Occasionally sleep escapes me. Then when I do sleep, my rest is interrupted by dreams. Not that all dreams are an interruption, many of them are welcomed. Most of my life has been spent standing behind a pulpit or a lectern, so it is only natural that many of my dreaming experiences likewise include these moments when I am preaching and or teaching. My guess is that dreams always truthfully reflect some aspect of ourselves. Even the strange stress induced dreams are saying something about our identity, in terms of what we think of ourselves or our perceptions of what others think of us.
I remember my grandmother had vivid dreams that she would share with us. She always described her dreams using the words, “I thought” and then would tell us the content of her dreams. This now seems like an accurate description of what happens when we dream. We are thinking. Thinking about all the experiences we have and all that we desire. I’m confident that there are better scientific descriptions of what happens in our brains when we dream, but thinking whilst asleep as a definition of dreaming works fine for me.
A reoccurring stress dream that I have is being handed a manuscript or book of some kind and not being able to read it, all of the words and letters are scrambled as if I’m dyslexic. To make matters worse, everyone else in my dream can accurately read everything. This leaves me with a feeling of inadequacy, stress, and panic in my dreams depending on the context, which is often standing beside the pulpit or lectern, but as I start to open my mouth to speak, I have nothing to say because I can’t make sense of my notes. Whatever challenges that I’m facing psychologically to produce such dreams, I will say that they are a pretty apt description of how life sometimes feels.
Strange, that I didn’t feel this stress when I was a child. You might think that is everyone’s experience, but sadly I know many people who had very traumatic childhoods. I now know that I did experience stress as a child, but the distinction is that I didn’t necessarily feel stressed. I can remember sitting in church and hearing a pastor speak about the trials and tribulations of the Christian life and having no idea what he was talking about. That was remedied by maturity. Stress and anxiety is ubiquitous in this life. It is inescapable, and a certain amount of stress is both necessary and healthy, but too much can be detrimental and harmful. The problem is that you never know when you are experiencing the right amount of stress verses the dangerous excess. I’m sure there has to exist some sort of “Goldilocks” test whereby the “just right” amount of stress can be determined, but it is far easier for me to assume that I am Goldilocks about to be awakened and subsequently eaten by the three bears who have discovered me fast asleep in their bed.
I came across this picture of me in my youth. It was shared by a friend, and as I look back into the past of who I was at that moment, I notice that basic gestures that are employed in this picture are still with me. I still habit of placing physical distance between myself and others, folding my arms and tilting my head. I also continue to smile, but maybe not quite as big these days. I know it is on brand for me to be self absorbed here, but forgive me for being overtly so about this picture. I know there are other people in it besides me, dear friends and relatives, and some that are tragically no longer inhabiting the plane of this existence. But what I notice, I suspect like all of us when looking at pictures, is myself. My gestures haven’t changed all that much, although my dreams certainly have, along with the thoughts that produce them.
This observation leads me to believe that I am crafted with intention. Seeds have been planted that will produce a harvest. I trust the plan no matter how stressful the process. If grace is guiding my life, then I can be sure that it will secure my life and future, just as accurately as it has preserved my past.
Philippians 1:6; “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”