Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal

Have you ever woken up in a dream and realized that you're still asleep?  Have you ever been convinced that you were awake only to find that were still in a dream?  Have you dreamt of a future that never existed?  What about about a past that never happened?  

Last night I looked up at the moon in the dark night sky and I was utterly shocked when it came into my mind that I'm on a floating ball in space being circled by a moon that I can see only from the light of the sun reflecting off of it.  Maybe we don't look up enough?  

Sometimes I need to be reminded just how massive this whole thing is.  When I'm scrambling to get to work, driving along, or paying for a soda at the gas station I can often get stuck into my own little tunnel vision life.  Do this, do that.  Insert laundry, repeat.  Buy food, cook food, let the dog out.  It's so monotonous at times. 

We feel our way through life, don't you think?  We collect conceptions, perceptions, relations, and emotional reactions.  Sometimes ugly things happen and we get crusted burnt edges on the emotions and opinions.  I've got lots of burnt edges.  That's what happens when you live for a season on the edge of the darkness, toeing the edge, toying with the nightmare.  You get a few burnt edges.  Reminds me of Zechariah 3:1-4 (NIV):

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan[a] standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”

I was just that burning stick, snatched from the fire.  Burnt edges and all.  Who is awake and who is asleep today?  Can I see through the lies, the illusions of this world, this society?  Can you?

And are you expecting to wake up, in another place?  Is this life the dream?  If so, it is a beautiful dream indeed.  Who else but the Divine Architect could paint such beautiful pictures along the skyline day and night, and have so many children barely able to catch a glimpse?  

I live in the wilderness of northern Wisconsin.  The lands are flat from the glaciers, and the forests are endless.  It is truly wondrous, and beautiful.  The winters are awe inspiring.  The sky during the winter months at night is often a blackness offset with shades of orange.  The beauty and isolation is simply stunning.  I recall frequently walking on the nights, allowing the sense of beauty, cold, and isolation overcome my very soul.  Such a mystery.  Such an enchanting feeling.  

Is this world the dream?  Perhaps in it's present state.  But if so, it is indeed a beautiful dream.  A few times I've tried to wake up, and found myself still awake in another dream.  

I have not lost the wonder.  I almost did though.  Once by the reigns of addiction.  And again by renouncement of joy.  

I sought to enhance my wonder and joy with chemicals.  It certainly did enhance and distort the feelings.  When I took walks I could feel like I was in a different realm.  I could see things in my mind.  And it was fascinating, for a time.  Then the merry path down the yellow brick road turned dark.  The things I saw became more demented, more shades of grays and reds.  I started to feel destruction.  I started to get the sense of dark spirits.

Then the second time, after the gift of Jesus Christ had been received in my heart... I found myself in an interesting civilization indeed, what they call "evangelicalism."  And oh my, oh my.  I thought I had to renounce my wonder and my joy.  No fun allowed, right?  For a season I became fearful of what I might say.  The desperate fear of making a theologically incorrect statement.  It's similar to the liberal "politically correct" stuff.  You can say this, you can't say that or we will punish you.  Theologically correct bullies you might call them.  But I have refused to be intimidated by these bullies, while at the same time remaining Biblically dedicated.  There's middle roads somewhere around here.

Encountering Jesus Christ, for me, was much like waking up from a long nightmare.  That feeling of relief, knowing that it's finally over is a gift I will cherish for all time.  

Lately I dream of walking through mysterious forests.  Not like the pine woods of Wisconsin, but lush green woods.  Sometimes I'm jogging through dark woods, but I'm not afraid.  I seem to run faster, and faster, and I'm filled with joy, overwhelmed with the eclipsing power of the journey.  The beauty is incredible.  Other times I'm walking across lakes, or swimming through bogs.  Still other times I'm searching through old, mysterious churches, exploring the victorian passages, creaking open ancient doors, enraptured by the designs, the fixtures, the massive ballrooms, and steeple steps.  And there are darker dreams as well, scarier things that I see.  But I see no reason to explore those images at this moment.

I firmly believe God communicates to us through our dreams.  But maybe not in the way you might be thinking.  I don't mean by the seeing of visions of the future (though prophecy is biblical), or by him trying to tell us specific things to do or see (though he does communicate His will in special ways at times).  But maybe in a more mysterious way, God is simply nudging us, reminding us of the mystery of his character.  Maybe he is reminding us of the hidden spiritual realities sometimes lost in the dull drive to work, picking up the kids, processing claims, taking someones order, filing paperwork, and paying bills.  Perhaps in our dreams, God reminds us that our lives are about more than the physical world; money, sex, time management, work, retirement savings; perhaps through the window of our dreams God awakens our hearts to ideas like wonder, beauty, awe, emotion, forgiveness, love, and the overarching themes of His view of reality. 

I'll close this piece with a poem I wrote in 2011, before I became a Christian while I was in the throws of my own spiritual journey:

Like a snap back blow to the back of the head
It reeled me in and took me somewhere
I'd been forgetting for years maybe
Maybe I've never known at all.

Woke up in some strange society
Raised in the ashes of those behind me
So many places I knew places but what are places
People all these people but what are people who are people

A blue sky above like some quiet mystery
Picked up a thought and started building on a theory
Lost rebuilt and caught up in times that seemed to fly by like twisting leaves
It fell to the waste side somewhere, a quiet corner somewhere

A place that could remember itself and I'd remember
Years on and on learning lessons and burning bridges
 Quiet farries tossing passengers overboard in the rivers of the life

Making quiet twisting pools of rainbow colors meshing into the fabric,
The fabric of our multidimensional existence
That we could never quite understand

We did try, I did try 
It took us places we'd never thought we'd go
Dark and stranger than anyone knew
But the darkness taught us things that made us smile bright

“How could it be?” We would shout and ask.
 This strange mystery, twisting in our hands.
 We know not where it comes from or where it goes.

 No frame of reference to refer, 
 No place or time that could be defined as real,
 But that's ok, we did love it so,

The real truth came to us in dreams we had in our sleep
 Of parallels and passages and labrinths that lead
 To underground caverns where the messiah did dwell
 The circles of existence came and went and manifested in physical form

So the most true seekers of us all, could, in our dreams see the faces of our makers
And the roots of all the complex twists that make up the fabric of destiny 
The origins backwards flowing forward through our minds like magic 
That put smiles on our faces as we sleep at night, and quiet looks of contemplation 
As we seek through the endless synchronized spellbinding days. 

Always in awe.

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Can you still wonder?