” “Was his choice dependent on man’s decision to accept His choice and repent?” “Well..” “What if no one repented and no one accepted His love?” “Uh..” “Is God still love?” “Yes.” “So would He have still chosen to be crucified?” “Yes.” “And when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, Galatians 2:20 says that you are ‘crucified with Christ: nevertheless you live; yet not you, but Christ lives in you: and the life which you now live in the flesh you live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved you, and gave himself for you.’ (‘You’ switched for Paul’s ‘I’) So were you crucified for your sins, or was Christ crucified for your sins?” “Christ was.” “And that was His choice?” “Yes.” “That was His act of love?” “Yes.” “Will that act of love ever be changed or ever fail mankind for the rest of eternity?” “No.”

The man let loose to a heavenly smile, mixed with a content squint of his eyes, revealing that his point had been made. He repositioned his posture to its original straightness and crossed his arms with contentment. The young man sat still with his jaw dropped open. It was as though he had heard a book’s worth of theology, and he was supposed to summarize it to a single notebook page (somehow done in a fifth of a single post). The young man cleared his throat and nervously asked, “Uh, I don’t mean to be rude, but could you elucidate your point?”

“From the world’s perspective, to ‘fall in love’ is ‘fall into man for man’s sake.’ Henceforth, the so-called ‘love’ is only functional as long as emotional and physical needs are being provided. However, once the emotions fade, physical traits die, and all other reasons for believing that the other person was ‘the one’ are gone, there is no fuel left to continue on as all once was. Man can never satisfy man.

However..

“From the Bible’s perspective, to ‘fall in love’ is to ‘consciously walk into Christ and His sacrifice, with a God-given desire for another, for Christ’s sake.’ A relationship is anything but the focus. Christ is first and foremost the focus. And when one is crucified with Christ, there is a capability to love as Christ loved, which is the fuel and overflow for the ensuing relationship.”

The young man nodded, but then with a hint of doubt, replied, “Well, as a Christian, is it possible to ‘fall in love’ with the wrong person?” The man smiled. “You won’t be looking for the person. You’ll be looking to God alone, and when God places in you a desire for another, you’ll continue to look to God alone. And when that desire for another stays, you’ll look to God all the more. And even when you try to shake the desire as hard as you possibly can by a vigorous pursuit of God, and the desire stays, you’ll find the verse to be true which says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”

At this point in the conversation, the young man was scribbling down notes in his notebook with a satisfied facial composure. After a minute or so, he looked up and asked, “So, hypothetically, if I have a God-given desire for a young woman, and the more I pursue God, the more weight it gets, how am I supposed to continue from there?” The man smiled wide, knowing that the young man obviously was not talking in hypothetical terms. “With or without you, Christ alone is meant to be her satisfaction. Therefore, the only thing that you should focus on is pointing her to Christ at all cost, even if that means never being there to point her to Christ, but simply pleading before God in prayer to draw her closer to Himself. Do whatever it takes to make sure that Christ has her heart and not you. Then, in due time, He will see to it that your hearts are eventually knit together as one.”

The young man blushed as he closed his notebook and put his pen in his pocket. “You know, you sure know a lot about love.” The man across from him bowed his head in humility. There wasn’t really anything to acknowledge. “And I guess that leads me to a second question, which I hadn’t anticipated on asking, but I’ll ask it anyway. Have you ever fallen in love with someone?”

The man’s bowed head quickly shot up, draining the blood from his face, yet revealing dangerously blushing cheeks. “Why do you ask?” The young man laughed. “Some people speak best from experience.” The man slowly stood up and walked over to a window near his chair. He solemnly stood there for awhile, distraught as to how he should respond. “I ought not to tell you. I ought not to tell anyone.” “Why not?” asked the curious nineteen-year-old. The man looked over his shoulder, and then looked back outside.

