Inspirational Collections,  Short Stories,  Thoughts

Beside Myself Twice – A Story About Making Decisions

Often we wrestle not with our choices, but ourselves. The following is a story about that, dreams, and God’s Will.

A young actor named Irwin sat on the side of his bed. He had wrestled all week with what to do. If he chose wrong, it could cost him everything. If he chose right, he could still lose it all.

He had barely slept all week, and didn’t expect it to be any better tonight. He would have been surprised how easily he drifted off, had he been awake to realize it. He was gone before he knew it. His mind drifted from dream to dream, with a hazy connection from one to the next.

Suddenly the haze fell away and he was standing in a very clear scene. Irwin was at his day job, a waiter at a very nice restaurant. The head waiter was giving them instructions. “We’re hosting a private party tonight. I.K. Hassle the Oscar winner is the guest of honor. You’re to be on your best behavior.”

Once the host had ran down the special requirements for the night, the scene drifted to a limousine. Irwin was there too, only he was older, he was I.K. Hassle. He didn’t make the connection at the restaurant but Hassle was his name. Absent mindedly he figured his subconscious was playing out the possibilities in a way it could reason while he slept.

There was a woman in the car with him. It was Hazel, only she was much older, just like I.K and she was angry. “Irwin, please behave yourself tonight, no drinking. No crewd jokes, no outbursts of anger. Otherwise I will buy that movie and force you to play it.”

He half heard his reply. Irwin didn’t drink, he didn’t get angry. At times he had thought if he were to get angry more maybe life would be easier, but he didn’t, or young Irwin didn’t. Who was this older version of himself?

Irwin didn’t get an answer because he was in another scene. “Son grab your jacket, I’ve got to drop this off for a client before tonight.” He was nine years old again, and his Dad was standing there. Only his Dad had dark hair again.

Young Irwin thought, “Boy my mind is going crazy tonight.” He didn’t know the half of it, as he was suddenly at the restaurant not once, but three times. He was himself waiting on guests, the old actor, and the young boy in the kitchen while his Dad dropped off the architect blueprints.

It was as if he was three people. He knew what the others were thinking, and who they were. He knew that they, or he, knew who he was. His head started to hurt. “Don’t try to figure it out. Just learn from it.”

He, or they knew that voice, but only Irwin the waiter turned in its direction. It was his Grandfather Hassle. “How’s the blue skies my little one?” It was something that his Grandpa asked him all his life, but he couldn’t remember how it had started.

Irwin had all sorts of questions, but the first thing he did was hug his Grandpa. It had been at least ten years since he had gotten too. He could even smell his Granddad’s old cologne, they didn’t even make it anymore.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what’s going on? Or could it be you don’t really want the answer? You used to try and avoid stuff that made you nervous, are you still doing that?”

A guilty smile told his Grandpa what he already knew, and he returned the smile. “I’m not here to tell you what to do. Wish I could but I can’t. I am here to give you a few guard rails.”

“You’re three people in this dream, but it’s not one consecutive journey. It’s three different roads, you can’t have all three. You have to make a choice, choose wrong, and it will affect far more than you.”

Irwin wanted to say something, anything to keep his Grandfather with him, but he could only manage one question. “What would you do Grandpa?”

Irwin hoped for some gem of wisdom, his Grandpa was known for it. He only got a grin and one sentence. “I made my choice.” Irwin closed his eyes, and didn’t open for as long as he could, knowing when he opened them his Grandpa would be gone again.

When he opened them it was as I.K. listening to his director Arthur Callum bragging on the actor’s brilliance. All the while the old man’s anger was rising, though he had to keep it quiet. As he looked around at all of his friends and family, he thought of all the tricks each one had pulled on him.

Fifty years of acting, and experiences rushed through his mind. Anger turned to sorrow, and then to laughter. It was his turn to make a speech. “As I stand here and listen to all these kind words, I am reminded of something my Dad used to say. Hot air is only good to lift balloons. This old bag of hot air thanks you for causing me to reach higher than I could on my own.”

