You know the feeling you get after you’ve slept solidly through the night with peaceful dreams? How your body breathes a sigh of relief after waking from sleep that actually helped it recover? How your mind thanks you for giving it the ability to rest from the many troubles that you put it through throughout the week? Your sight awakens before your eyelids open, and you just know it’s going to be a good day.
Then, sharp tingles, like needles piercing your skin, begin between the shoulder blades and spread like butter on a heated pan. Your eyes have yet to open, but you feel them tightening from the pain swarming your body as if you were sleeping on an ant pile and didn’t know it. Now the ants are biting at every piece of skin their angry mandibles can pinch. Your fists clinch from the stinging down your spine.
Your heart is racing, your breathing quickening, and you want to scream! But you can’t scream, because your nieces are next door, just beyond a thin wall, watching their morning shows. You don’t want to scare them by hearing you screaming as if something is there when nothing is visible, so you hold it in.
The pain keeps spreading like a wildfire. You feel the sharp tingles inching further and further down your lower back and triceps. You begin to wonder, “Will this pain consume all of me?” Your legs crunch up against your belly in preparation for pain. This isn’t labor or a period, but you just know you’re about to sweat, scream, and still feel so much pain.
You look for a quick way out of the pain, but any abrupt movements may cause further damage, and you don’t how much pain your body can handle. You begin to wonder if you’ll lose hair, have a heart attack, fry your brain, or if the pain will ever go away. You wonder if this is how panic attacks are for some people. You have only felt this pain twice before, but its continued presence somehow bothers you further.
Then, you think about the permanent damage from all this stress, and whether you are capable of adding further difficulty to the already difficult season you’re in. You feel the needles rising up your neck. You don’t know why your body is doing this to you, but you have to remove it! Some way, somehow, you have to rid yourself of this overwhelming stress!
Then, you remember the time you were in a stranger’s car, crying over the state of your life. You remember how the Lord saved you from overwhelming depression, and you reach, with a little hope, that He might save you from this as well. You don’t want to be disrespectful, but you don’t want to move, so you bury your face into your pillow and pray.
“Calm down, calm down, calm down. Lord, help my body calm me down. Give me Your peace. Flood me in Your peace, Lord. Help me break free. Please, remove the stress. Please, give me hope. Please, calm my body. Please, remove this from me. Help me, Lord. Give me peace. Help me, Lord. Please, help me. Prince of Peace, I need Your peace right now…”
With each mention of His name, a wave, like a gentle breath of the ocean, poured over you. It started from the head and swam down to the toes. Rows of needles fall out of your neck, your spine, your arms, and your legs. It is not the peace you hoped for, but the peace you needed. You realize that I wasn’t getting out of this season easily. This was what the 40th day of unemployment looked like for a man who had been living paycheck to paycheck.
Still, I said, “Thank You,” when my body had recovered to the peace it had temporarily lost.
I knew what it was. I needed a job. I needed to work. I needed to pay off my debts. I had borrowed from my father and mother. I had friends and family feeding me here and there, telling me that if I needed another meal, all I had to do was ask, even if I hated asking. I even owed God $500 in tithe money after He used an experience with my mother to let me know that the tithe was His, and if I truly felt like I needed it, He would let me have it. I had to borrow from everyone, and my pride dissipated with each loan and gift.
I rolled over, escaping the dive into severe distress, and stared at the blinds blocking out a world that had given up on me. I was depressed again. After all those prayers, and all those experiences, I was at my lowest… again. Now all I could do was stare through the cracks in the blinds of my room in my brother’s house.
I had been living with my brother for three and a half years. In the past two years, I had spent most of the time bouncing from one job to the next, an experience I was not accustomed to. In his house alone, I had six jobs, and was currently looking for my seventh. I managed to chuckle, thinking about how low I had fallen in societal standards. I deserved it.
A year and a half ago, I had the most amazing blessing in a job that I could’ve asked for. I was making the most money I had ever made, I was working the hours that I wanted to work, I was doing a job that I could handle, and I was still able to get my writing done. It was amazing. I wasn’t inching my way towards my dreams, I was making leaps towards them.