“Suppose you walk into a jewelry store, and you stumble upon an extremely rare diamond, one of the rarest in the world, if not, the rarest. So you pick it up with one of the store’s cloths, and you take it to the jewelry dealer, saying, ‘I found this, and I ought not to even touch it. Please take it back before I even cause even a single smudge!’ However, much to your surprise, the jewelry dealer looks at you and exclaims, ‘Please, please. No. It’s yours, but only on one condition: that you leave it with me, and see to it that I clean it to its utmost beauty. Then, when my appointed time comes, I will give it to you. But remember, this is our secret.'” There was a hesitant pause as the man finished, asking, “Do you understand?”

The young man, realizing the connection of situations, stood up. “I do. Thank you.” And so he began to walk out, when the man by the window said, “Wait..” He turned around to face the young man. “Although.. it might seem as though time is moving like molasses, the following years will be worth it. She’ll be worth it, and Christ will be worth it!” The nineteen-year-old squinted his eyes, re-observing the man who was slightly older than him. Suddenly, his eyes widened, realizing something that he should have realized the moment that he had sat down. “H-how?!” The man smiled. “I wanted to say hello, and I wanted you to know that… you’ll speak best from experience.”

The young man, stiffening his neck with a respectful composure, firmly nodded and walked out of the room. After he walked out, the man by the window turned back around to view the swaying trees outside. He stood there for quite some time, gazing at the green scenery, deep in the thought. But as he listened to the delicate clattering of leaves, he heard someone walk through the door.

“I told him you’d have the right answer,” said a woman with a soothing, gentle voice. A chill ran up the man’s spine as he vaguely recognized the tone of who was speaking. His palms began to sweat in nervousness as he turned around. His entire being seemed to freeze as he could barely fathom her presence, but he somehow managed to choke out the words, “H-how did you know?” Her beautiful smile brightened the room as she came closer.

“Darling, some diamonds can only wait for so long.”

Tearing Down the Gates of Hell

A morning breeze swept through the air, passing over a thin cloak of darkness covering a modest neighborhood. As houses lined by plants and trees intertwined among paved streets, they all seemed to surround a charming, little park, in the midst of which lay a beautiful, symmetric, cobblestone path, weaving and winding throughout dispersed trees and Narnia-type lamp posts. These lamp posts illuminated the dim pathway with an old shade of orange, creating a surreal feeling of being among another era.

As the first birds began to chirp their morning hymn, two pairs of footsteps could be heard strolling down the cobblestone path. These footsteps grew louder and louder until they slowly came to a stop, and a young man and young woman could be seen standing in front of an old, rusted bench. The young man looked straight ahead to the dark horizon and then sat down in silent approval of the spot. The young woman, with a patient aura of gracefulness, sat down beside him, gazing up at the receding stars.

For awhile, they sat there without saying a word, until the young man broke the silence. In a quiet and distant tone, he said, “I think I understand.” The young woman smiled. There was a momentary pause, but then he added, “Should I be getting used to this?” She shrugged. “That’s not for me to decide.” The young man nodded, acknowledging the divine providence of such an occasion.

A slow gust of wind blew around the two as their eyes began to pick up on the dark shades of yellow and red, caressing the distant horizon. It was an early morning in the spring, yet in the midst of such a chilly calm, the two of them seemed to keep warm, almost as if the presence of the other was enough.

After quite some time of peaceful stillness, the young man softly spoke, “Hello.” A sarcastic smile glazed the young woman’s face as she glanced over at him. “Hello,” she replied with something of a composed laugh, “That’s what I wanted to say.” The young man paused, grinned, and took a deep breath. “I wanted to say it this time.” “And why’s that?” she asked, continuing to observe his expression. There was a long pause. The young man’s eyes seemed to quiver as he looked down at his cold hands. “Because, I’ve been wanting to say it for so long, and I thought I’d take you up on your offer.” The young man anxiously twiddled his thumbs as he looked over, gazing into her eyes. “So, hello.”

