The Truths of a Dream
When I awakened this morning, it was slowly, as
if emerging from someplace deep and murky. With
consciousness I realized that I carried with me
the heavy fragments of a dream, one that had enveloped
me in some dark other world and from which it had
been difficult to withdraw.
At first I remembered the face of the boy. A boy
in my dream had been shot; his face was scarred,
but not badly. I knew that it had been as the result
of something I had done; I had been in a wooded
area, running from something else, a more heinous
crime, when the gun had also managed to graze the
boy. But someone, a powerful man who was obviously
my "leader," was instructing me on how to get away
with the crimes. He wanted me to lie. In the dream,
I wasn't really guilty; I had been caught
up in something else, in something bigger, and the
plan was for me to lie for the greater good.
Then I recalled the beginning of the dream. It
involved some journals, journals that I needed desperately,
but which I didn't have. I pictured them. They were
exactly like the real journals I had always kept
from my mid-twenties until my mid-forties that,
when read in retrospect, always surprise me with
their unvarying pattern of yearnings and sadness.
Journals that spoke of being stuck in hopeless situations,
of fearing change, dreading decisions, and constant
battles with pain, anxiety and meaninglessness.
Thankfully, it has been years since I kept such
a journal; I lost my need for them. But they appeared
in my dream.
And in the dream, many were missing, and those
were the ones I seemed to need most. In those journals
I would find the justification I was searching for;
somehow they would prove that I had done no wrong.
But they were gone, or had never really existed.
I remember speculating about whether or not someone
else would let me copy their journals covering the
missing information. I realized how difficult a
process it would be, copying years of entries, and
changing the details to fit my story, but at the
last minute, the journals were deemed "inadmissible."
It was going to be my word against the boy's, and
I had an extremely strong case.
There was a lot of hiding in my dream, of running
away from the authorities, manipulating the truth
so that they would believe me, joining up with some
other dark characters, on a boat or something, while
we planned for my freedom. My freedom would set
the leader free. It would exonerate us, so with
guilt weighing down heavily on me and keeping me
in that deep dark place, I continued to act in ways
that would save my skin. I knew it was for the greater
good; it had to be done.
Once awake, I couldn't get the dream out of my
mind. And, as is my wont, I began the process of
analyzing it, but no analysis seemed necessary.
Almost instantly I saw its meaning, and I couldn't
stay in bed. I had to write it down, get it out,
put it in a place where it could no longer haunt
me. I had to expose it, because I knew that the
dream had exposed me. It was a deeply convicting
dream, and I believe that it was, as author Philip
Yancey has so eloquently expressed it, a "rumor
from another world."
Although in my dream the journals had somehow been
connected to the rest of the dream, the more disturbing
part, once awake I grasped their unique significance.
The other day, we had a terrible experience with
a client, actually the culmination of something
that had been festering for years. I first met this
man several years before when he was recommended
to me as an insurance broker. On the phone he was
a total charmer, incredibly kind and helpful, promising,
among other things, that he would not only get me
and my husband health insurance (we had exhausted
COBRA at the time) but that he would save us hundreds
of dollars in the process. Then he came to the house,
and revealed to me his true self. I saw how easily
he lied; he manipulated the truth with such facile
ease and changed his tune so often that at times
I felt I was listening to something bordering on
maniacal. But, although he never saved us a dime,
he did finally get us the insurance (which
at the time was hard to come by, or so I believed)
and I overlooked his deeply flawed character.
Fast forward to six months ago, when I received
an email from the same guy, advising us of his new
contact information. Amazingly, the timing appeared
to be perfect, because I had another health insurance
"situation." At the same time, he wanted a web site
for his brokerage business. During our brief conversation,
he again sounded kind and compassionate; in fact,
he even told me that he was a Christian. Believing,
therefore, that he must have changed, I invited
him to our office. Once here, he instantly "solved"
our health insurance problem by putting us together
with another individual who needed insurance, thus
forming the requisite "group." We presented him
with a modest proposal to design his site, he signed
a 30-day contract for completion and even paid his
deposit on the spot.
