I am generally a morning person. It is Saturday. It is 5am. And I feel terrific!
A few weeks ago, when I was wrestling with life-in-limbo – the pull between wrapping things up and getting on with life – I asked God to give me a dream that would help me understand what direction things are headed for me. If I am dying, I wanted to dream about heaven and where I am headed. If I am being healed, I wanted a dream about life in the future and what that may look like.
Early this week I dreamed about dying. It was one of the happiest and most joyful dreams I can ever remember having. I woke up with tears in my eyes - tears of excitement and love and joy. I dreamt that I was with the people I love the most, and was about to close “the eye oft stained by tears, and rise on wings to spend unending years”. It was beautiful.
Then this morning I woke up dreaming about things I want to do when I am healed! Another equally happy dream night. I dreamt about doing things I really want to do: a short trip to Sierra Leone with my friend Myron to visit a clinic deep in the Kono district. Another trip to visit dear friends in Ethiopia and Somalia. (How is that for a “dream vacation” – trips to Ebola-land and the horn of Africa!) I dreamed about Victoria and I visiting England and seeing good friends there. And I dreamed about a trip to the mountains with my family, and sitting and reflecting and enjoying God’s presence in that setting. In fact, when I woke up I was dreaming about talking with God about how realistic it would be for me to train to walk the 500-mile Camino de Santiago like a friend of mine is doing next month. (I was worried about blisters and plantar fasciitis.) Ambitious dream! I think I could do it! I woke up optimistic, and enthusiastic about living…and ready for breakfast…at 5am.
So what does all this mean? Well, for sure it means that I had two good nights of REM sleep this week. I have no idea what it means about my future. If anything, it means that deep contentment and happiness awaits me regardless of my destination. I think I will live – and if so, I think I will really live.
I dream a lot. Always have. And I remember my dreams. They are vivid. Many times they are in color. Sometimes God speaks to me through dreams. I have had a few over the years that served to warn me or direct me. Once, in a dream, He sent an angel who dictated an entire sermon to me – which I preached the following day. It was good, but it was as much mine as His. (That has only happened once in 46 years.)
I rarely have nightmares, though occasionally I do. They usually involve snakes. They scare me, but even in my dreams, I have never been bitten. More often, I dream that I can run effortlessly, jump extremely long distances, and sort of fly. It gets technical. In my dreams I calculate trajectory, get a good running start, and jump, glide and occasionally bounce long distances or over water. In my dreams I am a super-hero who is afraid of snakes.
Several times a year for as long as I can remember I have had anxiety dreams. During the years that I led Covenant Community Church, I would often dream that I was preaching behind a clear, plexiglass pulpit, having forgotten to prepare a sermon, standing there with no notes and no pants. Worst of all, Keri Jones would be sitting on the front row. Keri is a respected church leader from Wales who I both love and fear, and the brother of the man who I consider to be a father in the faith. Keri gave me some of the best counsel I ever received as a leader*, and has always been nice to me.
In the last 12 years, my anxiety dreams almost always include a doctor named Art Jones. Whatever I would be doing in my dream, Art would be standing off to the side, looking at me with lowered eyes, shaking his head in disapproval. Truthfully, I barely know Art, though he has always been incredibly generous and gracious towards me. He is a foundational person in the CCHF world, one of the founders of a large Christian clinic, and a hero to many of us. His story is incredible – U of Chicago grad, cardiology resident (top of the medical pecking order) who gave all of that up to provide primary care to poor people, in large part because a group of inner-city teenagers asked him to. Apart from my dreams, when I think of Art Jones, I think of the picture of him in a dirty t-shirt, short work pants, canvas gloves, pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt out of a burned out, old abandoned Cadillac dealership, shoulder to shoulder with one of the residents of Lawndale. They were digging out 8’ of dirt by hand so that they could transform that property into a health center with a basketball court. The roof trusses were too low to allow for basketball, so they lowered the floor by eight feet! Art is a nice guy – an amazingly nice guy.
What does it say about me that my anxiety dreams include nice guys like Keri and Art? As I write this, it occurs to me that I may have some innate fear of guys whose last name is Jones. I guess it mostly means that I sleep well most nights, even when I am anxious.
This has been a good week. Eleven days ago I had a treatment, followed by 48 hours of fevers, aches and chills. Then a good day, followed by 2 more bad ones, followed by a good one, and another bad one. And now 5 good days in a row! If you had asked me 10 days ago I would have told you that I was dying. Today I feel like I am being healed.
I think it would be terrible to know exactly when you are going to die. Unless Christ comes soon, we are all going to die. Someone did a FB post that said, “If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?” I know the point of the question. But it is a stupid question. I rarely respond to those kinds of posts, but I responded to that one. “The same thing I did yesterday, and the same thing I plan to do tomorrow.” I am grateful for a good Father who gives me dreams that communicate His life, love, humor and mercy to me, and that refuses to bend to my foolish requests.
Thanks for praying for me. Please don’t stop until the dream becomes reality.
- The best advice I ever got from Keri Jones: “Train faithful people. Don’t waste time trying to train people to be faithful.” (I wish I had followed that advice more often.)