The twinkle in his eyes melted her heart as blood involuntarily rushed to her cheeks. This being the case, she broke the enchanting gaze and returned her attention to the horizon. The young man, embarrassed by this interaction, looked back to the horizon as well, but then shut his eyes in dismay. His thoughts trembled as half of him wished that when he opened his eyes, she wasn’t there. But when he reopened his eyes, he looked over and saw her there, sitting patiently, adoringly observing the faint shades of orange above the skyline.

She noticed this glance, however, and looked back at him. “Was there something you wanted to tell me?” she asked. He quickly looked away and cleared his throat. “What? Me?” She laughed. “Yes! You! Weren’t you the one that wanted to say ‘Hello’?” The young man acquiesced to her remark and gave in to a huge smile. His eyes attempted to pick up the hint of a rising sun as she continued to look at him.

“I-I don’t deserve you,” he said, blinking multiple times as if to shield the moistness of his eyes from escaping. The big smile on his face suddenly melted into a nervous grin. “And, well, none of this makes sense.” The young woman tilted her head. “What doesn’t make sense?” The young man glanced over to pick up on her questioning look. “Like I said, I don’t deserve you. Why God put you with me, I’ll never know. And so, I feel bad that you have to spend the rest of your life with someone like me. I mean, I’ve made so many mistakes. I have so much baggage, not that I haven’t placed it all at the Lord’s feet, but I have so many things left to work on, and you deserve a guy who can be the guy that you deserve to have: someone who is cool, super intelligent, probably better looking, maybe taller, can grow a cooler beard, maybe less of a stutter and slur on the back of his tongue. An-“

“Stop,” she said firmly with a tear in her eye. Her attention was still fixed intently on the young man as he looked off into the yellowish distance. “Why do you love me?” she asked. The young man immediately looked at her. With boldness, he replied, “It’s a decision! Just like Christ died for the Church, I’m called to die for you. And even though the Church was originally the crowd nailing Christ to the cross, I choose to love you, no matter what. Even if God doesn’t open the first doors between us for years and years, I’m willing to wait, sacrificing for you all the while. Because if I don’t sacrifice for you now, I won’t sacrifice for you then. Love isn’t a feeling. Christ chose the cross, and even His feelings said otherwise! True love isn’t something to fall into, it’s something to grow into! And God’s chosen me to be yours, that’s why.” The young woman nodded in awe and appreciation of such God-given chivalry, as the small tear began to trickle down her cheek. She bowed her head in an attempt hide the tear, but while trying to wipe it away with her sleeve, she shyly looked up with an innocent smile. At the sight of this, the young man broke away from her gaze and looked back to the horizon, gleaming with different shades and mixes of reds, oranges, yellows, and blues.

The first ray of sunlight showed through the trees of the park, turning off the nearby lamp post with a mechanical click. “Why don’t you deserve me?” she slowly asked. The young man’s eyes turned to her, but then veered off of her and into the distant trees behind her. “Because,” he mumbled, “because I know what you are to be.” There was a slight pause, mixed with confusion, resulting in her asking, “How’s that?” The young man looked back down at his cold hands, and leaned over, placing his elbows on his knees. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words seemed to escape him, yet he pressed through with a slight stutter.

“I-I pray for you. Every single morning, I pray for you. Every day, I pray that God will do the most radical things in your life. I boldly go before the throne and I plead with God that you seek Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. I boldly ask Him that you be the next Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Sabina Wurmbrand, Elisabeth Elliot, and Corrie ten Boom of this generation. I pray that your prayer life is that of a warrior-poet. I pray that every demon, including Satan, trembles for fear when you get on your knees and pray. I pray that the gates of hell be torn down at the sound of your bold prayers. I pray, every day, that when you get in the Word, you take every jot and tittle as fact and then throw your life onto the promises of God, knowing full well that He will not fail you. I pray that God will prepare you to the utmost for the war that He has called you and me to fight. I pray that you break away from the youthful lies of this generation and that you stand up as Ezekiel did on Mount Carmel, undaunted by the false prophets of the modern day. And above all else, I pray these things in full faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, knowing that God will not deny me any request that I make for you! And I know for a fact that each and every request will be so. That is why I don’t deserve you because a princess ought to have a prince fit for her hand.”

