Dreams Reveal What Matters Most

Dreams Reveal What Matters Most August 15, 2021

Ceiling in Monheim Town Hall: Jacob dreaming of the ladder to heaven. The sun contains the words וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה נִצָּב עָלָיו וַיֹּאמַר (And, behold, the LORD stood beside him, and said). The ray coming from heaven reads וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-תֵּלֵךְ (And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest). Jacob exclaims מַה-נּוֹרָא הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה (How full of awe is this place!). All taken from Genesis 28:13-17 September 21, 2008; Author–EA210269; Creative Commons

My daughter Julianne had a dream about her brother Christopher a few nights ago. In the dream, she and some of her friends were gathered together in Christopher’s room. They were talking quietly in the far corner. She grieved out loud to them. It had been nearly seven months since her brother endured the traumatic brain injury. How she longed for Christopher to speak and to surpass his minimally conscious state. All of a sudden, she heard a voice behind her say, “I am here.” She turned to see Christopher sitting up in bed.

Dreams are mysterious and nebulous things. I can’t quite remember anything particular about mine, but sometimes they startle me so that I wake up and get out of bed.

Do you ever dream you’re falling and you try to catch or brace yourself? It happens to me. I hate that feeling when I wake up with a jolt.

Speaking of falling, I often feel like I’m falling these days, specifically in my conscious state. What will break the fall? If only all the unimaginable challenges we’re going through involving Christopher’s TBI were nothing but a nightmare.

There are so many accounts of God speaking to people through dreams and visions in the Bible. Based on my recollection, it appears that God often manifests himself in dreams and visions to those in less than secure situations and settings, including nightmarish situations. God grants dreams to those on pilgrimage, in distress, in flight, in exile, and captivity. Figures like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John of the Apocalypse come to mind.

We can easily dismiss biblical accounts of dreams as primitive, and dreams themselves as unworthy of serious attention for enlightened analytical minds. However, Carl Jung’s analytical analysis of dreams awards them great importance. Far from expressing in veiled terms forbidden or taboo wishes, as with Freud, dreams reveal what matters most. They are vehicles of truth that get beyond the will’s defenses and the ego’s limits of understanding. They help us rediscover an attitude befitting our nature when the conscious state has wandered too far from home.

Perhaps in some manner that is what goes on in biblical dreams. They are expressions of nature and the supernatural source of nature that can penetrate the will’s defenses and reason’s limits to bring us back to God and to who we really are in right relation with others. From Jacob and Joseph to John and from Jung to Julianne, dreams reveal what matters most.

I don’t intend to psychoanalyze my daughter and her dream, or myself for that matter. I have no expertise or amateur knowledge of what that entails. Nor do I have the wherewithal to discern what’s going on deep down inside my son’s brain. But I do know his sister loves him and her dream reveals her longing for close, conscious connection.

I believe it is possible that God communicated to Julianne what Christopher would communicate to her, if he could use words—“I am here.” Perhaps God is also using dreams and visions to communicate to Christopher. Extreme situations require extreme measures, like God using dreams to speak to biblical figures on pilgrimage, in flight, and exile.

For months now, Christopher has been trapped in exile in his traumatic brain injured state. He cannot communicate what he wants to convey in a manner we can understand. We are also trapped in a state of limbo, not knowing how to communicate effectively so he can understand.

But we know this: Christopher, we know you are here. We recognize it during frequent visits. You are alert to our presence and respond with eye and head movements, along with facial gestures and occasional sounds. Julianne is here. We are here with you.

Thanks to all of you who are here with us on this journey in the wilderness, as we wait and see and dream. May our dream of permanent, conscious control for Christopher become reality. (You can find the various updates at this link.)

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University & Seminary; Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths (Thomas Nelson, 2012) and Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse (Cascade, 2020). You can read more about the author here.

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