Gotta Take Leaps Of Faith Sometimes, Bruh

A few days ago, I got boba with a friend who noted how much I had changed in the past three years. Not change as in, “Oh, you grew your mustache.” Change as in, I’ve matured a lot. Mainly in the way I handle relationships.

Filmmaking used to be my god. My master, or whatever analogy works. I used to suck at collaborating because I liked being a one man show. Yes, it was stupid. I remember pacing back and forth, alone in a room, after a fight with my editor. He thought I was being too controlling, practically editing the entire film for him. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t just want the film cut my way; I wanted to cut the film myself. Enter my internal monologue.

SMEAGOL-JOSH
Look, you idiot. This isn’t the first time this has happened to you. You need to stop being so power-hungry and let others contribute to this project.

GOLLUM-JOSH
HE’S RUINING THE PROJECT, PRECIOUS! Your editing is so much better! This film could be our ticket to success, and you want to leave it at the hands of this dude we met a couple weeks ago???

SMEAGOL-JOSH
You were once a bad editor as well. How do you expect people to learn if they aren’t given the chance? Besides, what’s more important? People or the project?

GOLLUM-JOSH
THE PROJECT, ME PRECIOUS PROJECT!

SMEAGOL-JOSH
(sigh) You’re hopeless. You need to make a decision. Like, right now. Either trust your editor and let him do his work, or completely take over the film and ruin your friendship forever.

GOLLUM-JOSH
WE KNOW WHAT TO DOOOO!!!

SMEAGOL-JOSH
Someone get this dude a breath mint.

Sadly, this wasn’t too far from the actual dialogue inside my head. It took a while, but I finally understood how unimportant projects were compared to deep friendships and great collaborations.

You know, come to think of it…I’m not sure if I ever officially apologized to the editor. I’m going to do that right now.

(break)

Okay, I’m back. Apparently I did apologize already, and that was kind of awkward and kind of funny. We’re still great friends.

I never want to hold back from apologizing, though. Never. Especially to Jenine. Wow, I’ve owed her a lot of apologies.

Being that she’s my first official relationship, I was bound to make mistakes and I knew it. The problem was that her previous boyfriends were pretty awful, making it easy for me to go, “Hey, at least I’m not doing what so-and-so did!”

It took a while for me to learn that being “not as bad” doesn’t make you “good.”

I thought I was self-sacrificial. Humble. Godly. But my definition of those words came from a twisted narrative that put me in the spotlight. This was MY story, and everyone else was a side character.

For example, my definition of humility was someone telling me, “Wow Josh, that was such an amazing film you made!” to which I would reply, “Oh, it was nothing. God gave me the gifts!”

Pause. That’s not actually humility. I’m still getting praise and glory. Yet I lived in this egotistic bubble for quite a while.

The big change in my life was moving to California. I always knew it would be a huge transition, but I never realized how much moving to the other side of the country would affect my emotional and spiritual maturity. In fact, I barely recognized it as it was happening.

See, it was easy to be surrounded by friends and family who knew and loved me since I was a child. And I knew them as well. I knew the right things to say that would make them go, “Josh, you’re a great guy.” I never had any major conflict that would push my limits of being a good person.

I’m not saying I was a total a**hole. I’m just admitting that I had a lot of growing to do. And still do.

It’s scary, isn’t it? To realize that you’re not going to be the same person in a few years that you are today?

Or maybe you will be. There’s a way that can happen. Stay in your comfort zones. Live within your limits. Surround yourself with people who are easy to love. You’ll feel like a fantastic person.

When I moved to the West Coast, I met a lot of people. More new people than I had ever met in my entire life. EVERYONE I met was a new person, except for Brian. Many of them were not like me. They weren’t all Christians. They weren’t all Asians. They weren’t all homeschooled or had an East Coast mentality. Yes, most of them were filmmakers, but that’s beside the point.

For the first time in my life, I had to deal with people who didn’t know me as Josh Jackson from CEMC, or Josh Jackson from Life Covenant Church, or Josh Jackson, friend of my relative, relative of my friend, and so on.

They just knew me as Josh Jackson, stranger. I had a lot of first impressions to make and relationships to build.

It was difficult. But it formed me. It made me realize that not everything, ha, is about me! And I’m so thankful that it did.