The young man looked up from his shaking hands and saw the young woman’s eyes streaming with tears. Her sleeves were wet from wiping each tear away, and an adoring smile pierced through her blushing cheeks. This emotion seemed to translate into his veins because his shaking hands seemed to intensify as his moist eyes began to accumulate the ingredients for tears.

“So tell me, do I love you?” she asked in a quavering voice. This question took the young man off guard, and embarrassment flooded through his very being. His eyes widened as he stiffly sat up, and he could feel all of his muscles become tense. He attempted to open his mouth, but his jaw was clenched in fear. How was he supposed to answer a question like that? She continued with a waver in her voice, “For the relationship between Christ and the Church to work, in its full beauty and intimacy, the Church must return Christ’s love in full force. So tell me, will a single drop of your love go unreturned? Doesn’t love provoke more love?” Once more, he was speechless. His eyes began to water with a well of tears ready to explode, and the rising sun reflected these tears with a glorious shimmer. She finished by tenderly saying, “And don’t ever forget, even when you fail to love me as you ought, my focus will never be taken off of the love of Christ, and no matter who you are or what you do, I’ll love you to the death.”

The young man burst into tears as he stood up, turning his back to her. His clenched hand rose to conceal his mouth, as his other arm attempted to support his collapsing chest. He endeavored to step forward, but his knees collapsed, folding in on themselves, and so the young man covered his eyes in shameful agony, hanging his head over the ground. “I-… I-…” “I know,” she said in a soft tone, followed by a creaking of the old, rusted bench. The young man, realizing that she had left the bench, removed his hands for a split second when he saw her gentle, caring eyes, side by side with his. A new rush of humiliation overwhelmed him, as his hands retreated to shield his red eyes once more. “My friend,” she whispered, “it’s you I don’t deserve.”

The young man wept, and wept, and wept. His thoughts had been so full of love for her, he had never once considered the love that she had for him, her future husband. As he slowly removed his hands from over his bloodshot eyes, his feeble knees and elbows barely managed to hoist him up off the ground. He turned around to view the old, rusted bench, where there lay a giant pile of leaves, guarding where she had never sat. And so, acknowledging her absence, he stumbled over to the bench and sat back down. Yet, in the midst of his melancholy nostalgia, he could still hear her voice echoing along the cobblestone path.

“There are yet many doors to be opened,”

“So I’ll trust the Lord to lead me through each and every one,”

“And I’ll always be waiting patiently on the other side,”

“As shall I always long to see you on the other side,”

“And until each door, I’ll be tearing down as many bars as I possibly can,”

“As shall I be tearing down as many bars as I possibly can,”

“For as God leads us through each and every door to follow,”

“We’ll tear down the gates of hell,”

“Together!”

Exert force here to read on – the novelette continues…

The Day You Composed a Masterpiece

“Compose a masterpiece.”

You look to your left and then to your right, questioning who such a command could actually be directed to.

“No, you. Yes, you! Compose a masterpiece!”

Your thoughts melt as an internal laugh implodes your creative speculation.

You scowl at the complex articulation of wordage.

You question your vocabulary skills from school.

You rebel and question me.