Three months into that job, my arrogance got the best of me. I asked God to give me a test, and boy did He grant my prayer. I lost that job the following month, and struggled to keep others for another year and a half, along with spouts of unemployment between them. I was always a good worker, but that doesn’t stop contracts from ending. I couldn’t even work valet jobs anymore. The last valet job I obtained had me crying after the first day of work. God had humbled me severely. At times, it felt like humiliation.
Imagine knowing, not guessing, that you are capable of working a job that pays $47,000 a year, only to be told you weren’t capable of being a valet supervisor that made $25,000 a year. You dealt with contracts that featured millions of dollars, and yet someone thought you couldn’t handle a few guys who dealt with $20-$30 a day. I had an office job, and no longer had to work in the elements. I could’ve afforded an apartment, but that season had passed.
I chuckled, because I knew if God let me out of this position, I wouldn’t dare ask Him for a test again. But I had asked Him for a test, and I was going through that test with some of the worst jobs I had worked in my life. The last job was so bad, I chose unemployment rather than continued income under them. Thus, the 7 o’clock in the morning panic attack.
I listened, finally in peace, as my nieces were watching some drama show on the TV in their room while my nephews had their streaming videos on the TV downstairs. I silently hoped none would find a reason to knock on my door to see about me. It would be one of those days where asking, “Are you alright?” would start the waterworks. I didn’t want to cry, I wanted to work. At that moment, I just sulked.
I turned on my TV, which I had brought from my apartment, and turned the volume down. I didn’t want to alert them that I was awake. I turned on my game, and listened quietly for any steps. The subtle beep from the system always drew the attention of my nephews if they were near the door. I wouldn’t be able to start the game before a knock came to the door and they invited themselves in. I thought to go and lock the door, but I still didn’t care to move.
I started playing. I reminded myself not to get caught up in the games today. No football dynasty, basketball dynasty, Chinese empire, or American soldier would save me from the state of my life. No fighter jet could fly me away from where I was. I couldn’t let escapism turn into procrastination. I had to apply for jobs, no matter how much I wanted to sulk. After all, I wanted to keep the car I hadn’t finished paying off, and I didn’t want to ask my mom to pay my car note again.
The echo of my nieces’ bedroom door opening let me know my time was running short. Soon, I would be hearing the school bus stopping in the street. I kept playing. Their footsteps could be heard moving across the upper room. They must’ve needed to brush their teeth, or comb their hair. I kept playing.
Suddenly, the steps went from the upper room to the stairs. I could hear the eldest one ordering the others around, while the youngest girl kept quiet, and the eldest boy mouthed off. She was too grown and he was too full of energy. He annoyed her often, but she loved him. It was the kind of interactions that made you appreciate being their uncle, even if you didn’t want to see them on that particular morning, or rather, you didn’t want them to see you. They had seen enough of me for the past three years. I wondered if they called me pathetic when I wasn’t around.
My thoughts had creeped to the surface again. I obviously needed to retreat further from reality. Thus, one game became two, and then three, and then four. I had played my way through my sister walking my baby nephew over to the sitter’s house, my nieces getting on their bus, my oldest nephew getting on his bus, and my sister leaving for work. My brother usually went to work before I even woke up. I was completely alone, and drained. Winning every game by wide margins did nothing for my soul.
Reality struck me when my stomach growled. I was hungry, and it was already noon. The kids would be coming home in a few hours. I had to apply for jobs while it was quiet. In the quiet is where I did my best work. I knew that soon as my nephews came home, they would be knocking, hopefully, on the door and asking to play their favorite game that I owned. The youngest would simply open the door, peep inside, and then leave… with the door opened. It was still adorable, but it was hard to enjoy while I humbly begged for a job to strangers.
I turned off the game and rose from my bed. I walked over to my nightstand by the window, and reached down into a grocery bag full of 17¢ packets of ramen noodles. I took two and headed downstairs. This would be my meal for today. It would only cost 34¢. My dinner would be water, no matter how much my sister and brother said it was okay to eat with them. Eating from them took food from the kids. I couldn’t do it. Even if I prevented much food from being wasted, I couldn’t see myself taking more food from them. What if it was a meal the kids actually wanted seconds and thirds of? No, I would be satisfied with salt-heavy, possibly cardboard-infused ramen noodles and water. I hadn’t mastered viewing myself as anything other than a burden to my brother’s family. I called it my room, but it was really my nephews’ room. I couldn’t change how it felt even with their encouragement.
