[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts we’ll be featuring by the Rev. Deborah Dean-Ware, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last May.]
Okay, you pastor types, I know you know the dream. The one where you show up at church missing one or more pieces of clothing. Or the one where you find yourself completely and totally unprepared. Or, worst of all, the combo one where you are unprepared and inappropriately dressed.
Come on, pastors, I know you know the dream. They usually come to me on Saturday nights. When do they come for you?
Well, I had one of these dreams on Friday night. This dream was especially long, drawn out and vivid. Luckily it wasn’t a combo or clothing optional dream. In Friday’s dream, I was hugely ill-prepared for a children’s sermon which lead to kid chaos and profound embarrassment. I woke up with my heart pounding.
I am used to these anxiety dreams, but I was surprised that I had this one on Friday. See, I officially began my medical leave on Friday. That means there is no preaching or worship leading in my near future. None at all for weeks and weeks, maybe even months. So there is no need for the dream.
None. I am done for three months.
This reality hit me when, on Friday, I set up my “out of office” reply email. All day I had been getting ready for my leave, sending last minute emails, cleaning my office and taking my plants home. This was just the last day of a couple of weeks of preparation. In the past two weeks, I recruited folks for pastoral care and worship leadership. I communicated with the church through several emails and made pastoral visits to those I hadn’t seen in awhile. I worked with my administrator and the Church Council to be sure the administrative tasks of running the church would be covered.
But it was that silly little auto-reply email that brought me to tears. It was the last thing I did before leaving my office. “I am sorry to have missed your email. I am on medical leave….” After that, I got up, gathered my stuff and locked my door. I was done. There was nothing left for me to do.
And then, as if my sub-conscious delights in my discomfort, I had this dream. Seems cruel, doesn’t it?
I confess that I am pissed about not being able to work. I am angry enough to be honest about being mad. I could write a post revealing all the hidden gifts in this journey. But that would be inauthentic and dishonest. Right now, it would be a lie.
So here I am, mad as hell. And I am telling the world. I have breast cancer and I am not happy about.
I am mad because I can’t do the work I love so much. I am mad because my son can’t do the things we had planned to do this summer. I am mad because my poor husband is carrying so much right now. I am mad because I am scared and confused and anxious. I am mad that I keep having the dream.
I imagine my anger makes some of you uncomfortable. I also imagine that there are some of you who have felt anger like this. This post is for you. I believe that being angry is a faithful response. People of faith have been angry at injustice and suffering for millennia. So I am praying the Psalmist prayer, stripped of all pretenses of feeling good:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
Who will join me?