Luke 3:9 Even now the ax…
It sneaked up on me actually, a dream so disturbing I can’t (almost) put it into words. I love words and images so it’s quite shocking when I’m not able to quantify or qualify it. It really unraveled me to the point that I paused a LONG time as to whether or not I wanted to share this — especially on this Sunday–where we are supposed to have refreshment from the long days of Advent. It’s so disturbing that I am offering up a potential trigger warning for people who are affected by violence. Please take care of yourself and do not read further.
I will be honest in saying that I am not sure how this blog post will write itself, even though I remember vividly every moment of this dream, I’m uncertain as to how it will conclude itself either. Therefore, I invite you on this brave and aweful journey as I recount my it, to sit with it’s dis-ease and maybe assist in my processing what it might mean.
The dream begins with me entering into the narthex of an Episcopal Church. I did not recognize it as one I had ever visited. I did not recognize the clergy or the people entering–it was totally unfamiliar to me. It didn’t look like your typical narthex as it resembled more of a banking lobby. I was required to go up to the window and collect something(not sure what) before entering into the nave. As I found my seat, I noticed that the church was mostly full–though not completely. For whatever reason, just before I found my seat, I went over to a room where the priest was frantically robing for the service, he seemed nervous and unhappy –maybe because he was late? I have no idea why I went to that room. I remember a brief pause, a silence, a really long silence, so long that it was an ever growing awkward silence.
Then, the priest climbed to the top of the pulpit, one that you often see in 18th century churches. It took at least 10 steps for him to reach the top. Once there, he glanced out over the congregation with a sense of expectancy, sadness, fear and anger–and with a sense of great urgency so as to not change his mind, he climbed to the top and jumped head first to his death in front of us. There was a long stunned silence, no one moved for at least a minute. In fact, I don’t think anyone moved at all. I remember not being able to breath.
Then, for reasons unknown, the deacon climbed the exact same pulpit, and as if he was mimicking the priest on purpose, jumped to his death in front of us as well. What was more strange and horrific still was that he did not immediately die. And for no reason, he grabbed an iron that was plugged in within his reach and he smashed it violently on top of his face, screaming. After several minutes, his screams subsided and he collapsed.
And then I woke up.
I’m not sure I have ever dreamed anything more violent, sad, disgusting and horrific in my life. What was even more disturbing to me was that I felt that even for a few moments after I awakened, I could smell the burning flesh, I could smell the death in the air and the dark spector that seems to still be nudging at my shoulder as if it to say “LOOK”.
I would much rather “LOOK AWAY” as this is not something I would like to dwell with today. So, here I am. What could a horrible nightmare have anything to do with Advent? Where and what is the aweful message in this. I’m not sure–at all. It is possible that the clergy are metaphors for the church and society? Are WE at the jumping off point ourselves? Have we lost our sanity? OR Are WE the clergy and the clergy is us, just standing around in shock, unable or unwilling to do anything–frozen in our seats? What is the horrible, hopeless action that took place? Why did they lose hope? What is lost and why? Does this mean anything at all? Is it senseless? I don’t know.
I wish I had a happy conclusion to neatly tie up with a christmas bow but I don’t. I see this as a reminder that we must understand and act upon our frailty. We are vulnerable in so many ways. Advent and Christmas are about embracing the light. The light is great of course, but necessary darkness is part of the journey. Those leaping from bridges and buildings and pulpits are signs that all is not well in our world. If they are not well, WE are not well. Today I seek the light but plan to look around for those who have lost hope, those off in dark corners. Hope is not everyone’s experience.
On the other side of the equals sign is remembrance and hope. To the specters in my dream who left so violently, to those I have known in this world who have left with no hope…To wish them well on their journey..
May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever,
for Thou art Kind.
give to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.