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the 1st rule of fight club

By  David Sherwood


Chapter 22 the 1st rule…


It doesn’t make sense. We are finally humbled enough by circumstances that our ego can no longer guide us. In the devastation of consequences and chaos we finally do the unthinkable. We pray. And yet, more often than not, that prayer seems to accomplish nothing. Instead of rising up to heaven as a smoke signal, we seem to inhale it ourselves as cigarette smoke. Over time it turns cancerous and we hack and wheeze while we carry the great weight of God’s silence within us. And when heaven seems like a locked door and a fortress of solitude, we bloody our knuckles and splatter our screaming on the doorframes. Exhausted by the impenetrateable we eventually curl up in a fetal position and sing to ourselves while hoping the nightmare will go away. Dazed and confused we wander off to some other god to satisfy our wounds…we shop, inebriate, eat…we consume massive quantities of poison and Turkish delights that never fill the cavernous howling vacuum within us. Eventually we just shut down and sadly-soberly walk away from God. Insomnia takes over and we become cave dwellers hiding in the cellars of ourselves.


He had viewed it as an epic choice. The sort of choice one makes in the attempt to escape the great gravity of normalcy that keeps us in the consumerism orbit of our materialistic culture. He had broken free from the slavery and done what most people only talk about late at night with friends and too much beer. Selling almost everything he had packed up all his stuff to move to the other side of the country. The moving van was hand packed…alone…and he pulled the door down with satisfaction. He will do this again, almost every 7 years, and each time it will be harder to do. His old life implodes behind him like a high-rise apartment exploding from a natural gas leak sending glass and furniture toppling unto the pavement below. He is free!


The highway horizon opens up in front of him with new vistas and possibilities. He knows where he is going and why but there is no job, no house, and no friends waiting on the other side. The hints and allegations of providence have led him down this road and that is good enough for him.


And on the other end of the road, miles away, a black angel awaits with a clipboard dripping with blood. He holds a cup of coffee and wears an old white robe that is filthy and tattered. Behind his blue sunglasses and a cigarette he smiles to himself and goes back to making soap for the coming cleansing—purging of a soul. He has seen men like this before and he is sent to test them…break them…and reforge them. To turn them from plastic to steel…or to shatter them completely. He has seen Pete and Job and a lot of lesser names. Like a boot camp sergeant he smiles to himself and licks his lips thinking about the next jarhead that is coming to him. His name is Tyler.


The man finally arrives at his destination. He unpacks and goes to sleep. In the darkness that surrounds him the window near his head slides slowly up. The white curtains flutter in the breeze and a large hulking black figure stealthily enters the room. He hovers over the bed with wings outstretched and looks to the sky seeking to perceive some mystical frequency lost to us. He mutters the indecipherable and then looks down at the man. From his backpack he takes a small dark bottle and places 2 drops of gray-mercury like liquid on his palms. He then holds one while the other drips down his leathery glove and falls into the ears of the sleeping man. They burn, and the man grimaces but still sleeps. He does the same for the other ear. He then takes off his backpack and rustles through the items within. He pulls out 5 devices that look like small explosives and sets them on the floor in front of him. He then picks up his clipboard and adjusts the clocks on each of them and then sets the timers running. One by one he picks up these small black boxes and walks back to the sleeping man. Each box grows more and more transparent the closer it gets to the man, and just when you think the angel will awaken him the whole hand and device blurs and is submerged inside the man where it is carefully placed and the safety released. 3 devices go on his head, 1 near his heart, and 1 on his back. The dark angel then tidies up and is almost ready to leave. But he hangs over the man for a moment and kisses him on the forehead and prays or mutters something. Spiritual or sarcastic, who knows. From whence come black angels anyway?


Now we watch in lapsed time photography.


