WHERE LIGHT COLLIDES WITH DARK
So far, I’ve only found fragments and shreds of the story that I have been chasing for the last fifteen years. I can’t carry the weight of the whole thing, or even explain my objective with clarity. I’ve been swept into a cosmic mystery, and I cling to these sparse clues that give me some certainty that I am still on the right path even though it is often dark, unforgiving, and severe.
My search started when I was a young man, sitting around a campfire with friends in the mountains outside of Red River, New Mexico. On a summer night, after a day of hiking to Cabresto peak and bathing in the icy waters of the lake, I felt a calling resonate in my heart. Back then, it was only a whisper, a beckoning so soft that it could have been mistaken for inspiration, or overlooked entirely as a passing burst of hope. But it was something more. Something ancient and holy and mysterious. Something that demanded my life. As the years have passed and I have stayed true, the call has grown louder and clearer. The more I say yes, the bolder the call becomes.
And now, as a husband and father, I find that responding to the call has consumed my life.
I am chasing one story.
But I didn’t always know that to be true.
My life and career as a storyteller has matured and shifted with experience, failure, and brief windows of success.
In the beginning, I wanted my stories to make me rich and famous. I realize how narrow and limited that sounds now, but as a young man I was drawn to creating a name and a body of work that might last forever. I wanted to write books that would sell off the shelves of bookstores for the next hundred years, and make films that netted awards and prestige. I wrote five novels by the time I was 25, along with a children’s mystery book series. Most of the books were amateur efforts, but a few of them were legitimately good. I poured my heart and my time into those pages. Throughout college, I spent hundreds of quiet hours building characters and themes and scenes I thought would become part of the cultural landscape. I dove deep into my soul, looking for the words I needed to share with the world. During this time I wrote two novels that I am still extraordinarily proud to share. I signed with agents, gave presentations, and did readings. But the door to the world of the rich and famous stayed closed. The stories weren’t truly mine. In retrospect, those stories never really belonged to me. I was still imitating the masters rather than pressing into a unique voice of my own.
I was newly married, chasing a worthy dream for the wrong reasons, and quickly running out of money.
I came to the realization that I needed to amend my dream and join the ranks of other adults who had dutifully accepted reality.
Instead of seeking fame and prestige, I simply wanted to make a living as a storyteller. And if I couldn’t do that, I could at least find a job in the world of writing, books, and films. In part, this concession was an attempt to ‘grow up’ and build a career, rather than spending all of my free hours on isolated projects that delivered scarce income. This turned out to be a dream I could achieve. Because I had done so much writing and research on storytelling, I landed jobs not only as a copywriter, but also as a screenwriter. On rare occasions I was hired to direct the scripts I wrote. I took every job that was offered to me, and supplemented my income by working as a technical editor for digital editions of magazines like Esquire, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, and more. I felt a proximity to storytelling, even if I had nothing to do with the stories. I traded the ups and downs of following my own passions in exchange for steady income and the reality of a career that still somewhat revolved around writing and stories.
Still, my soul felt off, like I had betrayed the calling. My purpose was greater, farther out there on the edges of humanity where light and dark collide. That’s where I needed to be. The call had been lost in me.
It was time to make another amendment to the dream.
Forget fame and fortune. Forget the safety of a career. I wanted to tell stories that might make an impact. The gifts I had been given weren’t meant to terminate on myself or my own ambitions. They were meant to be poured into the Great Story that has been unfolding all around us since the beginning.
The call roared louder than ever. I was meant to use storytelling to build kingdom. To support the peacemakers. To take up the cause of the meek and the poor. To stand in the doorway on behalf of the widows and the orphans, and keep the wolves at bay. Whatever I could do to make a difference, or bring awareness with storytelling, I had an obligation to do. Those were the stakes when I accepted the call on that summer night on the shores of Cabresto Lake. I was just too young to understand the fullness of the agreement. I was born to explore the edges of our nature, and walk the line along the places where light pushes against the dark.
This shift in my mind and in my heart has been momentous. Since I determined that I was called to build kingdom, I have had the chance to tell the stories of amazing individuals and organizations. I’ve traveled all over the world and been pushed more creatively than I ever was on my own. I’ve learned more skills in film, writing, and sound than I ever did when trying to build a safe career. I’ve had the honor of telling stories about men dying of cancer, refugees from war torn nations, soldiers wounded by war, homeless addicts who have turned their lives around, teenagers abused by the parents who raised them, mothers who have lost babies. I’ve listened to people in the midst of desperation speak of a hope that somehow permeates the pain.
Only recently I realized that I will be chasing one story for the rest of my life. I may catch glimpses and fragments of the story in the films I direct or the books that I write, but everything I do is anchored around this question:
What happens when the light collides with the dark?
And what is our role to play in that collision?
I have fully accepted that the Great Story that has been unfolding in this world since the beginning of time demands nothing of us. We aren't required for the earth to keep spinning. Life doesn't need us to play a role, and that's difficult to accept. Just because we are born doesn't mean we have an obligation or impetus or commitment to meddle in the affairs of the world. But what I find truly amazing, and really something that can only be understood as a gift from the Creator, is that we are invited to play a role in what is already happening. We can choose to step into the story. The very same story that doesn't need us is also built on the expectation that we will say yes. Isn't that incredible? How else can we respond, but to accept the invitation with absolute gratitude?
Over time, the collage of our work may bring us closer to the great and glorious mystery that is too overwhelming to carry all at once.