All my life I have been a Christian. Baptized as a baby by my uncle who was a minister, prayed the “sinner’s prayer” at the age of 8 at VBS one summer, raised in the church by Christian parents, born again, again – in college, heavily involved in all Christian groups on campus, baptized again (the “proper” way) at Creation Fest after college, member of half a dozen churches (a cornucopia of denominations), involved in just about any ministry you can name. I’ve sung, taught, studied, and given of my time and gifts for some 30+ years now. All I have ever wanted was to follow after God in the best way I knew how – to be, as much as it is ever possible for a frail and faulty human to be – in the will of God.
The last church in which I believed God had called me to fulfill that role was a thoroughly modern, very Evangelical, very hip, very up-and-coming savvy metropolitan church. My family and I had been attending for the last 2 years or so. I had been heavily involved in leadership and the creative arts. I thought I was happy. I was certainly busy. But about a year ago, a little nagging voice in the back of my head started buzzing around. And I started having terrible nightmares (so did my daughter). I wondered if God was trying to tell me something. I mentioned it to some of my fellow leaders – in particular to the person I considered my mentor (and one of my dearest friends). I was told that I simply needed to “step up to the plate” and “get connected”. So…..I tried that. Long story short – it didn’t work. All I got to show for my efforts was a bad case of burnout and my husband and kids wondering why I was so grumpy all the time.
For about 6-8 months I lived with the growing cognitive dissonance in my brain – of my fellow leaders telling me to “step up” and God’s gentle whisper telling me to slow down. Five months ago, God took the decision out of my hands. A veritable firestorm of little and not-so-little problems were dumped down on my head. I got the message. I cried “uncle” – and took a sabbatical of indefinite time to get my life back together.
I had expected to simply get some alone time with God, minister to my family, and figure out either a new way of being at the current church, or a new church where I could be under less pressure to perform.
Ummmm…..yeah. Turns out God had other ideas.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire you might say – the Refiner’s fire. My spirit was baked in the heat of dealing with the problems dumped down on my head. It took about a month until life settled down to somewhat normal.
And then….the dreams came.
Now, for the record, I am very familiar with dreams, dreaming, REM-sleep, sleep cycles, brain waves, the lot. Studied the biology of it in high school and college, studied the psychology of it in college. As a creative right-brained person I have been a frequent, vivid, MGM-technicolor dreamer all my life. Nightmares too. And I have remembered many of them. About 10-11 years ago I got smart and started writing the most memorable ones down, for future reference. I have had a pretty good handle on my dreams and what’s been going in my subconscious, thankyouverymuch.
These dreams….. were different. More vivid, more frequent, more *real*.
Right around the same time that things started calming down I paid a visit to our local library. I love to read – voraciously. I’ll sign out a whole stack of books at a time – fiction, non-fiction – whatever catches my fancy. I have tended to stick to a few particular genres in my fiction. But lately I’ve been bored so have been perusing the new fiction arrivals for new authors. And this novel, by an author I’d never heard of practically jumped off the shelf at me. The cover art intrigued me. It was a picture of a woman walking a Chartres labyrinth. The book was called The Book of Love, by Kathleen McGowan.
As I was reading the novel, in which the main character is searching out the truth about Mary Magdalene and some mysteries of the early church, the dreams intensified. The only other time I’ve ever had anything similar happen was one summer when I was 12 and had bronchitis for 2 weeks – during which time I read this great big fat novel and it encompassed my dreams too.
Except…. I wasn’t dreaming about the novel, per se. Or its characters. In some weird sychronicitous way – reading about a woman having dreams and visions triggered *me* having all these vivid dreams (and possibly visions – depending on your definition).
Long after finishing the book, I spent the next 2 months feeling a little bit like I was living 2 lives – my regular daily life doing mom-stuff, and my dream life where I was going on all these adventures. I actually would wake up as exhausted as if I’d taken them for real. I started to wonder about all those stories that talk about the dream world as being a real place. I started to think maybe I’d inhaled too many paint fumes from the redecorating we were doing at the beginning of summer.
Truly, I didn’t know quite what to think….
(stay tuned for part 2)