*pause*

(cue The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly soundtrack music, followed by a gunshot)

*resume*

Consider this: most musicians begin the best of their songs based off of a simple idea, a thought. They probably weren’t necessarily focusing on anything, but maybe they were simply going about their day when they heard something in their head. It may have been born out of musing, or maybe thinking of daily events. Maybe they were in literature class, unintentionally zoning out. Or, what if they were reading a post when they heard…

Reverberating footsteps. You hear footsteps, one pair’s worth, echoing off of distant walls. From hearing such a sound, it would seem as though that they are coming from a very large auditorium: a professional one. As your mind tries to grasp the depth of such sound, you momentarily realize that the footsteps have come to a halt, followed by a long pause,

When suddenly…

You hear a quiet breath proceeded by a woman’s beautiful voice humming a simple, lofty note. She continues sustaining it while maintaining a gentle carefulness, like a mother swaying a newborn in her delicate arms. As she continues, you think you’ve heard her voice before, so you try to take the tone and connect it with previous memories, but you can’t quite place it. She runs out of breath of course, and she takes another quiet breath to resume her lovely tone.

A concert grand piano plays a low, minor chord beneath her renewed note, contrasting the highs and the lows perfectly. The humming continues as you hear the piano begin to fade away; the keys can only sustain their volume for so long. It’s sad. One hum and one minor piano chord, though simple, can conjure up such melancholy emotions. The beauty of such simplicity crawls beneath your skin as you hear her run out of breath once again.

The concert grand piano, once more, plays the same low, minor chord beneath her hum, except this time, the chord repeats itself every two beats, creating a certain momentum that had not been there before. This drive incites your heart to beat just slightly faster. After the chord repeats beneath the hum for an even amount of times, it suddenly changes to a lower major chord for four repetitions, and then it resolves onto an even lower major chord. The sound stays as the woman’s hum comes to a close.

As the sound of the hum exits the foundation of the piano, your breath escapes you as if you want it to come back.

The fading away of the piano lifts, leaving an evanescent reverberation.

The pause agitates you. You’ve never heard such a thing. You want more.

That’s when you hear two taps, as if a conductor had been waiting at his stand the whole time, waiting for the introduction to come to a close.

You hear some shifting in chairs, as if a full orchestra had just lifted their violins, violas, and cellos.

After hearing a quiet breath, the same woman sings an ascending note pattern up to her signature sustained note. However, the beat after she hits her note, a full string section eases into the low, minor chord that the piano had once played. And so, in the same manner, as the piano had changed chords, you hear the strings smoothly transition to that lower major chord, slowly followed by the even lower major chord. You know that the woman had discreetly taken a breath within such transitions because when the strings ease out in their due time, her voice remains consistent, humming her lofty note.

After humming for a few seconds, the violin section eases back into their three, low chords with ease: the first chord being minor: the longest, the second being major: transitional, and then the third, bringing the idea to a resolution. As your held captive by the beautiful simplicity, you suddenly hear a second voice preceding the next musical repetition.

A man’s lower hum mirrors the woman’s hum as both ascend to that signature note, followed by the concert grand piano with that lower chord, quickly reflected by the string section the beat after. The man’s hum, however, every beat or so, descends, returning to the top note to descend once again. The notes fit perfectly with the woman’s upper hum, the piano, and the string section.

A chill runs up your spine as the man’s hum harmonizes with the string section, all the while being complimented by the concert grand piano, repeating its solid chords.

As these musical ideas continue to your ears content, you suddenly hear all sound slow to a pause by the end of the last repetition.

Your breath, once again, escapes you.

Suddenly a faint snare roll is softly heard. The softness does not remain, however, for it grows louder, and louder, and louder, until a bass drum is violently hit along with a massive cymbal crash, beginning all music ideas once more, driven by an epic snare rhythm, carrying all sound along.

Such music makes you want to pick up a sword and fight for something worth dying for. It evokes emotion that threatens a tear to fall, meanwhile strengthening your knees to stand on Solid Ground. The three chords, supported by the humming, concert grand piano, string section, and snare rhythm enwrap your consciousness as they take hold of who you are, pointing you to who you can be, who you’ve been made to be, and Who has bought you to make you who you are to be.