Six months later his web site remained undone.
Five different times he sent us detailed instructions,
even comps, of what he wanted, and each time we
worked feverishly to deliver his exact specifications.
After producing what we believed to be the fulfillment
of his desires, he always turned on us, accusing
us of not listening, or failing to understand him,
and each time, although we knew that he was behaving
irrationally and taking advantage of us, we continued
to try to give him what he wanted. We absorbed his
lies, his distortions, his contrivances, believing
that we were being good Christians. Then, a few
days ago, while working on the sixth iteration of
his site, we needed to ask him a question. The moment
we called he became instantly irate, so nasty, rude
and irrational that even my smooth-tempered husband
could not reach him; when he attempted to speak,
the guy hung up on him.
This slimy guy, who was conveniently a "Christian"
with us (and undoubtedly a Buddhist, Jew, or Muslim
when it suited some other purpose) had gotten to
me. My anger was intense; I felt the blood rushing
to my head and my heart beating wildly. How DARE
he! My first instinct was vengeance; how could I
destroy him. But THAT, I knew, was the business
of God and not us, so I (reluctantly) put it aside.
Then reality set in, and my second reaction was
fear. After all, this guy controlled our health
insurance! And really, wasn't that the reason
we had allowed him to get away with such intolerable
behavior in the first place, because we didn't want
to take any chances with our insurance? And then,
a more troubling realization followed. What was
this "group" we had agreed to be in, one that never
existed except on paper. Hadn't we tacitly agreed
to deceit in order to attain what we needed? Had
we not recognized evil and pretended not to see?
Were we not equally guilty?
So the journals in my dream were simply a nudge
from another world to remind me that nothing-not
even health insurance-is worth compromising the
truth. Those journals, so like my real life journals,
were memories of a time when decisions were hard
to make because I was steeped in doubt and confusion.
I had no moral compass with which to make choices,
no absolute truths to abide by. And the missing
journals, the ones that would provide the much-needed
information? They represented the missing personnel
records, information that also never existed, that
provided us with the "group" we needed to obtain
insurance. Yes, it had all been done at this guy's
recommendation, but for ones who strive to live
honest and ethical lives, the fact that we had gone
along with the scheme convicted us.
So what about the rest of my dream, the leader
for whom I'd been willing to hide, shoot people,
lie, in order to save both myself and him? The other
day I did what I considered an admirable thing.
I "forgave" someone from my past with whom I'd had
a long relationship that had filled me with resentment
and ended in bitter dispute. Actually, in my heart
I had forgiven him months before, but the other
day we had lunch together, and I enjoyed the fact
that he seemed humbled, contrite. Perhaps, I told
myself, he has seen the light-not THE light, but
at least he seemed changed. From my relatively "sin-free"
perspective, I could look upon him with affection
and bestow upon him grace. How smug I was.
The truth, however, was played out in my dream.
I HAD lied for him. I HAD caused people harm-to
protect him, I had always rationalized-but still,
I had left some scars. I had hidden from the truth
even as I condemned him for his dishonesty. Because,
hadn't I always assumed a reward? I hung
on tenaciously to the belief that I lied for the
greater good. But what had really happened?
Didn't most of my resentment stem from the fact
that I never received my promised reward, and from
the knowledge that there WAS no greater good. Apparently,
I needed grace as much as he did; that was the message
of my dream.
I think many of us believe that some sins come
with huge placards on them: ADULTERY, THEFT, MURDER,
INCEST, RAPE, and that most of us have little trouble
avoiding them. The lesser ones, like lying, cheating,
gossiping, being arrogant, greedy or intolerant
are harder to avoid, but the majority of us still
manage, at least part of the time. But the subtle
sins, like self-delusion, pride, rationalization,
ulterior motives….those are the ones we barely notice,
much less avoid. And yet to God, capable of peering
deep into each individual soul while also viewing
billions of us in a single glance from a place so
vast that it is beyond all comprehension, to God
they are all the same. And sometimes, to help us
see that from his perspective, he shows us in our
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