When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. --Job 7:13-15
I had a dream last night. I was walking in Portland and as I passed a parking garage a bomb went off. The debris was flying all around me as I dropped to my knees and pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth so I could breathe. When things stopped shaking I got off my knees and opened my eyes. Before I could move a car backed over me, pushing me down and bruising me, dragging me into the street. It sped away and I rolled onto my knees. Slowly I stood up. Another car was backing out of a parking space and it also hit me. I lay for a while, got up on all fours and caught my breath. Slowly I rose to my feet and decided that I would not go to work. I found myself walking in the cemetery and my son’s grave had been dug up. I opened his casket and looked long at him.
I awoke. The thing with dreams is that it isn’t just about the imagery. There are emotions that seem to run through the dreams and the images are almost secondary to the feelings. I felt awful.
But there is something about the imagery as well. For dreams such as this the events are clearly metaphorical. It is how we are made. Our minds naturally construct symbols for concepts, events, moods. One doesn’t need to be a literary scholar to know that when it rains in a Hemmingway novel something bad is going to happen. We sense the foreboding.
We construct metaphors for all sorts of things. We devised letters to stand for sounds, sounds to stand for things, things to stand for ideas and emotions. A rose offered to someone we love is a symbol. A great statue greets those entering New York as a symbol of freedom. Our world is filled with symbols that are important to us. The flag of our country brings tears to grizzled veterans. The cross was turned from a hideous symbol of tyranny and cruelty to a symbol of love and hope.
We are metaphorical creatures. He made us that way.
Could it be that all of this, our world, is a metaphor? When I see something beautiful, something that inspires me, could it be a metaphor of something more real? Not because I choose to turn it into a meaning of something else, but because it really is a metaphor, that it was designed that way.
Ah, I see I am starting to lose you. Hang in there.
Consider the things of Man. The greed, power, lust, hate, anger, selfishness, and self-centeredness. We can agree that these things are not of God. But consider the things that He gives us. Love. Beauty. Things that are good. Things that lift us and nurture us and heal us. Look hard at the “Pillars of Paradise” in the Eagle Nebula. Consider the gentle vibrancy of a rainbow that spans a majestic vista or the swaying blossoms of a field of wildflowers in spring. There is something about the way the moon swings through its phases and the sun announces its power with its heraldic rays that inspires. The joy of a child who is happy and loves because it seems natural to do so. I think they are metaphors.
What if they are hints, symbols of the power and beauty and grace and glory that are His? What if this life is a representation of the struggles of good and evil and that what we experience here is part of something larger than us: eternity.
What if this world is to Heaven what a projection is to the real thing? What if the added dimensions that physicists describe are a part of a reality that is more real than we are? That from the point of view of eternity we are mere projections of spirituality? That we are constrained by flesh and blood and three dimensions and that there is so much more for us to experience? That the beauty we see here is just a pale reflection of what real beauty, real joy, is.
Friday we went to learn things about our son. We spent two hours drinking in a flood of information and left with a report of fifteen single-spaced pages that tried to describe who our child is in terms of his physical brain, his mental abilities, his psychological propensities, and his probable behaviors. It is a lot to take in.
But who he is, who I am, is constrained by a “reality” that works in a single dimension of time that drags us along in the direction of entropy (whether we like it or not). A brain injury, or even the full use of all that a human brain can do, pales to the reality of the freedom that is promised in bodies that do not require the shackles that are part and parcel of this world.
When I see beauty, real beauty, something moves inside of me. It is not just an emotion. In fact I know it precedes the emotion. It takes a moment for an emotion to build. I can feel that coming. No, this is something else. I feel something twist inside me, like some living thing that has no physical organ, and I am moved. I feel this thing that tells me that what I see, what I am recognizing there, is something GOOD. I am catching a glimpse, a hint, of Him.
What if the beauty I see, the wonders that makes this thing in my chest move and twist in joy and awe is a metaphor for glory?
Then I shake. I tremble. I know that though I am wandering through a vale of suffering, where people are crushed by falling mountains, and waves sweep thousands into the sea, and evil men prowl with guns and bombs, where children starve, where children die, where parents lay tiny bodies in graves, is all a dream. It is an awful, terrifying, soul-shaking dream that prepares us for a relationship with the maker of stars and graceful molecules, and sharp jagged peaks which arrow into blue skies. The maker of galaxies that dance through space and time, the creator of whales, the artist that painted the grand canyon, the craftsman who fashioned the hummingbird, and pounded carbon atoms within the hearts of stars loves me. He who knitted my bones together and who inspires me with beauty, loves me! He loves me.
He is preparing me for real glory. He is preparing me for a time when I can be freed from the burden of a life which permits hate as readily as love. He fills my world with metaphors that remind me that there is something out there, something greater. And that no matter where I am today, He is there. He is waiting for me to come running home someday where I can share in His feast. Where I can join my son and friends and family. Where I can join Him. He gives me hope with such a simple thing as a resting butterfly and a cloud gliding undisturbed overhead.
For those of you visiting this site and are beginning to wonder what is the matter with this guy who gets all emotional about a God he cannot see, I want to share this one truth with you.
I can see Him. I know He is real. He leaves His fingerprints all over this world and all over my life. You can see it too. All you have to do is feel for that living thing that lives inside your chest, that thing that flips and moves in the presence of things small and mighty that are metaphors of a greater reality. Look into that spot, open it up, and ask Him if He would show you more.
You will find that He will whisper into your heart and make the world of the “real” as metaphorical as a bad dream.