As these ideas repeat, a climax suddenly comes into view as a valiant brass section booms, ascending to the most epic melody that you’ve ever heard. It trumps all other aspects of the song, conjuring up a picture in your mind:

You see clouds parting, revealing the King of kings, the Lord of lords riding upon His white steed. You instantly know His name: Faithful and True, crowned by many crowns. His long vesture is dipped in the blood of the martyrs, and He has come for His own. He has come for the faithful, the ones who have been watching, waiting. Your adrenaline begins to pump as your mind’s eye is preparing to faint at such a thought. Nonetheless, His eyes quickly to turn you, and you’re not sure whether to panic or shout for joy, but none the less, He holds out His hand to you and says,

The music climaxes to an unresolved chord, intensifying, intensifying, and intensifying, until suddenly coming to a complete, silent stop.

“Follow Me.”

A gigantic resolution chord is hit by all th-

Your mind’s eye shuts down. You can’t take it anymore. The visualization is gone. The music is gone. All is dark.

But then the silence is broken, and you hear a faint clap, followed by a second, followed by multiple, when suddenly you realize that it is as if thousands upon thousands are clapping, filling a reverberating auditorium. On top of such sound, you suddenly hear shifting in chairs, revealing that people have begun to stand up, showing an entire standing ovation.

Your mouth seems to be paralyzed. Your jaw wishes to drop, but confusion holds you in dismay. After a fair amount of time, the clapping comes to a stop. You hear one or two reverberated footsteps, followed by a clicking sound, as if a director has laid down his baton. Then you hear a reverberating voice, topped off by a James Bond type accent,

“A masterpiece, truly a masterpiece!
It has been an honor to play what was yours of thought,
And today will forever be remembered as
The day you composed a masterpiece.”

A Work of Art

A young man slowly strolled down a worn sidewalk of an urban neighborhood. With hands in pockets and steps in rhythm, his eyes nostalgically gazed at the old homes passing by. “Too many years,” he thought.

As he passed by a house with an old man watering his plants, he stopped to observe the old man’s yard, well kept and clean. The old man, noticing the young man gawking, turned off his hose and indecently remarked, “What?” The young man smiled. “Nothing, I just.. haven’t been here for awhile.” “So?” “I grew up here. By the time I was in pre-school, I had moved away, so it’s nice to visit for the first time.” The old man shrugged and wagged his head as he turned his hose back on to continue watering his plants. The young man, finding this humorous, continued on with a reminiscent aura surrounding his composure.

Then, as he turned right into the next block, the corner of his eye caught a house halfway down the road. His steps grew shorter and shorter in length as he drew nearer. “Hasn’t changed much,” he thought.

*HONK HONK* What?! He looked to his left to see an oncoming car, then looked down, only to realize that he was on street pavement. Before he could reac-

*Silence*

*Darkness*

Fingers, he twitched his fingers. Were they there? He sure hoped so. A tunnel seemed to form within his vision. Meanwhile, a flickering light seemed to grow brighter and brighter at the end of the tunnel. Noises began to grow louder and louder. Did he hear cars? Murmurs? Children? Yard workers? A whizzing-

*WABAAM* His upper body jerked up as his hand flung to press against the side of his head. A baseball slowly rolled away from him as a teenager stood across the road, not knowing whether to laugh or apologize. The young man stood up in confusion, quickly looking all around him as if preparing for either a brawl or death. The teenager tilted his head in confusion, waiting for the young man to burst out in anger because he got hit in the head with a baseball.

“Did… did you see that car?” The teenager scratched his head. “Uh… what?” “Tha-that car, I… I thou-… well it wa-… and I-” The young man felt the side of his head; it was beginning to swell up. After taking his hand off his head, he felt his arm and then patted himself on the chest. He then proceeded to do a thorough examination of his limb functions. He looked up at the teenager. “I-… I think I’m alive.” There was an awkward pause. “Can I have my baseball back?” The young man laughed as he picked up the baseball. “Yeah, sure.” After tossing it across the street, he did a 360-degree spin to take in the urban panorama.

