In Part I, I was first pursued, then held hostage by a serial killer. This dude was scary; he was Hannibal Lecter and Lex Luthor and Nurse Ratched all wrapped in one. I kept trying to get away from him, but he always caught up. I couldn’t let anyone around me know what was happening or else he’d kill them all, too. He wanted me and only me, and I felt like a mouse being played with by a cat.
Eventually, I was able to distance myself and my family from him somehow, because Part II found us at church. The service and Sunday School were over and we were about to go outside when a brewing storm system suddenly gave birth to about a dozen tornadoes. Most of them were far away, but I saw one coming right for us, so I ushered us down into the basement. It passed over us without harming us or the structure around us, but I could hear people’s screams outside as they were sucked in.
This transitioned into Part III as we drove home and settled in. My girls went to bed and I was talking with my mother, when out of one of our bedrooms came the person with whom I have the most difficult relationship in my life. She came out and stared right at me, but she wanted to talk to my mother, not me. I stepped aside and let her pass, and then walked away, praying fervently my mom wouldn’t allow herself to get hurt in the conversation.
Then I woke up. I believe my profound thought upon rousing was, “What in the [bad word] was that?!”
Now I’m no Joseph, but I enjoy dream analysis and interpretation very much. There is a lot of material in these dreams to pore over, and it doesn’t take a genius to speculate that there is some kind of stress / turmoil going on in my head.
Do I think it a coincidence that my last thoughts before going to bed that night circled around Lent? Absolutely not.
I have observed Lent since I was sixteen years old and it is always a complex labor of love. Deciding what to do / not do for forty days seems straightforward, but I easily devolve into a sort of tug-of-war between what God is calling me to do and what I think will benefit (or, let’s be honest, what will look best on) myself. I must constantly check myself and pray over it, or I can degrade the spiritual work by turning it into a glorified New Year’s resolution.
And that’s the “easy” part.
After that comes the real work of living it out. Giving without letting my right hand know what the left is doing, keeping up appearances so as not to garner the praise or sympathy of others, and doing it all without complaining or arguing…well. I can barely master those disciplines on Christmas Day! Throw in a little warfare against my human nature and will and it’s amazing how fast and furiously the rationalizations start to fly.
The truth is, I know this all affirms that the work is good. If my flesh lashes out, it’s because it needs the discipline. When my mind tries to talk me out of it, it only shows that it needs this retraining. Every swing of my emotions will only reorient them to the One I really need to connect with for peace.
Serial killers? Come ahead! I’m killing myself anyway so I can live with Christ.