I walked downstairs, grabbed a pot, heated some water, cooked the noodles, added the seasoning, poured the noodles into a bowl, cleaned the pot, and went back upstairs. I turned from video games to streaming TV shows and ate my food. I didn’t know how many days of this I had done, but I knew I was beyond tired of living like this.
It also didn’t help to see people on TV living better than me. They didn’t tell you what kinds of jobs these actors and actresses had, or how much they made. They just assumed the jobs paid enough for the rest of the shenanigans to take place. It was annoying.
Despite being only two packets, I was full. I took the bowl back downstairs and placed it in the sink. I rinsed off the bowl and fork because the nieces would be loading the dishwasher after dinner anyway. No need to use more soap to clean.
I returned to my room, cut off my tv, and opened my laptop. Sitting in my computer chair gave me no hope. I had resigned myself to my fate. I was going to apply for a bunch of jobs on a bunch of sites and receive a bunch of “Sorry, another candidate was chosen for this position” emails months later. It didn’t matter if it was contract or permanent, somehow, these interviewers collectively decided I wasn’t qualified with my whole degree.
I should’ve chosen a different path. I should’ve chosen a business degree or math degree. I should’ve aimed to be a doctor or lawyer like my father suggested. Who cares if you write if you’re broke? All doctors and lawyers have more than enough money to publish their book. You were more than capable of pursuing those careers. You were more than intelligent enough. Yet, here you were, living the starving artist’s life that you didn’t want. Jokes on you.
I unlocked my laptop and maximized the same tabs from yesterday. I refreshed the internet and saw the same jobs reappear from yesterday. The same companies with slightly different job titles put out further adds. I was hunting for jobs so much that the jobs didn’t have enough new material for me. I couldn’t reapply. It would be a waste of time. It was noon. How did no one have a new job yet?
I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and scrolled. It was the same companies. I searched my desired places of employment. They had the same job postings I had already applied for. I tried another job-hunting site. They had the same jobs posted from other job-hunting sites. I searched contractor websites. They only had a few jobs to sign up for, and with a few clicks, my application and resume were sent. What a waste!
I was agitated again. I sighed deeply and hit my computer desk in anger. I folded my arms and laid my head on my forearms. I stared at the screen, trying to figure out if there was another site I could visit, or if another job would be posted soon. An hour and 50 pages later, I was only at five applications. What a waste.
I moved my arms and laid my head on the computer desk. I rubbed the back of my head, feeling the pressure to be successful and the stress of not being successful at the same time. I was letting my circumstance get to me again. Perhaps, it was time for me to read the Word.
I had been reading the Bible daily for my sanity. I was desperately searching for an answer. Maybe I would find it in Genesis with Joseph’s story, Job, Jeremiah, or Exodus with Moses’s story. All these Biblical prophets had periods of nothingness. They all had faith. They had to have had some wisdom for me.
I grabbed my Bible from the top of my nightstand and sat on the side of my bed. I looked at the computer desk in the corner at the foot of the bed. The screen was left on, and I could still see there was no “refresh” request, meaning that there was not another job posted. My head hung low. I had barely searched for an hour and I was already giving up. I hated it.
I looked at my Bible. I wondered if I should’ve continued reading the Bible in order, or if I should try to let the Spirit guide me. When I wanted the Spirit to guide me. I’d close my eyes and flip my Bible in every direction. Then, I’d take my finger and trace the pages until I felt it was a good point to stop. That method turned into a great study once, so I tried it again.
My heart led me to Ezekiel 25. I looked at the pages and stared confused. Everything that was happening was not relating to me at all. I read the next chapter, and it was more of the same. I read the previous chapters, and I drew nothing from my attempt. I read five chapters in all and considered my attempt to force the hand of God further arrogance. He would move when He wanted to move and He didn’t want to move now.
I dropped my Bible on the floor, and questioned my next move. I could stare at a screen for another hour, hoping a job I could cheerfully apply for would arrive. I could play more video games, trying escape from my current circumstance, only to be let down by weak AI. I could watch TV and try not to be jealous of the people living their lives. Ultimately, I laid down and prayed.