He stopped and winced as if thinking that he was thinking something absurd. He retraced some steps that he thought he had taken before and then stopped beside a well-kept house. A middle aged man was watering his plants where an old man had once stood. “How… similar they look,” he thought. Shaking his head as if trying to get rid of a thought, he went back to the previous street. The houses seemed to be the same, but.. they look younger. It seems as though they have lost years upon years of aging. Even the sidewalk which he was standing on had once again recovered its smoothness and color. In fact, trying to recollect old memories, everything seems to be the exact same way that he had remembered.

Even.. that house. His house. His home. It matched his memories to perfection. “No,” he thought while shutting his eyes extremely hard. “Just, no. Never. Never ever.” The sound of a bicycle zoomed by. The young man opened his eyes to see a paperboy tossing newspapers to the door steps of all the houses. “Hey! Hey, you!” The Paperboy stopped to see the young man waving his arms. “What.. what’s the date today?” “Why, it’s the 2nd.” “No, no. I mean, the year!” The Paperboy let out a hearty laugh as he shook his head and began peddling once again. Hesitantly, the young man walked over to a nearby house and nervously picked up a newspaper.

After staring for more than a few seconds, his eyes widened in horror as the newspaper came crashing to the ground. He began walking away from the house, but his muscles seemed to be locking up. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to faint, stop breathing, or laugh in disbelief. His subconscious seemed to be debating which one of these options to embrace first. Maybe the latter mixed with the second.

The young man, beginning to shake uncontrollably, sat down, putting his head between his legs and folding his arms above his head. Thoughts seemed to be escaping him, not that he wanted to keep them in the first place because it’s best to not hold those kinds of thoughts captive. Why? Well, why hold something captive if the captive is stronger than the captor?

But then something caught his attention: a sound. He looked up to see his home, the exact place where he had spent his early childhood years. The sound was that of a two-year-old, stifling an innocent giggle while making his face into a masterpiece using chalk. Various colors composed this young canvas, and to the young man, this seemed delightful. So removing his arms from above his head, he stood up. The toddler’s clear, adorable eyes caught sight of this motion and locked on to the young man.

His breath vanished. Those eyes.. they were so familiar. The toddler, in response, tried to stand, but realizing that his momentum was not to his advantage, plopped back down to his imaginary palace. His eyes illuminated with humor as his tiny fingers clenched his colorful array of chalk pieces.

The young man, looking both ways, crossed the street. The toddler’s smile compromised his chubby composure as a friendly high pitched laugh welcomed the young man to his side of the block. The young man stood on the sidewalk, afraid to take another step forward. But nonetheless, the sight of this familiar toddler penetrated his already weakened defenses, and he walked up to the side of the house where the toddler was located.

The two-year-old gazed up at the tall young man. He wasn’t really all that tall, but from a sitting perspective and being two years old, he was a tower. “Uh.. mind if I sit?” the young man asked quietly. The toddler, still piecing the question together, gently smiled as if to agree to the tower’s terms of surrender. The young man sat down criss-cross in front of the toddler who was continuing with his artwork, revealing his mastery to the new intruder of his territory.

“Are you.. real?” whispered the young man. The toddler glanced up from his work, paused, and shrugged in innocent confusion. “Are you.. a dream?” This time, the toddler let out a giggle as if to mock the absurdity of what he didn’t truly understand. The young man leaned in a little closer and whispered even quieter, “Are you… wel-… ar-… are you m-..” He paused to rephrase such an improbable question. “Wh-… what’s your name?” The toddler looked upwards to the sky as if to think, and then let out a few familiar consonants and syllables; they were jumbled and spread out. It was clear that the toddler was in the processing of forming an uncontrollable stutter: something that would haunt him for years to come.

Despite all impossibilities: the consonants, the syllables, the stutter, and everything surrounding them… his worst fears had been confirmed.

