Friday, May 9, 2008

Just Call me Dorothy

I have come to believe that Justin deserves special recognition for committing to sleep in the same room as me for the rest of his life. He had no idea what was coming, and, since I am usually asleep during the most hazardous moments, neither did I.

Last week it happened again. I believe the time was about 2am. As usual, his experience and mine were two totally different things. From Justin's perspective, he rolled over to realize there was rain coming in through the window right next to our bed. Casually, he sat up and leaned over me to close it.

At this moment, my dream world cascaded over into reality. I awoke in the darkness to gale force winds blowing through the room, dimly aware of the tornado ripping through the night only feet away from the bedroom window. My brain made vague reference to the Wizard of Oz.

I could see that Justin was already bravely battling the raging storm outside, as he fought to close the window before the wind could harm me. What was truly amazing was that the window itself, frame and all, had already been sucked away. There was the twister, churning before my eyes.

At this point I really needed to see better. I reached for my glasses in the dark, but couldn't lay my hand on them. I needed light! I ran from my bed in the direction of the light switch by the bedroom door, but realized I needed my glasses to find the switch.

I took a few steps back toward the nightstand to reach my glasses, then remembered I was looking for light so I could find my glasses. The words "drunken stagger" could have been accurately applied to me as I lunged back and forth between the switch and the nightstand a few more times. It may have helped if I had actually opened my eyes during these moments, but then again, it was dark and I still hadn't connected with my glasses.

Justin's words finally broke through the chaos: "It's all right. Stop. Don't be afraid. Calm down. I've got it under control." He just kept repeating the words over and over until I heard them.

I stopped in the middle of the dark room, and finally opened one eye.

The experience of waking from an intense dream like this often gives me the sense that I have been watching a movie on tissue paper, because I can see the bits of still-moving pictures blowing away in the wind. Sure enough, the tornado and all imminent danger immediately evaporated in front of me. Not only was the window still there, it was also securely closed. Once the dream fragments had fully cleared away, I obediently returned to my bed, feeling a little sheepish.

Sometimes I wonder if this is what it will be like to wake from our fragile earthly reality, into God's eternal reality. Everything around us seems so solid, and problems seem so real. Some of them certainly seem deserving of fear. Loss. Bankruptcy. Turmoil. Change.

What if those storms have much greater magnitude in our heads than they do in God's reality? God sees the rain outside, and calmly closes the window before we get wet. It seems to me that we tend to be surprised by the rain, and immediately assume the worst. We jump into action and start casting about in every direction but His, for illumination to see the problem and solve it on our own.

And all the while, God is watching us flail, repeating: "It's all right. Stop. Do not be afraid. Calm down. I've got it under control. Do not be afraid." Over and over, until we hear it and open our eyes to God's reality, and sheepishly see ourselves through His eyes. In fact, I think God knows exactly how difficult it is for us to see through our dream-like reality. "Do not be afraid" is the most often repeated command in the Bible, occurring hundreds of times. Over and over, until it finally can sink in.

Psalm 4:8 has a reassuring word for us as the storms pass through the night of our reality: "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety." The psalmist was referring to literal sleep, but the correlation holds up as we consider our reality to be a dreamlike state. I can rest in the dream that is this life, and have peace, because God is keeping me safe.

So what if storms come our way? In the mega-storms of our reality, all of our flailing will not even fix the problem. We grasp ineffectively at half-solutions, losing sight of the real issue. And all we do is lose sleep over our inability to solve it. That night in my bedroom, I was so caught in the moment between turning on the light and finding my glasses, that had there been any real danger I would have been sucked out the window still looking for a way to see the problem better.

By contrast, in God's reality, the storms are more like gentle, necessary rain, and are completely manageable. I need to rest in God's promise that he is keeping me safe, regardless of what I think I see happening around me. "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety."

Who knows? Just maybe, what I perceive as a tornado will turn into a ride to Oz, a place brimming with beauty, fun, and adventure. Seems like a good reason to rest, and believe that the God of the Universe has it all under control.

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