The Life I Dreamed

Friday, December 17, 2010
Today is an old friend's birthday. I met him in high school (he sat two seats behind me in IPC) and we ended up having the same life dream of working in the movie industry. We even went to the same college (although we only had one or two classes together). Checking out his photos on Facebook I start seeing other faces I know, people that I went to college with. And these people and my friend are doing exactly what I have dreamed of doing all of my life. I turned and went a different direction, but they are living out my life's dream. Yet I would have it no other way.

When I was a kid (think elementary school) my brother told me that I should grow up to be a pyrotechnic engineer. "What's that?" I asked. "It is someone who is paid to blow stuff up." he replied. "Cool! I want to do that!" was my obvious reply.

But that career dream didn't stay the same long. What I soon realized is that I didn't dream of being a pyrotechnic engineer, what I dreamed of is working on special effects on movie sets. And soon after that my dreames turned from working on special effects to just working on movie sets.

All through middle school and high school I wanted to work in the movies. I dreamed most of being a director (in this industry who doesn't?), but I really didn't care what job I was doing. "My life's dream is to, someday, watch a movie and at the end see my name. I don't care where my name is, first thing after the credits start rolling or last thing before the final logo, I just want to see it there."

And so the last two years of high school and my entire college career were focused on that one goal: getting my name in the credits of a movie. Of course the idea wasn't to stop there, the idea was to (in one way of putting it) get my name sooner and sooner in the credits until one day it would end up as the first name you see when the credits start rolling. I worked long and hard on this goal, it was what I lived for.

And what would you know? Not a month after I graduated college I was on the set of a FILM! Granted, it was a small budget film that was using mostly students to work it, but it was a full blown bonafide film set.

I met a lot of amazing people while working on that film, but I already knew a lot of the people I was working with (they were students with me at UNT). And surprise surprise who shows up but my friend from two seats behind me in IPC class, who has paralleled my education career and has ended up at the same place as me. We had a great time working on that set together.

Fast forward three years: I haven't set foot on a film set since the first week of January '08, and here I sit looking at photos of my friend from high school hanging out and working on film sets with all of my college RTVF buddies.

Sure, part of me longs for the good old days with my friends, moving lights around and setting up c-stands; it was the thing I have dreamed of doing for most of my life! And yet I wouldn't trade my life with theirs for ANYTHING! The reason why comes back to that cold first week of 2008 working on my first film set:

I hated it.

The reason is simple: working on that set was the most un-creative thing I have done in my entire life. The mantra of a grip/gaffer on set is "Do exactly what you are told, and do nothing else." For those that know me well: this didn't sit well with me!

I kept looking around the set and would try to make things "better". Not that I would step out of my role as a grip/gaffer, I was just trying to be the best at what I was doing. For example if asked to bring one apple box I would bring two just in case another was needed. I would think ahead and start putting gels on windows before I was asked to. I would clean up after people, and right other people's "wrongs" (that's my OCD speaking).

It took me a few days to figure out why everyone continually yelled at me.

See, my job was not to bring an extra apple box or think ahead. In fact my job was to not think at all! "Do exactly what you are told, and do nothing else." "I don't care if we will end up putting gels on those windows, I didn't tell you to do it, so why are you doing it?"

I was lost.

I was in a world that dumbs you down, a world that doesn't want you to think for yourself, a world that demands that you eat the crumbs that have fallen off of the master's plate long before you earn the right to ever get a full bite to eat, much less the feast they advertise in the "Special Features" section of "The Matrix" DVD.

And so I entered the second week of January '08 with my dreams shattered, completely deflated, crushed. And yet I wouldn't have it any other way!

See: on the surface those two weeks were a huge sudden change for me, an absolute shock to my system. And yet they totally play into a much more subtle story, one that goes back just as far as the last story and one that would continue to this day (and beyond).

Back when I was telling everyone that I wanted to be a pyrotechnic engineer I was also telling everyone that I was a Christian. But that was a lie.

In middle school I fell into pornography. I was addicted like a drunk wants a drink. I planned my day around it, and I became very good at hiding what I was really doing on the computer all those hours.

And after every "session" I felt the guilt. I knew it was wrong. I knew what I was doing was against God's will. And yet I kept doing it.

I was living a lie. I wore Christian shirts to school to feel righteous, but would then go home and defy God with all that I was. And it wasn't just the pornography. I wasn't going to church, I didn't read my Bible, I was spiritually dead.

Sure I could quote you John 3:16 and I knew the Sunday School stories of Noah and Moses. But my heart cared more about the pleasures of this life than about God. In reality I was the worst kind of Christian there is: a Cultural Christian; one that proclaims Jesus as his Lord but never actually lives it.

The Bible uses the illustration of a fruit bearing tree. "Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." (Luke 7:17-18, NIV).

At that time in my life what fruit was I bearing? Well I wasn't reading scripture, I wasn't going to church, and I was spending all of my time watching TV and pornography. Looks like I was bearing bad fruit.

Yet I am not the same today, so what changed? Well I wish that I could say that some bright light knocked some sense into me, or even that there was one passionate night of prayer at youth camp. But it was nothing exciting as that. In fact it is downright boring: After (quite randomly) deciding to give up pornography in college I began a slow U-turn, changing from someone in love with self into someone in love with God. I love the term "repent" and the imagery it brings to mind. The word literally means to turn 180 degrees and go in the opposite direction. I now live a repentant life: I have turned away from my sin and I am going in the other direction.

And smack dab in the middle of this U-turn was January 1st 2008, the best/worst week of my life, working my dream job as those same dreams came crashing down around me.

If the Devil were in charge of me them there is no telling what would have happened to me after that. Gone back to pornography? Probably. Fallen in with the wrong crowd? Maybe. Become so depressed that there would be no light at the end of the tunnel? Most definitely.

But God wouldn't have that! In fact I am convinced that God saw this coming! See, four years before my dreams vanished like cupcakes at a children's party my brother somehow convinced me to start helping out with sound at a small country church. (Nowadays I think he did it because he didn't care about why I was going to church, as long as I was there.)

Over the next four years that little charity act by my brother became a full blown passion in my life. I became head of the AV team at one of the fastest growing Methodist churches in America (not a little country church any more, is it?), and I was also volunteering at the largest church in Denton at their night and college services.

So while the Devil was ready to tear me down by ripping away my life's dream, God revealed that he had already built a different foundation for me to step onto, a passion that to this day is still the focus of my life.

I eat and breathe church media. My day revolves around it. The only reason I am running a small business on the side is that the church can't pay me full time wages (which makes sense because it isn't a full time position). If it doesn't involve church media, family, or a way to pay the rent at the end of the month, chances are I am probably not doing it (which may just explain why I am still single... but I digress!).

And I blame (PRAISE!) God for all of this! I believe that He was working through my brother in 2003 when he convinced me to help out at the church. And I believe that He continued to work through me so that when my dreams shattered one cold week in January 2008 He could reveal to me that my true passion in life made my old dreams look like a faded black and white TV set.

Fast forward three years. I sit here tonight looking at photos of my high school friend. He has continued down the path that I once dreamed of, working on film sets with all of my old college RTVF buddies.

And I (thank God!) would have it no other way.


PS: To read about my addiction to pornography, read this post.


Jared said...

Matthew, you are awesome and GOD is even more awesome. Thanks for this post, it was great to read and makes me think about where my life has come to this point. Thanks again.