1 bomb in his head goes off several weeks later and the man flunks out of a class he had studied for with all his strength the great building of expectations folds in on itself an crumples to the ground like 9/11. Two days later another bomb detonates as he realizes he will have to return to a great place of rejection and the incendiary devices flashes fire and scorches burn marks half way down his internal torso. Four days later he jumps into the water and a 3rd bomb detonates on his back and he looks at the x-ray of shattered bones and the stark edgy reality of mortality for the 1st time…it cuts him. The next 2 detonate fast after that one in his heart when he starts to flail for support and trips over some pornography and a final one in his mind when he loses his job and all the money he has saved. He is staggering and swaying and then just falls over.


Can you see it? A head with smoke coming out from the side and 3 large holes gaping and spurting blood from the back. A cavernous rupture on his chest and a heart that is pounding and pulsating in fear. And his back is a twine of spaghetti crushed and ruptured. Somehow he struggles forward through the fog but it is for only one thing…for only one reason…to find God and ask him what happened-what’s going on? But the gray orbs in his ears stop any communication with that place. And so he begins the slow decaying act of freezing and drowning to death. Like Jack on the Titanic he grows a little number and a little more weak day by day. Till finally he can no longer try. The dark night of the soul covers him; he is in the morgue with the DOA tag on his toe. The coffin is lifted into the air and sent into the dirt and the shovel loads sprinkle load after load of dirt until they fade away. His prayers are now over and he simply suffocates on his own expirations-buried alive by providence-stupidity-consequences-Satan-God…who knows.


But can you really see it? The microscopic neurotransmitters of mood and emotion? The electrical impulses of thought and memory? The central nervous system with chemicals and pharmaceuticals racing about and colliding? No, the faith we have in science is sufficient to believe in all these things we don’t see. But the faith of the soul also tells us there are other things we don’t see which are real.


Look again at the shadow of the man. Look closer and with more perception, through the microscope and the telescope and you will find other things as well…things not so easily perceived. His shadow is black and it follows him like Peter Pan. But then…there! the twilight a transparent hand with a transparent knife severs the shadow from the man. The shadow tries to run in confusion and panic but is quickly subdued and anesthetized. The limp form is placed on the surgical table, undressed and hooked up to all the machination of metaphysics. The transparent God does surgery in silence, and sculpture in solitude. In simplicity the circuitry is reworked and fluids spurt and sparks fly while he toils away in a sweaty cellar of darkness. He is now done for the day and reattaches the shadow to the man and breathes into it and it comes to life. The vacant man knows nothing, he awakens with coughing and spits up blood. He is bruised and sore in unknown places and limps through another day. And each day and night this is repeated, with the unaware man and the invisible God meeting in silence and oblivion after dusk and before twilight-in the great night of our souls. There are millions of us, in every city, we just haven’t given it a name.


At times this is a week, though usually it is for months and years…perhaps it is perpetual. And during this men and women die. They go to caves like Subiaco, and stand in valleys and mountains screaming. They sleep in beds with nameless partners and take narcotics and wake up in dumpsters. This is the dark side of the tapestry of sovereneigty, the great conspiracy of cliché or the epic panorama painting of the Master. Faith wavers and flickers in deciding which one is true. But no matter, it still happens-as unstoppable as the dusk herself, the great gushing sun drowned in the darkness of night. The desert seers discovered it many years ago. They call it a dark night-via negativa-or desolation. I call it fight-club.


Ying and yang. Consolation: that season when everything is working and we flow in life and light. Desolation: that season of shadows when everything is broken and we limp through death and darkle.


Jacob limps through desolation after wrestling with the angel in the darkness. Healed by the brokenness of defeat.


Is there a cure for desolation? A voodoo prayer of Jabez that makes the bad man stop? No. And everybody who says there is, is naïve-a liar-selling you something-or is just plain stupid as a brick. Life is pain.


