Monday, June 29, 2009

Fighting the Old Man (by Billy Coffey)

To me, he is simply known as the Old Man. I don’t know his name, and I don’t think I care to. Old Man is enough.

I’ve known him for nineteen years now, and he knows me. Knows me well. When and where we meet always seems to be his prerogative. He is always dressed the same—dapper pinstriped suit with a red handkerchief, black bowler hat, immaculately shined shoes, and a cane. And I am always wearing the same expression: horror.

The Old Man is my nightmare.

He arrived one night shortly after my near suicide, sitting on a park bench in my dream. He motioned me over to sit down, gently patting the section of wood beside him. I did. He offered me a deal: come with him, and all would be well. Don’t, and…well, he said, “The consequences will be unfortunate.”

I was convinced of that when he turned to face me and a worm fell out of his left eye. It wriggled onto my hand and then in, slowly crawling up my arm and into my chest, boring its way into my heart.

I woke up screaming.

He arrived again two weeks later wanting my answer: stay or go? I stayed. By the time he was finished with me, I wished I had chosen otherwise.

And that’s the way it’s been since. Not every night, sometimes not even every month. But for nineteen years now he has come for me at his whim in his pinstriped suit and bowler hat and cane, each time asking me different variations of the same theme:

Ready to go yet?

I thought at first he was the product of an overactive mind. Or too many Stephen King books. But when I wake up screaming and incoherent and then force myself to stay awake for days because I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep and never wake up, I’m not sure neither my imagination nor Stephen King’s is at fault. I’m not sure at all.

He’s tenacious, the Old Man. Smart. Knows just what to do to hurt me the most and has no qualms about doing it.

I suppose whether he’s a demon or a psychological manifestation of my vast emotional baggage depends upon whether you ascribe to God or Freud. I’ll leave that to you.

Me, I know this: there is an unseen war waged daily around us between light and dark, life and death. The world of the spirit may be hidden from human eyes, but we are all laid naked before it. I once gave this little thought. Denied it, even. But no more. Now I know better.

I’ve always suspected that the devil gets too much credit for the terrors of this world. It’s always easier to blame his wickedness than our own. Make no mistake, though—there is evil beyond this world. Darkness. I’ve seen it.

That’s why there will be nights of endless coffee. Why the upstairs light of my workout room will be on at three in the morning because I’m doing pull ups. Why I can quote movies like Grease 2, films so horrible they are banished to the wee hours.

Because I must stay awake. Because if I close my eyes he may be there. Waiting, smiling, asking if I’m ready to go yet.

My fear? That one day I’ll say yes. That soon I’ll tire of the fighting and the beating and the temptation, and I’ll walk away with him. You become willing to do most anything to find rest, even if it’s rest in shadows.

Ready to go yet?

That’s what he wants to know.

Ready to surrender? To lay down faith and hope? Are you ready to quit wanting to stand and fight, to rid yourself of the notion that you must keep going when you just don’t have to? Are you ready to stop seeking the light and instead enjoy the darkness?

Are you ready to go yet?

So far, that answer has been no. I’m not ready to go. There are people and things in my life worth the fight, worth the beatings.

I stand and fight and keep going not because I want to, but because I must. Because the darkness in my life makes the light in it shine brighter.

So today, I ask you this: Anchor your faith in the deep harbor. Set your eyes on truth. Seek God. Love. Laugh. Believe. And always, always hope.

Because in some ways, the Old Man is after us all.

"My true desire is to relieve others of their pain though I myself may fall into hell."


Peter P said...

Wow. Satan must be pretty scared of you, Billy.

He attacks us all in different ways but the big assaults he leaves for the ones who he knows could really do some damage!

I had a girlfriend once who I literally could not say no to. She abused me severely and I've been through years of therapy to try to get back on track and I tell you, I'm scared to meet her again because I don't know that even know I have the ability to say no.

You have that ability though. You've proven it time and time again. You have demonstrated what the bible tells us: resist the devil and he must flee from you.

Stay focused on God, stay strong. It is not inevitable that you will go one day - you don't ever have to go. He that is in you is GREATER than he that is in the world!

Wendy said...

So, you admit that Grease 2 is horrible, huh?

Those dreams are horrible. And just not right. I had a period in my life when I had them. Bad, bad stuff. But God is always stronger and He's on our side. God gave me some special verses during that time, so I'll share them with you. Daniel 6:23(b), 6:26-27.

Keystone said...
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Candace Jean July 16 said...

