Last week I was speaking with a woman in our Recovery program. I knew that last year from April to Christmas she lost some ten members of her family (by natural and unnatural means)—her mother, a couple of aunts, a grandparent, a few cousins, others. All relatives she knew well. She averaged more than a funeral per month. Last fall, after having lost the first 7 or 8 people, she stood among our one hundred or so Recovery participants and, with tears in her eyes, shared how unspeakably real and tender the presence of Christ had been and how God sustained her with a joy that baffled others. Some of her family, I remember her saying, were upset with her peace of mind and mental health. She wasn’t harmed, wasn’t afraid, and felt no loss of anything ultimately worth loving and that bothered people. All was secure in Christ, and she was “hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3.3) People sat speechless when she shared her story last Fall. Some cried. Others gave her a standing ovation.
As we spoke a few days ago she informed me that another cousin just passed away two weeks ago. Nearly a dozen deaths of known relatives in ten months. I just looked in her eyes. Didn’t say anything. Just wanted her to know I was ‘seeing’ her. She said, “I see the chaos around me. I feel it pressing in. But I have peace.”
With that in mind, permit me another brief quote from a former post, this from God enters our nightmare. I was drawn back to this post after having the above conversation:
It’s a scene you’ve experienced if you have children. Your young daughter screams out in the night. You rush to her side and find her semi-awake, still trapped inside a nightmare, and crying out, “Daddy! There’s a monster chasing me!” What do you say? Do you say, “Run faster, Hunny, faster!” or perhaps “Hide behind a tree or under the staircase!”? Do you confirm the reality of her nightmare this way? Or perhaps you let her nightmare define you as well and pace the floor feeling as desperately forsaken as she does.
Here’s what you do. You hold her in your arms and say, “It’s alright my love, Daddy is here! Don’t be afraid. Daddy’s here,” and you gently rock her in your arms until her reality conforms to your reality, until your reality defines her reality by putting the lie to her nightmare. You save her from her nightmare by exposing it as false, not by letting it falsify you. That’s a rough analogy, we believe, for how it is that God awakens us from our nightmare.
The analogy brought to mind the ancient Ojibwe practice of building and hanging dreamcatchers over their sleeping children. Dreamcatchers were made of wooden hoops (circular, oval, tear shaped) over which was stretched a web on which were hung sacred objects. A charm or talisman, dreamcatchers protected the sleeping from violent thoughts and nightmares. It’s just a parallel. I’m not suggesting any divinely established analogy or anything. Still, I’m sitting here this evening thinking: Christ is our Dreamcatcher. Not a talisman or charm of our own making, but God himself, embracing the worst of our nightmares—entering our nightmares, catching them up into his incarnate arms—and, with our worst selves hung on him stretched over wood, he defeated them, not by letting their lies and illusions define him, but by exposing their lies relative to the truth of who God is and who we are as loved by God. Christ is our Dreamcatcher.
Prayer: Incarnate Christ, you caught our chaos, embraced our pain, took our place, exposed our nightmares as illusions of our despairing selves. Spirit, rest the cry of sonship in my heart today, ‘Abba, Father!’ Hide my life with Christ in God!