Waiting is the hardest part, sang the late, and pretty stinking great, Tom Petty. I’m feeling that lyric lately. I’m going through some major changes involving some brontosaurus-sized decisions. And, as you know, scientists have proven through complex formulations that change sucks. Even good change can stink up the bathroom. Most of my friends also happen to be going through some major life changes right now. So I’ve been thinking a lot about change from a lot of different angles lately, and I think I have some decent advice.
I dreamed I was trying to get to the grocery store last night. But every time I was almost there, something would keep me away. I went the wrong way. I forgot my bags and had to go back to the car. A band of 10 year old ruffians held me up with their hoodlum shenanigans. I just wanted my Cheerios, man.
Dreams are strange things. Some stick around for years, while most wither minutes after they’ve bloomed in our heads. We don’t really know what they’re for. They could be the dust of the day we’ve picked up on our subconscious shoes being shaken off. They could be the result of our brain acting as secretary—filing away experiences and ideas in their proper place. They could be the articulation of our most aware self, revealing the things we don’t want to face.
Dreams may even be the voice of God.
Sarah avoided the unwanted touch of Abimelech when God sent him a dream warning him to keep his hands in his royal pockets because she was Abraham’s wife. Jacob dreamed of a ladder of promise. Joseph’s dreams landed him in prison, and then in a position to feed an entire starving nation. Me…? I dream about dinosaurs in my backyard.
If God is speaking there, I’m not sure what He’s saying.
I prefer to think of dreams as peeks into another world. That they’re the emissions of a factory at work restoring itself after a long day is a better answer. But it’s not nearly as much fun as thinking every time I go to sleep I drop into the head of another me, into a fantastical world so different it seems ridiculous upon waking. A place where monsters exist, we can sometimes fly, and people we know are our bank teller or boss look like our 10th grade girlfriend for some reason.
Even though I know my theory isn’t true, part of me refuses. I’ve always preferred the fantastical to the cold hard facts. I played with toys until I was almost old enough to drive and buy them myself, I still watch cartoons, and sometimes I read comic books with the same seriousness as Solzhenitsyn. Maybe that means I’m stuck in some earlier age; my development, in some important area, arrested. I might agree if it weren’t for another part of me: The responsible part that worries incessantly, considers grown-up consequences to very adult problems; the care-giver who will take on the problems of others at the cost of my own sanity.
However… that may be proof for that whole childish argument.
The childlikeness I tend to hold onto may sometimes leak out, sit in some dank corner of my mind, distilling into childishness: The immature idea that I can save everyone, fill in the emotional gaps that my loved ones lack; that my shoulders are wide enough to carry every burden.
The dreams I have most lately are stress dreams. I’m running somewhere that I never reach. I’m looking for something I never find. I’m found out. The darkest part of me is exposed. Those are the dreams that don’t disintegrate with the sound of an alarm. It doesn’t seem fair that dreams of dinosaurs, fighting off alien hoards, or seeing my grandmother’s face again are often as elusive as a whisper across a room, yet these acts of subconscious self-flagellation stick around for breakfast. But… maybe that means I’m hearing the voice of God after all.
The burdens with which I load myself down, the shame I refuse to put aside, the stress that tightens my muscles into fists—carry over into my dreams. There, a door swings wide, all the lights come on, and a giant magnifying glass hovers over my doubts and fears and shame; my lack of faith. And the voice of God whispers to lay it down.
I was walking down the internet super highway when it was not much more than a dirt road. The chug-a-chug-chug of the dial-up modem is carved into my memory with the sharp broken edge of a free AOL disk. The patience learned from waiting for an image to load, line-by-stinking-line, still serves me well. I became obsessed. I visited every website I could find, coveted every update to my RealAudio player, and taught myself the strange language that made sites go. A skeleton of seemingly unrelated words and numbers called HTML. It all felt like discovering a new planet to explore. A really poorly designed planet.
My first web page was a Star Wars fan page. I can still see the background–a field of stars that moved toward the reader like 1990s magic. I abandoned it as quickly as I’d made it. The only good that came of that page was that my long-lost friend Scott found me again through it. We spent the next year bonding over the past and the anti-christ. (He’s the prince of wales, by the way. Not many people know that.) In that year, I learned about tracking chips, read a large chunk of the Left Behind series, and made an impressive binder of all of the better articles on the End Times. I also started a fairly popular website called Prophecy Update & Bible Study. (…Don’t bother looking it up, it was a Geocities page.) 16 year old Chad was an internet machine.
In the far too many years since then, simple HTML has added scripts and languages that go far beyond the simple stuff I learned back then. I just didn’t keep up. It’s like high school Spanish. I know enough to ask where the bathroom is, but Telemundo might as well be Russian. I also lost track of my anti-christ buddy (…you, um, know what I mean). Even with an internet that’s faster, smarter, and larger, he’s lost to me in a crowd of 1’s and 0’s. Even my faith, which isn’t as naïve, feels heavier in a way. For all the growth, experiences, and closeness that have happened over the years, I lost the wide-eyed optimism of that kid. That may be a strange thing to say about a boy who was obsessed with the bloody end of the world at the time, but it’s true.
The years that brought internet to phones, WiFi everywhere, and better ways to meet girls, also brought loss, bitterness, and not a little anger at God, and people in general. The language of trust, hope, and kindness I learned from the Christianity of my childhood seemed to get more complicated. It no longer flowed so easily as it had before. But I do feel myself moving back; unlearning my bitter ways, and growing again in joy. “Restore to me the joy of the salvation of my youth,” the psalmist prayed. I probably won’t ever become a webmaster again anytime soon, and I might never find my friend again, but I’m finding that God’s loving work in my life is somewhat like a time machine. He uncovers the buried joy, refreshes my soul, and is restoring that which was good; that which I thought was lost forever.