Thanks, Billy. I think we all have our version of the "old man." Beautifully articulated, as usual. Love your transparency!

Annie K said...

Don't let this 'old man' steal your peace Billy...

Nitewrit said...


You meet some interesting folk on that park bench.

I wouldn't worry so much about going with the Old Man when he appears. It's when he comes as something not so scary to you you need to get on the armor; perhaps as a pretty beachcomber, luring you with her Siren call, "come with me to an eternal beach, Billy". What you have to fear most is when it seems nothing to fear is there.

Larry E.

April said...

Always remember that when you're clothed in the armour of God...fear has nothing on you! I will say a prayer that you will be able to get restful peace at night and that the Old Man stays away for good...far, far away!

Beth said...

Hmmm...I read this an hour ago and I'm STILL not sure what to say. Probably because I identify with it?

"I stand and fight and keep going not because I want to, but because I must. Because the darkness in my life makes the light in it shine brighter."

But I really like that. REALLY like. (Not just like like.) Thanks for letting us in on your nightmare and the darker stuff that's not so fun to write about.

~*Michelle*~ said...


Scary stuff.

Just proves that enemy feels he needs to bring out the big guns when trying to overthrow great men of God. Keep on your armor and protection, Billy. Secure it twice.

The only reason you are being chased and wanted to be brought down is because you are so effective in spreading God's Word and Message.

Keep on keeping on.


Helen said...

I had a nightmare or too that involved satan. I ended it by calling on Jesus's name. satan couldn't stand to hear it, and he left.

Daveda said...

"You become willing to do most anything to find rest, even if it’s rest in shadows."

Jesus invites us into His rest,

"Therefore While the promise of entering His rest still holds and is offered [today], let us be afraid [to distrust it], lest any of you should think He has come too late and has come short of [reaching] it." Hebrews 4:1 AMP

The only rest that we can trust in, is the rest that Jesus provided for us and invites us into.

For me fighting the fight of faith daily has been simplified to "Do I believe that what He has done for me is enough? Do I choose to continue to believe it and stand in it?" The it here is Rest. Resting in the power of His Spirit working as I look to Him.

The enemy has been defeated, yes he still prowls around LIKE a lion. But, He is not one, he only tries to convince us that He is.

Look to Jesus. Look to the cross.

Thanks so much for sharing, Billy.
It is wonderful to share in this journey with you.

jasonS said...

Definitely a war raging, as you said. Hold strong and stay ready! Great reminder- thanks billy.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you tell him you're not ready to go yet, Billy! You have too much to accomplish yet, my friend.

Jon H. said...

"I not only have my secrets, I am my secrets. And you are yours. Our secrets are human secrets, and our trusting each other enough to share them with each other has much to do with the secret of what it means to be human." — Frederick Buechner

Courageous honesty! Thank you, Billy for your courageous honesty! I am privileged to have this opportunity to read your words - so beautifully written and compassionate.

Question. What do writers/poets have in common with dreams?

1. Writers/poets take their material from the stuff of life! Not just the life "around" them but from the nooks and crannies of their own lives. Every writer, even in fiction, has pieces of their own story written in.

2. Writers/poets use the best of language to express themselves - such things like allegory, metaphor, imagery, narrative, parody, point of view and themes, to mention a few! Language is as paradoxically complex as it is confusing - forever pointing us to the truth it can not even contain!

3. Writers/poets are ultimately about telling the truth. The truth might be something "out there" or "in here" and sometimes we are meant to "do" something, and sometimes we are simply meant to "know" something - of the truth. Billy is right, that in the speaking, of the truth, even in the doing of truth - it sets us free!

4. Writers/poets are about acknowledging all aspects of life - whether we "like it or not". There are times we might "prefer" to just leave "that" out because it's not pleasant. But we know in the end, whatever unpleasantries exist - it helps not to ignore them. We must find what usefulness there is in them - and so, at least, we must tell them to someone. What can be useful, you ask? Maybe their are ways that there is something for us to know - to continue to grow, to continue to understand, to continue to run the race that is before us.

Everything thus far - dreams also follow - borrowing from the stuff of life - "out there" and "in here" and using whatever methods it can to speak to us - sometimes to "do" - sometimes to "know". In the end, so we can continue to "be" - fulfilling our calling - a journey that is more about the process than the destination!

So - writers - use language; dreams - use language! How cool is that!

Question. Can dreams hurt us? Well, maybe only to the extent that stories can hurt us! When was the last time a storybook really hurt you! Or maybe, we can understand that it's sometimes the meaning that eludes us - that we are frightened of - or the meaning we think we have grasped - that we are disturbed by.

