Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Better Dream

I dream vividly in the last hour of sleep. Sometimes I wish I could simply rise out of a black unconsciousness because these final dreams often are disorienting, if not disturbing. It's hard enough to begin the day, because I am not, never have been, and never will be a morning person. Rising to life while hacking my way through a jungle of entangled images and symbols makes it all the harder to begin well.

Lately I have been discouraged by my dreams because they seem to arise from the territories of my soul that have yet to be turned over to the rule of my Creator. It's not that these dreams are erotic or violent -- most of them are not -- but that they are pedestrian. They are calling me back to my former ways of living; and worse, not to do over what I have done, not to become better, but to do away with the way that has brought me to today.

These dreams surfaced, like oil on water, at the end of the retreat week. They plunged me into a foul funk for two days. I became withdrawn and irritable and only dirtied the air of desolation. A trip to confession cleared the air. And the kind companionship of the brothers over the candidate discernment weekend dispelled the clouds of desolation.

I came away from the retreat and discernment weekend further convinced that God is not the only one who listens to prayers. Other spirits overhear the conversation. They know how to interrupt it, too. And they try to keep it from carrying on.

But I cannot keep from dreaming. All I can do is ask that these dreams come not only from myself, unguarded and uninspired, but also from the One who gives me life and the promise of life beyond the bounds of my consciousness.

God, will you be merciful to me and grant me this consolation? I am hopeful you will.

The final dream I had this previous night was different. I was being driven around the neighborhood of my hometown by my kid brother. We were approaching our parents' house when he took a detour a few blocks north. He led me through the side streets, which appeared darker and narrower than I remembered them. They were also greener and more overgrown. I observed that more of these roads had become one-way streets, and some had unusual dead ends. We turned onto the avenue a block north of our family home. It, too, was darker, narrower, and greener. Then, in another turn from reality, the road itself turned 90 degrees and changed its name. Its name was "Examen." Just the one word, like Broadway. We drove slowly down Examen for a block or two. At the end of Examen we came to a tiny two-way street and were facing a century-old home on an estate larger than all the suburban tracts around us. The house was covered in ivy and surrounded by a thick garden. It was also buttresed from all four sides by stone steps leading to the front door and to second- and third-floor balconies. All around the garden were whitewashed statues of saints. Many more statutes were mounted on the steps, arranged as if they were ascending and descending from the house. My brother let me regard this Edenic scene for a while before driving on around the block. The street called Examen continued on the other side of the house, and after another block turned back to its former name.

As best I can recall, my brother and I did not continue on to our parents' home, though we may have passed it. We kept on driving around the neighborhood as the dream ended.

Although I cannot fully understand it, my intuition tells me this was a better dream than others that have visited me. Guide my waking, O God, and guard my sleeping, that awake I may watch with Christ, and asleep I may rest in peace.

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