Blinding Light and True Detective

I love the HBO series, True Detective. Written and created by Nic Pizzolato, it follows the path of two main characters per season as they investigate crimes. The first season stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as they chase down a ritual killer. McConaughey and Harrelson make an interesting pairing and they have quotable dialogue about faith, love, family, violence and life throughout the season.

Pizzolato, I’m assuming on purpose, has McConaughey’s character as an atheist and Harrelson’s character as a believer. In real life, their personal beliefs are switched, with Harrelson the atheist and McConaughey a practicing Catholic.

The show is intense and gritty. The pair break down doors and shake down criminals, all through the quest to do what is right, even if it means being “bad men” in the process.

The one we know as Paul, the writer of the majority of the New Testament, was the lowest of the low, the most “bad man” in his time. Paul was the enforcer. Here was a unique combination of Jewish man and Roman citizen tasked by his government to ferret out and arrest those following this new belief system rising out of Jerusalem.

At the time, Rome ruled the territory and these believers were opposition, insurgents whose actions led to wild claims and movements causing disquiet in the halls of power.

Imagine a dusty street two thousand years ago.

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Life passes on a daily routine to the market, work, meals and family. Yet there is a buzzing, a movement stirring. People speak in the corners in whispers as they look out for wandering ears. They spread messages of great things and renewed hope as this Paul rides into town with soldiers at his side.

There’s a scene in the first season of True Detective where McConaughey’s character, acting as an undercover member of a gang, raids a suspected drug house. He kicks down the door and gathers opposition guys at gun point.

In the book of Acts, a similar scene plays out. We read of the stoning of Stephen and, in the midst of the violence, Paul stands to the side admiring the work.

This was not someone to mess with.

As his group progresses down the Damascus Road, a blinding light appears.

There are times that our vision will vanish, times of tragedy, sorrow, loss or distress. Health issues materialize out of the blue and life changes before you leave the doctor’s office.

In 2008, I had spent five years at a financial company. I knew it wasn’t my destiny and I’d stared at many computer monitors dreaming of a change. When the recession happened, I was laid off with three hundred other employees. I drove home to the house we had just purchased, picked up our six-month old son, and cried.

The light was blinding and, in the midst of it, the narrative shifts.

If you are enjoying these posts, preview selections of my upcoming publication The _nd, please share and follow. There are changes coming in the near future that I’m excited to share. The _nd is truly the beginning.  Stay tuned!

~Matt

The _nd.

On Friday night we met with another couple, dear friends of ours, to start our small group centered around Mark Batterson’s book, If. We talked about our goals in life, our current spots, and what we see for the future.

How can we shift If Only regrets to What If possibilities?

The idea of shifting regret to possibility is one of changing stories. As a writer, I’ve always seen the catalyst for changing a story as finding a more complete ending.  Some writers know the ending before it starts.  I’m not one of them.

In my formative years, I read Stephen King’s On Writing where he mentions stories as fossils to be unearthed and his aversion to outlining. I know this spurs hours of conversation between creative types but, I believe, there’s a divine mystery to writing without an ending in mind. You may find yourself in a corner but, at the same time, mysteries and wonders will be revealed that enrich a story far beyond any outline.

The flow of shifting regret to possibility starts when we realize our ending is not complete.

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I think of Saul riding his horse down the Damascus road.  You think we have violence today?  This guy had raided homes, pulled Christians out and stoned them.  He was an enforcer, the best of the best, a Roman citizen working for the government doing his job.

He had blood on his hands.

Maybe that day was hot and dry as he rode forward with his companions.  Maybe he replayed the latest raid and killing in his mind.  Maybe he thought about a cushy government pension and villa somewhere that he would spend his days in after retirement.

The next moment, in a flash of light, his If Only had shifted to What If.

In his transformation days, blinded by the Redeemer he had chased so virulently, his regrets were fuel for his What If’s. He would now walk into cities and tell a new story.

He, the worst of the worst, was saved by grace coming from the greatest sacrifice in history.

When his eyes opened, he was now Paul, and would go on to write more than half of the New Testament. His ending, at the time, was not written.  Even in later years, when he understood he would face death at the hands of the same government he had served, he kept writing.  He kept pushing for expansion of the church.  He kept reaching out, burning away the regrets with new fire and new dreams.

He changed the world.

No matter where you sit tonight as you read this, your story is not over. The end is not complete. Time is not a conviction, it is the conviction to get moving. We must, as Einstein put it:

Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.

Where can you make a difference? Contribute to a story? Add value? I know the arguments, believe me.  It is so much easier to curl up with some popcorn and Netflix.  Let this year be your year.  Let it be OUR year.

Look forward and see your What If as it emerges from the blinding light of contact with your Creator. As your eyes open, you will never be the same.

~Matt