Last Monday morning I woke up at 3:37am in a hot sweat, heart racing, short quick breaths of terror. Whoa, what a nightmare.
I have one of the most amazing gifts, a vibrant imagination. It allows me the opportunity to visualize incredible things, in 360 degree 3D virtual reality in high definition detail. It’s likely one of the reasons why reading is so enjoyable for me, I can easily picture and experience what is written.
This gift is also a weakness when my imagination runs wild, which requires discipline and healthy boundaries to aid in taking thoughts captive. I have the unfortunate experience of very vivid nightmares as well.
As Indiana Jones often says in the movies, “Snakes, why does it always have to be snakes.” Many of my nightmares that I can recall include snakes. Snakes are one of the things I am most afraid of.
In my dream last Monday I was in a rundown apartment building, in one of the bathrooms. Envision a run down slum, lighting is poor, a single exposed light bulb creates an eerie yellow glow. Garbage is piled up both loosely and in bulky black garbage bags that hang open revealing their contents.
In my dream, I can feel myself wanting to leave. I think, “What would God want me to do?” Then I start to pick up the refuse and placing it in a trash bag. Slowly I am taking piece by piece off of the piles. I feel hesitant, but yet continue to press on. I pick up a piece of paperboard, to find a wide open black garbage bag.
The bag was filled with what appeared to be dead snakes and dried snake skins. Filled with visceral panic I want to run away, but for some reason I stay. I attempt to coach myself that there is nothing to be afraid of, everything appears to be limp and dead. I repeat to myself, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
When suddenly there is a heavy hissing and the bag begins to move.
That is where the dream ends and my eyes flash open. Followed by some deep breathing to calm myself down. Why is it that some dreams can seem so real and be so hard to recover from in the darkness of night?
It’s not the optimal way to begin a week. What do I do? Go back to sleep? Get up? Wake my sleeping husband and recount to him why I am terrified?
I opted for some prayer and attempted to go back to sleep, which I did eventually accomplish and the time flew by uneventfully until the alarm went off at 5:00am.
Some weeks are filled with things that we did not receive warnings for. Monday had some unexpected schedule changes. Tuesday brought news of the death of an extended family member. Wednesday, I started crying over a lost spoon.
It is often said that there is a straw that will break the camel’s back. A final little weight when added to an existing pile of burden that will bring the pressure to a tipping point and cause a breakdown. For me it wasn’t a straw it was a spoon.
My favorite spoon. No joke, I have a favorite spoon. It’s got my name engraved on it. I’ve had it since I was a kid. It’s the perfect weight, rounded with a precision that is just the right fit in my mouth. It’s not part of a set, it is a single spoon. For the life of me on Wednesday in-between work and evening activities at church I went to look for it, but could not find it anywhere.
At the same time I was attempting to make dinner, assist my daughter with the word problems on her math homework, and not allow my mind to focus on a bill that had arrived that was unexpectedly high.
Then I couldn’t find my spoon. Like a two year old who just had their sippy cup ripped from their hands, my eyes welled and then overflowed with tears. With that my husband arrived home and walked in the door.
Through the tears I was telling him how dumb it was to cry over something as simple as a spoon, but I could not stop the tears at this point. The man I love so much revealed the best of his heart in that moment, wrapping me in his arms, and saying, “It sounds like you haven’t been getting enough hugs.”
That was just what I needed to help me regroup to press on through the evenings activities.
As if right on cue, Minnesota winter arrived this week to mix things up. Wet snow. Slushy roads. Cold wind. Slush turns to rutted ice. Drives became longer. Stopping became questionable. I’m not quite ready for all of this yet. Somehow the summer and fall did not seem to last long enough.
Yet, the snow and cold and icy roads remind me that the snakes here are pretty little and fortunately not poisonous.
So why am I not talking about grief and the burden of loss this week. Why isn’t that my focus? Because sometimes the weight of burdens upon our hearts manifest themselves in weird and complicated ways. Things build. When a breakdown happens it appears to be one thing, but there is really so much more going on.
Those around us, even those closest to us, only have outside glimpses and observance of what is going on within. The complications of compounding events, the weight of historical circumstances, episodes of previous interactions, and the sum total of these things that make up the personal experiences of our lives are veiled from the understanding of others.
But, that does not mean that we are alone in the complication or bearing the weight of the burden solo.
“Lord, you understand;
remember me and care for me.”
Jeremiah 15:15 (NIV)
Live it Out
How amazing and incredible is it to have a Lord that understands?!!
A Lord who understands why the dream about snakes causes me to wake in terror. A Lord who know why the lost spoon caused me to spill over in emotional meltdown. A Lord who knows the history, comprehends the complication, and bears the culminated weight of every moment of our lives in His more than capable hands.
A Lord who remembers me and cares for me.
A Lord who remembers you and cares for you.
I do not know what your life holds. I do not understand the nuances and complications of the events, circumstances, and histories of the past that impact the days of the week you are currently experiencing. I do not have even a rough estimation of the weight of the burdens that you are carrying to know if this is the straw, or the spoon, that will bring a breaking point.
I do know a God who is powerful and mighty; a Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit who have perfect understanding of all that I do not know. A Lord who is compassionate to the core and whose presence brings a saturation of welcoming love to all who turn to Him.
In weeks of snow, snakes, and lost spoons, God says,
“These I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.”
Isaiah 56:7 (NIV)
Whatever brings you to a place of fear and terror, cast it on the Lord. Whatever makes you sad and frustrated, take it to the Lord. Whatever is missing that makes you emotional, tell it to the Lord. Whatever complicates the calendar and expands the crazy, trust it to the Lord.
The Lord hears you. The Lord understands you. The Lord remembers you. The Lord cares for you personally, purposefully, and passionately enough to say, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
Pray Through It
Beloved Lord, the culmination of our weeks brings a great many things for us to confront, process, accept, wrestle, endure, and persevere through. There are times where the mix of so much just makes us feel like a misunderstood mess.
Lord, in those moments when we are in or on the verge of a meltdown, when our fears are bringing us terror, when what we rely upon is gone, and when changes compound what is already complicated, help us to remember that You hear us, You care for us, You fully understand us, and You love us.
May Your love bring the strength that we need to take heart. May the words that You give bring us peace. May the sacrifice that You have freely given make a way for us to find our place in Your joy.
In the name of Jesus, who is perfect in His understanding, compassion, care, and love, amen.