I wonder if those of us who dream intensely and regularly while we sleep have a lot to say to ourselves? Some people give very little stock to dreams, but my favorite genre to read is biographies, and you’d be surprised how the course of many people’s lives has hinged on a single dream. Author Brennan Manning was enrolled at Mizzou to go to journalism school. He lived here in Columbia for a little while but had a dream that he achieved everything the path journalistic fame would give him. After the dream, he realized “all that” wouldn’t be enough to satisfy and he changed his path to go into the priesthood. Dreams saved Jesus’ life about five times. Actually, dreams seemed to have had a bigger impact on people in the Bible than any modern-day person would care to admit. The trouble I have is trying to figure out if God is speaking to me in my dream, if I’m speaking to me, or if my brain is sorting the “fact cards” scattered through the day I just lived through?
One of the challenges in life is sifting through all the different viewpoints on any given topic and grabbing hold of my own personal belief on the matter. Recently I was challenged to come up with a personal theology of body, soul, and spirit. Not to just read someone else’s thoughts and adopt them as my own, but to consider several different viewpoints, research for myself, do some “field testing” and come up with something I could at least loosely hold onto. I’ve also done this with the topic of “dreams.” My main theory is that just as God designed our physical bodies to heal themselves (anything from blood coagulation to the entire immune system), I believe He also built dreaming into our psychological world to bring healing, balance, and restoration. Although, I’ve personally come up with about 12 different categories of dreams, I believe the primary purpose of dreams is to bring “unacceptable” or uncomfortable viewpoints that a part of me holds out into the open. This kind of dream would be me talking to me. I used to think I had LOTS of “God dreams, ” but now I’m pretty sure most of them are just me talking to me. Yes, I’ve had the occasional warning dream, the prophetic dream, the ancestor dream, the “I’ve got to pee” dream, and several “picking up on the spiritual atmosphere around me” dreams, but mostly I’m just trying to get my own attention.
Something I only recently discovered (which I found quite helpful) is that my “inner commentator” thinking during my dream is usually unrelated to the symbols in the dream. Here’s a funny example. I dreamed that I was on a road that was being re-paved. The whole top of the road had been torn off and it was being re-paved with cherry pie filling and gold dust. I immediately knew what that meant when I woke up because the conscious me knows that I’ve always closely held the idea of the trinity or God-head as a cherry pie cut into three identical slices (different, but the same, and “one”). And of course the heavenly road in Revelation is gold. So, the message was, “Jennie, you are on a “heavenly” path, one paved for you by the Lord.” The funniest part of the dream, though, was my inner commentator. In the dream I was thinking, “It’s going to be really hard to drive on that slippery pie filling. And I hope these road people know that as soon as they put the gold on the road it’s going to get stolen.” That dream taught me that the commentary wasn’t really part of the message of the dream, so now I try to think of a dream’s symbols & my thought commentary as separate, and they are much easier to understand.
Most of my dreams are house dreams because there’s a lot going on inside the “house” I call “me.” I’ve dealt with the witches in the attic, and faced those fears by managing to whisper the name of Jesus. I’ve dealt with the bones in the basement. I’ve faced “bears” and “wolves” and “crocodiles” and even “dinosaurs.” (Feeling out of control and helpless have been common themes in my dreams over the years.) Lately, flying dreams have returned to me. I never actually do the superman thing, but sometimes I can jump really high and defy gravity or hover above the ground. In most of my flying dreams I’m holding one of my children, or I’m in a gymnasium while flying. I think those mean that the role of caring for my children has built interior strength in me…….parenting has been my training ground to learn to “rise above” the mundane-ness of everyday life. In fact, the enormous strength training produced by caring for such a large flock has maybe developed some supernatural abilities reflected in those flying dreams.
Usually my “awake self” can figure life out okay through prayer and friends and verbal processing. However, much of the healing occurring in me has to do with identity. Intense group counseling, marriage counseling, and inner healing ministry have all played a part over the last few years. The “me” that talks while I’m sleeping is getting heard in those counseling rooms and my personality is becoming more integrated. There is a LOT of different language to describe the self. There’s the inner child, the unconscious, the authentic self, the original self, the imposter, masks, repressed desires, fear can be personified as part of the self, especially through trauma. Id, ego, and super-ego are one way to look at it. Body, soul, spirit, heart, mind, Holy Spirit are all in there somewhere, right? Sometimes two people are talking about the same thing, but using different lingo, so it’s difficult to figure it all out.
So identity is quite complicated. I personally think that the tattoo fad is all about identity and not about rebellion. My high school girls have a classmate who always acts like a cat. It’s bizarre, but could it be an identity issue?
Who am I? Beneath all the crap of life. Beneath all the cultural indoctrination. Beneath the mixture of spiritual truths and lies. Who am I, when I am not scared to be that person? I’m pretty sure the real Jennie is the one I’ve known best when I’m at home with my kids and no one else is around. God’s healing has peeled back layer after layer of hurt and protection and this real me is beginning to stand up and shine. She’s goofy and likes really loud music one day….. and likes order, candlelight, and books about mysticism the next. Jennie loves God and is growing to hate religion. She loves the real Jesus. The one John Eldridge talks about in “The Beautiful Outlaw.” Jennie Belzer really loves people. I have not met a person I cannot see myself living next to in heaven if I had to. I am a little bird that has the strength to fly hundreds of miles, but is fragile enough to be crushed by a human hand. The real me likes to hear God speak in dreams and mysteries. And I LOVE that God gave me a light blue, 1990 Chevrolet Caprice and that I have the phone numbers of a few interesting characters in my phone because of that car!
Who are you? Do you have a clue? What are you saying to yourself in your dreams?
This morning I woke up and helped Gracie get on the bus, then went back to sleep. I dreamed 4 times that I woke up, but each time I “woke up” I was still in the dream. I then really woke up very, very shaken and crying. One image that kept repeating was me trying to take four rings off my fingers only to find them still on. Late this afternoon my daughter Maggie called from IHOP (international house of prayer). At the end of our conversation I told her a little about the dream and asked, “Maggie, would you pray that if God wants me to know something from this dream that He will give me understanding?” I hung up, took one step, looked down and saw a thick gold ring laying in the grass. Uh….. I think God threw His head back a laughed and maybe a couple angels did too?! I picked the ring up and later my son Micah said, “I wondered where that went. It was the Lord of the Rings game ring, and when I threw a football Sunday, the ring flew off my finger.” The Lord knows me, the real me. I find great comfort in knowing somebody knows me, even when I don’t know myself. Sweet dreams, friends.