I have a dream.
A nightmare, really.
It goes something like this.
I am at the peak of my pastoral career. In good health. Surrounded by loving family. Comfortable. Confident.
Then something happens. I never know just what. Last night it started with a fever. I knew what was coming on, so I took deep breaths, murmured, growled, cried out. I woke up. But not really. Only enough to feel sure I was in a space other than the dream. Not enough to wake up.
The dream goes deeper. I am in a hospital bed, bars on every side. Strapped down. An old black-robed woman hovers beside, whispering harsh words into my ears. Speaking to me in a secret tongue. I want to make her go away but I can’t move. I breathe deep. Deeper. Until I can make a small sound. A whimper. A moan. Finally, a scream. It wakes me up. But not really. It just turns the page on another chapter. Same verse, just like the first.
I’ve had this nightmare for decades, or ones like it. When I was married, my wife would just kick me and I would wake up. Wide awake. Maybe go to the bathroom. Get a snack.
It helped to have someone kick me back to reality to make the nightmares go away.
Since I now sleep alone, I don’t have this luxury. My doctor has prescribed me a medicine designed to take away nightmares. Trouble is, like all meds, they only work sometimes. And sometimes they dull my dreams so much that I can’t remember the hopeful ones.
I once thought my nightmares were God’s way of scolding me for being on the wrong path. Failing to pray enough, worship enough, love enough,… be enough. But a trusted elder told me it is more often the Enemy who scares us away from serving God and God’s people. God inspires us to do good out of gratitude for every good thing He does for us.
God speaks to us in dreams, not nightmares.
Could my vivid dreams be the result of a chemical reaction between my medications? This is a good possibility. But it is one without a good remedy. Like it or not, for better and for worse, over twenty years of psychotropics have blended with chemical of my body, comprising every cell of my being. The worst thing I could do now is monkey around with my medicine.
Perhaps the best explanation for my disturbing dreams is my disturbed mind. My brain betrays itself night and day. I expend so much energy in my waking hours trying to keep a lid on my consciousness, maintain some semblance of control. The gloves come off at night. Sleeping, my worse fears become more real than anything awake.
In sleep, the real and imagined conspire together against my brain, my body, my self.
I have a dream.
Strapped to a hospital bed. My spirit looking on. Needles protrude from my arms. My hands. My feet. A man in my face yelling that I am a fake. A phony.
I am alone.
I can’t speak.
I can’t move.
Breathe deep. Moan. Cry out.
Do you have recurring nightmares? How do you respond to them?