I woke up at 3:15 this morning. Now, one of the things I have been blessed with is the ability to go to sleep quickly, and if I wake up, I can drop back almost immediately into that wonderful restorative sleep. Something that I don’t really consider to be a blessing, however, is my brain’s practice of filling my sleep with what seems at times to be either dozens of dreams in a night, or dragging one particular story through my wake-ups and back-to-sleeps. So, last night, it was 3:15, and then 3:40, then 4:15, then 4:30, and on and on until I got up at 6:15. AM.
Now, I’m aware of the sleep studies that seem to show that, when asleep, our brains are able to be free from the restrictions of time and space, and often even sanity, and in that closed loop of mental processing, dreams that appear to take hours and even longer could happen in real time in moments or minutes. I’m also aware that stress occurs when there are unmet expectations, or unresolved issues. What I can’t shake, however, are the constant and ridiculous dreams that fill my sleep time!
Now, I have really come to enjoy retirement, and the freedom it offers. I still make lists of what I’d like to accomplish in a day or so, but it’s also true that those often get postponed, when I decide to do some other more fun things. Here’s my trouble: the dreams I have been experiencing have nothing to do with my life in a retired state. That tells me it’s not a matter of unmet expectations. Instead, the dreams create scenarios of when I was working, and driving and meeting with people for about 19 years, apart from the local church. I think that tells me I am really dealing with unresolved issues.
For instance – and those of you who are dream analyzers, you’ll like this: last night, in one dream episode, I was in a large group of pastors, and we were somehow getting ready to leave to go somewhere, maybe on a trip. As always, we had to go around the circle and introduce ourselves and tell what position we held. All of a sudden, I was first, and I told them I was retired, and… no one listened. They just went on talking as though I didn’t exist. I understand that one…
Another part of the dream had a number of us looking at a large suitcase that was on a tall table. Lots of efforts were made to try to unlock the lock, but no one could get up high enough and turn the little tumblers. There were even people on the second floor leaning over a balcony with a long pole trying to get it open. I stood there and couldn’t believe what I was seeing (even though my brain had created it). I finally reached up and took the suitcase and set it on the floor, where people could see the lock and unlock it. Isn’t that a stupid dream? Next, in a moment, the room was fully of lots more people who oohed, and aahed at the suitcase on the floor. Someone in charge then looked at me, and said they were very disappointed that I had set the suitcase out where people could see it, and especially that I put it on the floor for anyone to walk past.
Now – I don’t need to totally analyze the dream, but I know I haven’t used a suitcase since March 10 when the whole place shut down and I stopped traveling thousands of miles. I also haven’t gathered in a large group, and I haven’t had to problem solve what were really kind of dumb issues, like setting a suitcase on the floor. I’m not doing that anymore, except when I dream.
I think one of the big problems is that I retired in the time of CoVid. It’s one thing to retire, and to have to create new patterns of activity, and to find new things to do, whether as a new job or a new hobby or something. It’s quite another thing when most of what would be “normal” new activity is shut down and put away until… who knows when. When I go in my mind to an active time, it takes me back to doing things that, while I no longer care to do them, they invade my subconscious and fill my REM sleep with their crazy scenarios. In one dream, for instance, I was driving, and was barely able to look over the steering wheel. Then it started to rain, and sleet and snow heavily. I needed to take the next exit for some reason, but as I got up to the exit, with cars flying by, there were four different off ramps. I didn’t know the road I was one, or what I needed to take, and the ramps were going over a hill, and I couldn’t see if they were turning right or left, or twisting like a cloverleaf, or just going straight. With cars flying by, and the snow obscuring the road… I had to get up and get a drink of water after that one.
Now, add on top of all of that the fact that we are still in daylight savings time, which means 6:15 in the morning could as well be 2:00 in the middle of the night. It’s dark, and disorienting. It’s tough.
We indeed are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I think, however, that anyone would be either a fool or self-deceived to believe that we are in control of all parts of our lives or our bodies. We aren’t. And in a time when “normal” becomes more a hope than a present reality, we run to, and cling to anything that sort of resembles it, even if that is in the past. I’ve talked before about having an adaptive spirit and mindset – the power and grace to move into an uncertain future that is only sketched out in lightly shaded figures, where we need to discern what is worth seeing as valuable, and what is clutter before us is an important gift. A former word of the day was “liminal,” which means standing on the threshold between two worlds or two states of being, or two “things.” As we today stand in that liminal space in our world, knowing we really can’t go back, and yet we can’t quite see what is ahead, the best option, I believe, is to claim what is to be as an adventure. Let’s anticipate what is now cloudy and hidden to be the very beginnings of what could be a brighter, and newer existence, post-CoVid, or for me, post-career. For you, it could be post-children, or anything else where you see what is gone, and can’t quite see what is coming.
When we live with adventure, we are able to better sift out what we have any control over, and what is just going to happen anyway! It’s an intentional approach, instead of fear, or mistrust, or paralysis in terms of what the future holds. With adventure in front of our eyes and minds, we again can hear God whispering to us as we try to see through the fog, “Do you trust Me?” Are you willing to move forward, knowing that I am with you? Can you take the step, not knowing what is under your feet, but knowing I am beside you?
I can tell you for certain that I would never want to look at the future without knowing God is with me, and I am not alone. Thanks be to God, and hopefully I’ll have sweet dreams tonight… or maybe they will be adventures?
Word for the Day: gelasin. Sorry – it doesn’t have to do with Jello. Pronounced simply JEL-uh-sin, it’s one of the cutest things in our world. It’s a dimple, and it’s usually caused by laughter. Actually, the word comes from the Greek gelaein which means, “to laugh,” and to the gelasin is the evidence of laughter in progress. When our youngest, Adam, was very little, he had dimples that were enormous. When adults in our church – usually the ladies – would ask him where he got his big dimples, he would respond, “The Good Lord.” Kind of makes you laugh and smile, and maybe show your own gelasin, if you aren’t careful…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.