I like to sleep, and I’m good at it. But somewhere around 3 a.m., my mind decides that it’s time to make shopping lists, plan for the weekend and try to remember the name of someone I went to high school with.
More often than not, I awaken from a dream. Disoriented in that fuzzy space between dream and reality, I struggle to get my bearings, all the while thinking, How did I forget to go to work for a week and when did the basement turn into a swampland? The weird ones I can deal with. Forgetting a college final (does that one ever stop?), driving a car that suddenly morphs into a tree house, and showing up at a party in my pink pajamas.
It’s the sweeter ones that haunt me now. Ordinary dreams of happy times when all is right in the world.
Ironically, the very idea of sweet dreams now kinda breaks my heart. In one dream, I pass by a store window and stop to see the reflection of my big pregnant belly; I grin at the sight. Or I enjoy a simple evening of cooking dinner with my husband, softly laughing and touching his arm. It’s like I found the Bliss Dial and cranked it as high as it would go. Sweet, intimate moments of everyday life, in high def detail. Until I wake up in an analog life.
As I awaken, I struggle to merge the two worlds. I clearly know that I’m in my bedroom, in my house, in my life, and yet I still “know” that I’m pregnant, or that my husband is cooking dinner, or that I’m about to fly off to Paris. Then in an instant, reality returns and I realize it was just a dream. That’s when the years of struggling to get pregnant come back with a vengeance and I know that my reflection does not include a baby bump and the house is quiet as usual because my husband left several years ago.
During those years I’ve worked on grieving, healing, and living into my new normal. I’m not there yet but I strive for the Apostle Paul’s wisdom, hoping to someday be able to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in.” (Philippians 4:11b)
That contentedness doesn’t come overnight. But the dreams do. The dreams are indeed sweet, but they’re painfully so. They eplore realities denied in waking life, dreams that I’ve worked hard to put behind me because it seems God has other plans for me.
It used to be that when I roused from sleep, I would pull at the corners of my dreams until I could peel back the foggy haze and remember with clarity the experiences I had as I slept. Now I push those corners down, not wanting to see the sweet underside of my nightly adventures. Remembering sweet dreams can be almost as painful as never having lived them.
The bible is full of dream descriptions that are just as freaky as mine. Skinny cows eating fat cows (Genesis 41:4); a loaf of bread knocking over a tent (Judges 7:13) and then there’s Job whose complaining sounds far too familiar (Job 7:13-15).
Most of these people had the same reaction; they wanted to know what their dreams meant. What was God trying to say to them? How could they discern God’s will by interpreting their dreams?
The book of Ecclesiastes pulls no punches.
“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 6:9)
Am I so transparent that my dreams are a reflection of what I don’t have? Is my overactive mind stirring up dreams about things that are lost rather than focusing on the life God has called me to today?
I don’t want to trade today’s joy for yesterday’s grief or tomorrow’s unknowns. Today is my wide-awake gift, to lean into with immense gratitude. To know and experience the abundant love the Father has for me, not to remain in the dream-like world I once wanted. (My highest truth and confession: sometimes still want.)
My prayer today, Lord, is to keep me in this moment. Open my eyes to this day and awaken my enthusiasm for today’s blessings. Guide my feet to the places you would have me go, to the people you would have me serve. And at the end of the day, call me to rest in the knowledge that your love for me is bigger and sweeter than any dream I could ever imagine.