I still can be a selfish person, but I’m slowly becoming more aware. And like they say, knowing is half the battle. One that I intend to fight.

But none of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t moved out of my comfort zone, or taken a leap of faith. I am so grateful for everyone in my life, family and friends, old and new, who have stuck with me on this journey. Thanks to you, I think I’m finally learning what it means to love without limits. My friends on the East Coast gave me the foundation. My friends on the West Coast helped me put it into practice.

Anyhoo, enough about me. I hope you all have a fantastic day or night, depending where in the world you are. I want to make a joke or something to end this on a light note, but…nah.

Josh out.

Reflections On My First Novel

Four years ago, I self-published my first novel.

Wow. I’m somewhat impressed with twenty-one year old Josh. That was no small feat. The amount of effort it took to write, edit, and format that beast…and all for what?

I’ve been planning on doing an e-book release for a while. You know how some tasks take a really long time, but in reality, it should’ve only taken a day or two? Yeah, I procrastinated on this e-book for four years, while it took me five minutes to convert my entire novel into a Kindle-ready version just now. Seriously. I used Kindle Create, a program so easy a baby could operate it. No wonder it took five minutes. I wasn’t planning on doing anything fancy with this thing anyway.

As I scrolled through the e-book version of this novel, I realized my writing was bad. This would be a first. I hadn’t looked at this novel in, well, four years. I would pick it up from time to time, flip through a few pages, laugh and remember how much fun I had writing a giant caterpillar chase scene. Now it makes me cringe.

The book starts off with the death of the protagonist’s parents. Dark. Gosh, why did I start off the book with that? What is this, Batman? The story’s supposed to be a light, fun, adventure novel. Mark’s parents dying is quite…over-dramatic.

I didn’t even read any dialogue, but I’m pretty sure it’s crap.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Let me read some dialogue. Be right back.

Okay, it’s not bad. Not amazing, but not bad. Also, my writing style has not changed. The novel looks exactly the same as this blog. Sentence structure, word choices, everything is the same. This is a good thing, right? Means I’ve developed my own voice? Is reading my self-doubts engaging you, the reader? These are the questions.

I’m afraid of being one of those “bad” writers. You know what I mean. That chick who wrote the Twilight series has been publicly bashed by other famous authors. This woman’s writing is horrendous! At least she’s famous. Whoever wrote Fifty Shades of Grey is pocketing all those sweet book and movie royalties. I’m assuming she doesn’t care whether or not people hate her book.

Part of me wants to start a new novel. A good one. Josh, stop. The Mansion is a fine novel. Sure, it’s a little corny at times, but you finished it. It’s yours. Not a lot of people can say they finished an entire novel. Not a lot of people can say a lot of things. Doesn’t make it admirable. Say I do write a new novel. I’ll definitely have learned from my previous mistakes. Maybe writing The Mansion was a necessary step to write my next novel, if I can spare another four years of my life.

Psh. It wouldn’t take another four years. I’d make it shorter. I still can’t believe The Mansion was originally four hundred pages long. I ain’t no Tolkien. Short and sweet, that’s what my next novel should be.

I have more thoughts on my novel, but I’ll save that for another blog post. I’m going to publish this e-book now. Should be up sometime early April if everything goes well. Also, it’s going to be free. So that’ll be interesting.

Josh out.

Pornography: Apples and Cookies (repost)

Welp. I finally missed a day, and I’m about to miss another one. I have a VFX project and editing project due tomorrow, so when I say I need to hustle…I actually need to hustle.

I’m not going to do this often, but for today I’m reposting an old blog post from about three years ago. I was going to write about porn anyways, but what I wrote here was pretty good and I wasn’t sure if I could top it in the fifteen minutes I have left to spare today. Anyhoo. Back to work.

Josh out.


I once saw a video on GodTube (yes, that exists) on how to deal with porn addiction. An enthusiastic pastor held out one hand and said, “Imagine a cookie. Satan’s handing you a cookie and telling you that you’ll like this.” The pastor switched hands and continued, “Now imagine God handing you an apple and telling you that this will be good for you. I promise you, if you imagine this every time you’re tempted to view pornography, you will overcome your addiction.”

I love cookies. Cookies are delicious. Especially the white chocolate chip ones. I don’t know how white chocolate chip is different from regular chocolate chip, but I just get more excited when I eat them.