Merton climbed a 7 story mountain to enter Gethsemane. The desert mothers and fathers stepped into the wasteland to find Gethsemane as well. And Jesus was tortured there by internal struggles that caused him to sweat blood. Everyone who wishes to find the deep things must pass through the dark places. A man named Tozer said “it is questionable if God has ever used a man greatly, whom he has not first wounded deeply.” Those wounds sometimes are the wounds of desolation and sometimes those wounds are the bruises of a coming consolation after radical surgery. Have you ever had a good fight with God and really gotten beat up? I smile knowing your not really alive until you do.


I stand in the midst of such a time. Unaware and unpromised if it will ever end. Laughter and hope have become so completely alien to me I can no longer imagine them as anything but a mirage. What am I supposed to do when the silent-invisible-impassable surgeon is tearing through my flesh and unwilling to talk with me; make eye contact; or touch my tears? The solitude of suffering is the soliloquy of the saints, and only by drinking fully from the cistern of pain will we ever move forward again. Distractions and abstraction-seductions and side-roads of escape only make the whole thing take longer. He would speak if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. There is no smile or wink and you have to let him be who he chooses to be. Do swords scream on the anvil, or do they grit and grimace their way through it? I don’t know. All I know is that this is inescapable and circular; it will happen again and again in my life. Denial and delusion don’t help.


In prison John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s progress. In pain CS Lewis wrote a grief observed In paralysis Joannie Erickson Tada wrote…everything And Phillip Yancey is one of the last honest men I know.


I know you want me to leave you with a spark. I know you need a word of comfort. So let me put it this way “what if there are no coincidences…” If life is supposed to be all of us becoming masturbating and marauding Vikings hell bent on our own sensual gratification and happiness; go join Larry Flint and Hugh Heffner’s circus. But if life is about something far grander; more deeply majestic; and beautiful on the deepest electron levels…then step into the silence and solitude of submission. Submerge your expectations and drown them in the American toilet from whence they came. Grab the goblet of pain and stand in desolation of the desert. This is fight club with God. When you start you will look like a flabby baby-fat wimp, and when he is done with you, you will look like you were cut out of wood or marble. But sometimes you will not be given any participation rights, because this new creature he is forming within you…in the womb of Herself…will have no bragging rights from your mouth. Some things are done in secret for Gods glory alone. This is one of those. Sometimes you learn the most just getting beat up-not as a victim nor from a villain-but from the hammer from heaven.


Rules for fight club with God: 

#1 - The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club. This is about solitude and silence.

#2 - The second rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club. Step into the valley alone, the alleyway, the desert, the wasteland. 

#3 - If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is not over. You don’t know the beating you need or can take…He does. 

#4 - Two guys to a fight. You and God "mono-e-mano."  If anyone else jumps in, punch them out. 

#5 - One fight at a time. Punch yourself out on 1 subject but don’t bring in all subjects. That is a dirty fight. 

#6 - No shirts, no shoes. You stand before a burning bush and an angel. This is holy. 

#7 - Fights will go on as long as they have to. 

#8 - If this is your first dark-night of the soul at Fight Club, you have to fight. 


A Dark Night

Leaving there, he went, as he so often did, to the old abandoned house. The souldiers followed him. When they arrived at the place, he said, "Fight that you don't give in" He pulled away from them about a Molotov cocktail’s throw away, knelt down, and fought with Himself. He screamed out "remove this war from me…………….. But please, not what I want. What do you want?" He was wrestling with himself on the ground and mud and punching his internal expectations and desires. On the deepest level he was already killing himself. At once an invisible angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He fought on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, pouring off his face and saturating his robe. He got up from wrestling, went back to the fight-clubers and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He shouted, "What business do you have sleeping? Get up! Fight so you won't give in" No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd started showing up on his front porch. Judy, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said, "Judy, you would betray me with a kiss?" 


This was the plan? 

Yes this was the plan!


Not a plan any of use would self-script. But a plan bigger than eternity that each of us must step into or exit. That choice, will define our lives here and now. Now what’s it gonna be? 

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postmodernesque pilgrimish pastor...looking for a publisher


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