As he sat everyone clapped, and Hazel leaned over to him, a loving smile on his face. “I’m buying the rights to that movie.” It was whispered but it was venomous. He was alarmed at how the woman he loved could sound so bitter and hateful, and with a smile on her face!

Little Irwin was in the kitchen begging his Dad to hurry. “If we can go soon Dad, we can catch the start of the game. Can we go please?”

“We will son, just as soon as Mr Thomas approves the plans. After the game we need to go to the Church, I’ve got to get those shelves finished. You’re going to help me aren’t you?”

Little Irwin looked at his Dad funny. He wanted to say “You never finished those shelves, that building burned down that night. We put the shelves in the new building.” Instead he just nodded confused.

“You wait here in the kitchen. I’ll be just a few minutes in his office. Don’t get into trouble.”

Little Irwin sat there playing with his video game. Irwin the waiter was out of appetizers, he headed to the kitchen to get more. I.K.’s cell phone was ringing. He excused himself to take the call from his agent. The kitchen seemed like a good place for some privacy.

“Hello Marge, what did you find out?” He said lightheartedly, hoping and praying the news was good. It wasn’t.

“She knows I.K. the good news is she doesn’t care. She told me you can do whatever you want as long as she can have whatever she wants. Hazel said she’ll cost you more married than a divorce would.”

“Why won’t she talk to me about it all?” He could understand almost everything but her silence. It was driving him crazy.

“She says she won’t give you that satisfaction. She’ll hate you to your face, but she want quote ‘discuss your failures with you because you’re not worth it’ unquote. I’m sorry I.K. but you brought it on yourself.”

He couldn’t respond, he agreed, he didn’t even say goodbye. He couldn’t go back to the party, so he wakes deeper into the kitchen. How had it gone so wrong? He adored Hazel, and she loved him.

He heard something behind him and looked back to see his younger self playing the video game. “I just lost a life on my game.” “So did I kid, strike that I lost two.”

Irwin the waiter saw two people up ahead, and stopped when he realized who they were. “Why?” It was all he said, and none of his faces looked happy. Neither was sure what to say so the three just looked at each other.

“In the 1980’s most video games had three lives and then the game was over. Your dream has the same premise. One of you is already on borrowed time.” The voice from behind them said.

All three Irwin’s looked behind them at Mr. Thomas. He was of average height, his beard, hair, and mustache were as white as the suit he had on. “The movies would have used a name like Jordan, but Heaven and Hollywood think differently. I’m here to see what can be salvaged, and two of you don’t look so good.”

All three of them we’re thinking it, but only the waiter said it. “Are we in some sort of time warp? Different ages, different paths, what is this?”

“This isn’t the movies Irwin, God doesn’t do time travel, He gets it right the first time. We get chances, but only in one lifetime. You’re in your bed, and you’re asleep, but God sent me to get your attention. It’s appointed to man once to die, then afterwards judgement.”

I.K. could feel his pulse racing. “You mean little Irwin has happened, young Irwin is happening, and I may never happen? Why do I feel so real, and so bitter?”

Me. Thomas looked at him. “That all depends on the young man with the tray. What he decides will either build a future or destroy one. He will either learn from the past, or reject it.”

Little Irwin looked at his middle self. “The fire was scary, but Dad saved me. He hurt his arm doing it. It’s still not better, but he keeps going. Why don’t you?”

While the little boy was talking to him, he noticed Mr. Thomas was walking away. “Where are you going? I thought you were supposed to show me what to do?”

Mr. Thomas smiled with kindness. “Remember me telling you this isn’t Hollywood? I’m not here to tell you what to do.”

Irwin was confused. “You say that, Grandpa said that. Wait a minute, if you’re from Heaven why was Grandpa here? I don’t get it.”

Mr. Thomas smiled again. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established. I’m not here as a witness, I’m here as a representative. The witnesses are your Grandpa, your Dad, and one more.”