Billy Coffey - is worth reading. His words are worth our time - just as his minutes spent writing it down is very well worth his time!

Someday, I hope to sit down over a cup of java - in some, what might be considered, redneck cafe - spending time sharing words with a writer in person - and sharing stories, and experiencing the blessing of God!

Laura said...

It must be terrifying, and I am so sorry.

My youngest son has night terrors from time to time, and I often fear something evil has a hold of him as I stand beside him in the dark, trying to bring calm. NOthing works, because he cannot see me.

I think the devil tries to blind us with fear. Fear can make me do things I would never do under any other circumstances. Just put on that armor, Billy, and stand firm.

Your life is a testimony; your writing an inspiration.

Joanne Sher said...

I held my breath through this. Thank you for sharing it. It took a lot of chutzpah, and it moved me deeply. Praying.

Riky Dee said...

I have had night terrors for 30 years. Long before I was a Christian, I had no hope or reason for them. Now looking back, it is easy to say that they were (and are) attacks. Why? Who knows. Satan is on the losing side of The War and he knows it. He will do whatever to whomever to bring misery to all.
God Bless and enjoy the late night movies. By the way...Netflix 'Watch Instantly' is a wonderful thing.

The Homefront said...

It may sound odd, but I have a physical ache in my chest from reading those words. What a harrowing experience to endure and wonder when it must be endured again.

Lauryn Abbott said...

Wow Billy, this is intense. I've had these dreams. I've felt the evil. I don't talk about it often. I am so grateful that now I call on the name of Jesus.

Keep fighting, Billy. The best of warriors have the greatest of scars.

Denise said...

Thanks for sharing Billy, keep fighting the good fight.

Stacey said...

Billy, I'm at a loss for what to say.

I think you are very brave for writing this, and especially for sharing the story from your life that you linked to. I really believe that what you write can (and does) reach so many people right where they are. I'm so glad that God got a hold of you. You can rest in the knowledge that He will never let you go!

gzusfreek said...

The battle of the unseen.
I have seen evil.
This is one thing most other religons do not talk about. --hug trees, think postive, one with the universe, what you put out to the universe, is what the universe will return to you--
All good stuff minus Jesus dying for us -- the true Knight in Shining Armor -- to deliver us from the evil one.
"sin prowls like a lion" "resist the devil and he will flee"

{{whew}} sorry. . .Great post!

What a scary picture -this old man-
Angels are watching over you brother, Billy!

Tina Dee Books said... that's why you're awake so much when we're all asleep.

Well, you've got a prayer posse here, and we're here for you. And we'd ride along with, into your dreams, if only we could.

I've had sleepless nights and days before, longest was nearly 5 days, and it messes me up so bad, but haven't had them for a long while now. I don't know how you do it. I had no terror involved, just sleeplessness.

Hubby (he's a regular reader of yours now) & I will pray for you before we head off to sleep each night. You have our commitment.

Billy, you help us all through our days with your words, maybe we can help you through your nights with prayer.

Praying for you, bro. Lord bless you in life, and with rest.

rcubes said...

That old man might try to scare with his cane, but it's nothing in comparison to the protection our Shepherd's rod and staff bring.

Tina said...

Keep running the good race. You are so right about the spiritual warfare all around us. You've been to my blog so you know a bit about the battle I've been entrenched in. I too have at times thought that there are those who give satan too much credit, seeing him around every corner. He is not omnipresent like our great God. He is powerful and does have an army of demons though.

I have come to believe that there are those among us who seem to be somewhat more sensitive to spiritual activity. My friends who are the most tender hearted, those who I know to be merciful and compassionate seem to share more often about feeling spiritually oppressed.

I think it is not always a bad thing because those are the ones who in their compassion reach out and touch the unlovable, the needy, the dying. It's like God has given them (us) special eyes to see, unfortunately, we see things we'd rather not see as well.

You are one of those people Billy. God has given you a gift. Your stories lift us up, they inspire us to be better people. They inspire us to seek God. Sometimes they just bring a much needed laugh. You are a tender hearted sort Billy. That is why the old man is after you, if you weren't he'd probably just be some random guy in a dream every now and then.

I know what it is like to be attacked in your dreams. I will pray that the old man will go away never to return, and maybe someday you will be an early bird instead of a night owl. (not that there's anything wrong with being a night owl, some of my best friends are creatures of the night )

In Him,