In MY dreams…

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Clarification of the previous post. Perhaps something of envy. I’ve dreamed of Christ many times. The image above is the closest I can get to what I experience. He’s far away, otherwise engaged, but he gives me the merest glance, as if to say, “I see you. Keep working at it.”

When I was younger, I thought he was also telling me that I had a role to play, that it was okay, and that we’d meet up later.

Now I’m not young. I struggle with everything. I’ve been given this one gift of the thing I can do, which is to see connections and to write about them with all my heart. But it costs me part of my ordinary humanity. I am always at one remove from everyone, including the people who are closest in my life.

On the one hand I have a vision of beauty, the intertwining of all life in a divine symphony of meaning and brilliant harmony. On the other hand, I am a recluse with no ability to touch and truly feel the people I love the way I think I should. I do love them. But I am always across the room watching from the corner, just as He is always across the horizon, sparing me an occasional, ambiguous nod.

I don’t know if he’s telling me that this is my place — a witness and scribe of creation’s gorgeous intricacy — or if he’s telling me to drop it all in favor of personal salvation, for my own soul’s sake. I’m not panicking, though.

How I’ve worked it out so far, which could be completely and utterly wrong. You know the old old question which is supposed to flummox Christian apologists: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Two answers come to mind, leaving aside the fact that mostly we’re none of us so good that we deserve no travail. First, it’s a phony question, invariably raised by people who do not fundamentally believe in God. They may profess faith, but they do not believe in an afterlife. If something doesn’t make sense in their own experience before death, all experience is meaningless. They’re atheists who want God to make sense of the interval between first and last breath BY THEM. Demanding children stomping their feet.

If there is meaning, it will ultimately be revealed. Just not in the nursing home or the funeral parlor. Maybe after. After death gives way to resurrected life.

Second, we all come into life burdened by the legacies of family, parents, bruising personal experience and a host of inherited sins. We’re supposed to learn. We’re supposed to take the gift of our splinter of divine consciousness and learn to be better. Loss is supposed to center us. Guilt is supposed to remake us. Love and its fading is supposed to make us appreciate love more rather than less. Time is the enemy. The stretching out of feeling, made thinner and thinner until it breaks. It’s not supposed to break.

We’re never supposed to believe that we have it figured out. We’re supposed to be thinking all the time. There’s no Home on the Parcheesi board of life. Doubt and questing are flip sides of the same phenomenon. It’s called being conscious. Which is the overwhelmingly huge gift Christianity gave Mankind. Never meant to torment us. But only to make every moment of life life, thrillingly and passionately intense. And all aimed at aiming us toward the good. Because the shutting down, the surrender to darkness and unthinking and poisonous despair, is the real definition of evil.

So I’m content to wait for the dream in which he finally says “I am here.” He knows, as I do, that it will be the moment when I’m finally ready to end this phase and go on to the next.

Long, long way away...

Far, far away on the horizon…

P.S. Bet you never thought this was a religious song.

8 thoughts on “In MY dreams…

  1. Robert, this is the most heartbreakingly beautiful and true thing I’ve read in years. I feel privileged just to hear about your dream encounters with Christ, distant though he may have seemed. I seldom remember any of my dreams and have lived vicariously through yours, the ones you’ve had and the ones you’ve spun in print and on the screen. One of my only encounters with Jesus in a dream was a sacred moment of him telling me ‘It is time.’ — it was time to put aside some childish notions, to pursue and propose to my future wife before she moved away. It was a good moment, the right moment, to have a dream like that.

    I need to say that beyond being a distant observer who does relationships in an admittedly unique way, YOU are the one who has brought that edge of daily consciousness to my life, and in so doing to the lives of many, many of my students. God’s message, through you, then through me, is being broadcast — humans are different, capable of consciousness, thought, morality, and wisdom, and we must fight against apathy and mental atrophy for our entire lives. Your words here are the well I need to keep drawing from, and even if I’m not around for weeks on end and have throttled my texting, this is my oasis.

    As for the eternal perspective, too right. With none of us knowing the true nature of death and beyond, how could we possibly hope to solve the ‘problem of pain’ with our infinitesimally small experience? The Straw God that scornful atheists build to knock down with such ire is just such a simple and hollow thing, a purely human projection of humanity’s worst.

    Thank you for this post, I need to create a ‘best of’ tag and immediately add it.

  2. I won’t be as eloquent as Lake, but these are two beautiful, back-to-back posts. And thank you once again for how much you share about yourself personally. We all appreciate it.

  3. There’s not meant to be an answer to the atheists’ question. It’s supposed to be rhetorical, in that in the asking the answer is known to anyone who hears it. But they’re wrong. There is not only an answer, there are several, and they do not contradict each other.

    To your pair of answers above, as humble and human as could be asked for, let me add a third, from a strictly logical point of view: The fact of free will allows for – no, guarantees – bad choices. Bad choices cause bad things to happen, and they often happen to other people, which makes perfectly clear why they are bad. (No “it’s not hurting anyone else” excuses apply, including many of the times when they are attempted.) The rejoinder, “Is free will a bad thing?” generally disrupts the self-satisfied nest of reasoning. It’s usually a more fruitful approach than getting them to admit that they are not the ultimate apex of reason and morality, and that there is no way for them to even comprehend a grand, universal plan… or that it’s alright not to. Holy fools know the comfort of accepting ignorance, and the joy of accepting a need to keep learning.

    I realize that’s not really what the post was about, but between you and Lake, I have very little to add. It does occur to me that many prophets feel that disconnect between themselves and the world. My hope is that the reward is the greater for it.

    • I appreciate your compliment and your point. However, free will does not apply to the usual occasions for the question. Why do children die horribly of cancer, for example? That’s not a function of bad choices. It’s a function of a purpose we simply cannot know if life exists only between the 20 yard lines (so to speak).

      • Quite so. I do have to be careful about which reason I bring out, though in the moment it’s usually a fairly easy problem to avoid. Come to think of it, any reasoning is best left until emotion has cleared enough to make use of it.

        A strange point of view I come across fairly often is that someone will not believe in God because He doesn’t conform to their ideas of perfection or godlike traits. This is bizarre for two reasons: First, the trouble a toddler has in understanding why adults do what they do has nothing on the trouble we’d have understanding the perspective and motives of even a bare minimum divinity. Second, why should it be that someone doesn’t exist simply because I don’t agree with them? Flat-out nonsense.

  4. Bad and good are all of a piece. Cancer happens because mutations happen. But without mutations, there could be no evolution. Tsunamis happen because of plate tectonics. But scientists now believe that without plate tectonics life might not even be possible.

    We puzzle over the mystery of evil, but an even greater mystery is that of good. That childhood cancer exists is something I have difficulty with. But that children exist is something even more grand and perplexing.

    That suffering and sadness exists does indeed strain my faith. I would abandon it, except that doing so would be to strip the meaning not only from the suffering and sadness, but from goodness, beauty, and wonder as well. Truly, the Knowledge of Good and Evil brings a curse with it. Yet somehow we are closer to the Divine by possessing it.

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