Clearly that analogy didn’t work for me. If it works for Mr. Apple Loving Pastor or anyone else, great. But I feel like overcoming addiction is more complicated than tricking your brain into liking apples.

When I was fourteen, I started working at my grandma’s office. I made sure people paid their rent, helped with the computer stuff…and looked at porn online. It was my first time having unlimited access and freedom to check out naked women. My parents weren’t around. My grandma would work in the other room. I almost gave the computer a virus.

Every so often, you come across a dilemma in which the choice you make, a single choice, will forever alter the trajectory of your life. For me, that choice was to ‘fess up to my dad about my addiction. I would miss hanging out with my grandma, getting paid at the end of the week, and interacting with tenants, but fourteen-year-old Josh decided his morality was worth it.

My dad was reading the Bible in his bedroom alone. I nudged the door open. It creaked. “Dad? I have something to tell you.”

What transpired was one of the most defining moments I’ve had with my father. Instead of berating me, he helped me understand what I was feeling. No punishment, no condemnation, just love and acceptance. Sure, I’d have to quit the job, but I understood why. Often, we win or lose our battles before they begin. If I were to start breaking free of my addiction, I needed to avoid situations where I was prone to watch porn.

I’ll always be grateful to my dad for guiding me through the first step. But it was far from the end of the battle.

In an attempt to escape addiction, I got involved in ministry. It helped a lot, knowing that if I was responsible for the spiritual welfare of others, I should at least be somewhat spiritually healthy myself. Yet every couple weeks, I’d find myself falling back into the same vicious cycle. “Okay Josh, from this moment on, you are NOT doing that again.”

Fast forward one month later. “Really Josh? Are you kidding me? You are leading worship in a few weeks, get your act together!” Mondays were opportune moments to view porn. Then I’d have an entire week to get holy with God before Sunday came around. Ridiculous, yes. But it worked. I’d totally fall in love with God one morning, then check out a set of boobs the next. Ministry, while positive in all sorts of ways, only served as a temporary distraction from my porn battle. For years, I was stuck in a cycle of watching porn, then serving God, watching porn, then serving God. It eventually became depressing, causing me to believe that I’d be struggling with this until the day I died.

Writing that last paragraph disgusted me. Some of you may be wondering why I’m bothering to cover this topic. It’s safe to say a majority of us deal or have dealt with pornography. So why not talk about it? Problems remain problems when they’re kept secret. Darkness, when exposed to light, is vanquished. Simple as that.

So how did I eventually overcome my lust? I won’t lie and say I’ve been completely victorious and in control, but I struggle less with it after recognizing that porn was never the real problem.

I once heard a pastor say that if you’re dealing with lust, look out for anger. Keeping track of when I felt most susceptible to binge-watching XXX vids, I realized I’d often watch porn when I was resentful or bitter, especially toward my dad. Whenever I was pissed at him, the one who taught me to flee temptation, I googled naked women as if to spite him. Or maybe some crappy life events had just occurred and I succumbed to pornography, seeking relief. But why would I seek relief from something that increased the burden of guilt and shame? Did I really think I could spite God by sinning?

No matter how far I ran away from porn, I would always return to it if I hadn’t dealt with the core issues. My hurts, my anxieties, my grudges….God promised He would bring healing and peace to them all, if I let Him. But sometimes, I don’t trust God. Porn gives me a sense of control, like I could create my own joy or my own rest. It never works for long, though. When I surrender to His ways, which are far better than my own, porn loses its appeal. Why settle for artificial pleasure when I have the eternal love of my Lord and Savior?

After wrestling with porn for so long, I finally realized that despite all my filth, God never stopped loving me. He loved me when I was viewing porn; He loved me when I had self-righteous pride from not viewing porn. He loved me even when I hated myself. That stupid, stupid fourteen year old, look at him waiting for his grandma to leave the room so he could waste her time and money. God, you love that kid? That kid who promised you a million times that he would stop looking at your daughters that way, only to break his promises a million times plus one. I hate him, God. He’s me at my worst. Please don’t keep looking at him. Why are you still looking at him???

Gently, I hear His voice:

I love fourteen-year-old Josh. I love twenty-two-year-old Josh. My love for you never changed. My promises remain the same. Come to me child, and I will give you rest.

That was it. That was all I needed to hear from Him. The hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done was say yes.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)