The young man laughed. “You know, it’s funny. Everyone says, ‘well if I could talk to..’ well, yeah.. ‘I would say so and so, and really make sure that I made so and so clear so that so and so would never happen.’ Haha, well.. my mind’s blank. I got nothing.” The toddler squinted his eyes in a cute fashion and let out a high pitched chuckle. “Having fun, there?” asked the young man. The toddler slightly opened his mouth, thinking of how to respond. “B-b-b-bbbbb… bluh… n’ n’… r-red.. mmmm.. n’ n’… ye-yelow… n’ mmm.. n’ gggggg… gggggg… g-g-greeen!” The toddler let out a triumphant laugh of victory as he had thoroughly described his arsenal of weaponry in which no other child could possibly take away from him.

The young man smiled for a second or so, but then he turned his gaze to the ground. “If only you knew how rough things are going to get. All those years of kids clarifying to you how you already knew you talked. Don’t worry though, you’ll grow out of most of it… You’ll lose your best friend in the 6th grade, you know. Brain cancer.” He shook his head in reminiscence. “You won’t cry for at least one year after that because it won’t be until then that you’ll dare to remember the friend that you never were to him.” The toddler’s gaze was fixed on his quivering eyes. “People will think you’re the greatest at music for a long time.” An evanescent laugh escaped his breath. “But it’s funny because few of those people will ever know the tears of a boy who never quite felt that he was good enough. And what’s even funnier is that you’ll never stop crying about the fact until you come to the realization that you’ll never have to be good enough; you’ll just have music as a friend, sort of.” He sighed. “Once God gets a hold of your life, He’ll destroy you.” The toddler’s eyes widened at the two words, “destroy” and, “you” being in the same sentence. Nonetheless, the young man smiled. “But He’ll only destroy you for the task of rebuilding you. And all the while, you’ll cry a hundred times more tears than anyone around you would think you actually cried. Everything about you will be dragged through the mud, and in return, God will replace you, bit by bit, with Himself.” A smile spread across his face. “You’ll get a new smile! Your school photos will look horrible for years, but once God gets you, He’ll give you back the smile He always wanted you to have.” The young man’s light spirit in the moment dropped to a sorrowful tone. “And your personality will always be a work in the process. Humor will continue to be your facade.. your mask that you won’t let down for years.” The toddler tilted his head as if to inquire what was to happen with such a thing. The young man smiled. “You’ll become a man, and humor won’t be your identity anymore. You’ll be more. Eventually, your humor will be nothing more than the cherry on top of the icing. The icing? It’ll be your joy, your humility, your servant-hood… but the cake, oh… the cake. Jesus Christ will bake such a fine cake out of you; Him being the only ingredient, really.”

The toddler’s eyes fell into a dreadful confusion as to how he would be baked into a cake.

The young man, realizing that toddlers aren’t meant to think so deep, solemnly stood up and took a deep breath. The toddler took a high pitched deep breath as well. Dry of any more words to add, the young man nodded to his little friend and then turned around to walk away. But as he took his first few steps, he heard a quiet sound from behind him:

“B..b-b-bbbbb… bu-…”

The young man stopped and slowly turned back around.

“Bu..-bbbbbbu… buh wat abot yu…?”

“Me?” The little toddler, in response, vigorously nodded up and down. “What about me?”

“Iiih it wort it?”

The young man kneeled down in front of the toddler. “Well, you see. With every stroke of color, Jesus Christ will get more and more glory.. so in that case-” The toddler, realizing that Someone needed help with coloring, held out one of his pieces of chalk, with an innocent sparkle in his eyes. This sparkle reflected a hidden tear that contrasted beautifully with his tiny, chubby smile.

“Theh ‘dis ihs foh youw C-C-CccColorer… Heh c-c-cccccc-c-can useh ‘dis.”

The young man grinned at such an offer. “Oh, buddy, no need. He’ll use you.”

ToddlerMilwaukee, Wisconsin. May 2, 1998.