God had to have seen my suffering. He had to have heard my prayers. He had to have known my state of mind. The one who didn’t know was I. I didn’t know how He was responding to my pleas. I didn’t recognize how He was helping me through my test. I didn’t know Him like I thought I did. I didn’t know our relationship like I thought I did. Thus, I asked for communication. I had heard from Him before. I knew I could hear from Him again.
Once my prayer was done, I let my mind recycle the same thoughts over and over again. I looked towards brighter days, despising my current days. I thought about the nephews that would soon be knocking on my door, hopefully, to ask about video games, or just to see my face and leave… with the door open. Part of me hoped this would be a day they’d stay in their rooms or downstairs so that they wouldn’t have to continue seeing me like this.
I began to wonder how everyone would feel if I had just left. I wanted to be a writer, and writers lived in Los Angeles. People of entertainment forsook everything to go and try to make it in Hollywood. Perhaps, it was my time to go. Perhaps, my family would understand when I turned up a year or so later with books and movies and success. I had to get away from Houston. It wasn’t focused on films. It wasn’t caring for its writers. I needed to go.
My eyes became heavy as the food settled in. My mind was becoming fogged with fatigue. I knew it was time to rest. I thought to set an alarm, but what if I had set an alarm and woke to find out that there still wasn’t another new job to apply for. My body sank into the bed. I covered it with a comforter and accepted my fate. I wasn’t going to miss anything by sleeping through this miserable season.
Faintly, in my head, music from my childhood began to play. It was a song I had not heard in a long time, but its message was playing through my head. I was waking up again. I didn’t know how much time had passed, but I was alone still. I could not hear God, children, brother, or sister. All I heard was this song playing in my head.
My eyes opened as the message by Commissioned, published in 1993, kept repeating, “Dare to believe. And you will see. There is hope, where you are.” I hadn’t heard that song in months or years, and there was no reason for me to think of this song in the distress of my circumstance, but something in me, dare I say the Spirit, told me to let the song play. I remembered it. It was a good song. I owned it.
I rose from my bed and found my phone. I searched through my music, and there it was. “Dare to Believe” by Commissioned. I played the song, fully believing that God was speaking to me. The words explained exactly what I had going through, and exactly how I had to react my situation.
Tears rose to the surface of my eyes as I heard, “Suddenly you realize. All that you live for is gone. Desperately searching. For just one reason to carry on. Conditions are right for. The greatest of miracles now. It's been known to happen. When your world's come tumbling down. Dare to believe. And you will see. There is hope where you are. Realize that in my eyes. Nothing, nothing's too hard.” God had spoken to me through a song that was written 25 years ago. I knew it. I believed it.
There was no reason for me to think of that song. There was no way I was going to know the words in that song would resonate to my circumstance. I listened as the lyrics came back to mind with each verse. I knew this song and had forgotten about it. Yet, here it was again, speaking for God to me. I needed to believe. I had to have the courage to believe.
I wept as I apologized to God for letting my sorrow overwhelm me and letting my situation define me. I wanted to run and try something else. I wanted to escape the hole I had dug myself in. But He said wait. He said, “Stay, and see that I will make something of this situation for you. Nothing is too hard for Me.” I had to trust Him. I had to let go and trust Him.
I discovered that God can be in music. He can speak to you in the things that you had forgotten. You just had to be sensitive to His voice, and I was, to the best of my ability. You cannot force God to speak. You can only wait for Him to show you how to listen and what to be listening for. Thankfully, I heard Him.
I rose from my bed and wiped my eyes. I returned to my laptop and started searching again with new hope. There was hope where I was. I knew that now. God had delivered people in Houston from much worse predicaments than my own. He would surely show up for me in this case. Nothing was too hard for Him.
Less than a month later, He proved Himself true, and I was employed once again. His words were true. There was hope where I was. A job that I interviewed with before the holidays called for a second interview after the holidays, and I got the job. That job would then become the highest paying job I have ever worked, and would provide me with an apartment, a website, and many more blessings than I could ever imagine. I never found myself waking up with sharp tingles in my back ever again… I was elevated.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbAnu7oiRW8&ab_channel=Commissioned-Topic Commissioned. Jones Mitchell Brian & Luckey Mark L. “Dare to Believe” Matters of the Heart, Yell Records, 1993. Track 4. Youtube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbAnu7oiRW8&ab_channel=Commissioned-Topic 2020,