Suddenly there wasn’t three versions of himself, and they werent at a restaurant. Thomas and Irwin were in a crowd, though Thomas was younger, dressed in a disciple’s clothing. Both listened as Jesus spoke the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

Luke 16:27-29 (ESV)

27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—

28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

Then Jesus looked at Irwin, and the scene changed. He and Mr Thomas stood outside the restaurant, it was closed now. “Do you get the picture Irwin?”

Irwin burst out in anger. “Are you kidding? I’m so confused. I need answers and all I have is a dream with multiple versions of me. I was literally beside myself twice. People that I love that are gone are here, and another that I thought loved me now hates me. I think I’m going to get answers and instead I’m left holding an empty tray outside of a closed restaurant. Why! Why! Why!”

Mr. Thomas, still with a face of kindness, and a little bit of Heavenly sarcasm applauded. “An Oscar winning performance. Passionate, pouring with emotion, and completely fake.”

“God is not the author of confusion Irwin. Confusion happens when we look elsewhere when He has already given us the answer. You’re not having this dream because you don’t know what to do.”

“You wanted this dream to either give you an excuse to make the wrong choice, or force you to make the right one. That isn’t going to happen, look at this dream from God’s perspective. “

“You we’re given the example of your Grandfather and your Dad. You were given God’s Word, you know what choice He has directed you too. You know what it means. It’s your choice, but don’t pretend like it’s a mystery.”

Irwin was starting to realize what he knew, but had refused to face, but he had one more question. “Why the stuff with Hazel? Will I lose her if I make the wrong choice?”

Mr. Thomas smiled again. “Call your Dad. Remember the accident? What happened there?” As Irwin remembered the fire, he woke up.

It was half past midnight. He debated it, but called his Dad. “Dad, I’m sorry to wake you, but I had to talk to you. I was thinking about the fire.”

“I was up son, I was praying. Why the fire? I would have figured the job offer was on your mind.”

“Dad, it’s okay if you do, but do you ever regret it? I would understand. If I hadn’t got stuck you wouldn’t have well…”

“Son, I don’t regret it at all. My arm injuries were a small price to pay to rescue my son. There’s a lot about that night we don’t know, like what caused the gas explosion at the old Church building, but there’s one thing that wasn’t a question. You were worth dying for if I nesded to, and still are.”

Irwin heard his Dad’s words and he realized something he hadn’t. “You didn’t go into that room expecting to be injured did you? You went in not expecting to make it out? You went in knowing that saving me might mean you wouldn’t make it out.”

The other line was quiet for a minute. “Yes son, I didn’t figure we could both get out, but I had to get you to safety. You’re my son, and I Love You more than life itself.”

“I Love You Dad, and thank you. I dreamed of Grandpa tonight. I asked him what he would do if he were me, he said he made his choice. What does that mean?”

His Dad laughed. “That sounds like him. My guess is it means his life was his choice. He Pastored our Church a lot longer than I have, and he spent every day choosing to let God’s love flow through Him to others.”

“Dad, if I turn down my big break I may never get the chance again. How can I serve others if I’m not happy myself? How can I be happy if I turn down my dream?”

“It’s not like your old video games son, you don’t get three lives. You get one. It’s your choice. You don’t know how either choice will affect you or your friends, but I can promise you this. Choosing God’s will over what this world has to offer, will sustain you through every obstacle. With Him the sacrifices are always worth it.”

They talked for about an hour more, but Irwin made his decision that moment. He called his agent first thing in the morning and turned down the job in New York. He stopped by to see Hazel.

“I’m not taking the part. The Church needs me more. I’m going to stay here and help Dad with the student ministry. I guess you’ll have to take the part and they’ll find someone to be your leading man.”

She kissed him. “You’re my leading man. I guess I’ll need to find a new job here. Tell me, are they casting a young minister’s wife role anytime soon?”

He smiled, pulled the ring out of his pocket and said. “How about the first of next month?” They would have a wonderful life together, one filled not with the shallowness of selfishness, but the satisfaction of changing lives, and impacting souls for the kingdom of God.

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