Megan shook me awake this morning. I was talking in my sleep. Normally I am a snorer, but the gibberish had Meg afraid I would wake the girls. Her push brought me out of the most vivid dream. I was helping someone get back on their feet. I let him stay with me while we attended a conference. We got along very well and had deep conversations. But he was also very strange. He could not function with anyone besides me. Plus he was ill, slowly getting sicker. I went to get him medicine (in my dream the concession stands had pills). But my new friend did not know how to swallow pills. Left in this dilemma, I wanted to help him – to fix the situation. Then abruptly the conference ended. We joined the crowd walking out. I was dodging folks, talking to my friend as we went, but the crowd did not seem to bother him. Then another person interrupted our conversation, speaking directly to me. I started to include my friend, but the other person gave me the most quizzical look – a “who are you talking too?” look.
In it that instance the dream’s every moment flashed before my eyes. My new friend was not real. He had never been there. I was always alone… talking to myself…
Megan awoke me screaming out my own insanity. And for a moment I could not tell what was real. Was Megan even real? Why did she shake me awake and walk away? Why wasn’t she giving me a hug? … okay, I am needy when I have nightmares. But I also like to ponder what my dreams mean. And here I felt that this new “friend” symbolized many of my struggles. They are issues, frustrations, but not really important. More imaginary than life shattering.
Then I got the message that Jake Malone, a friend from Augusta, had passed away. We ministered alongside one another on staff (He even lead my middle schoolers on a ski trip – though at the time he was the senior adult pastor!) He loved: kids, seniors and everyone in between. Only months ago he talked of retirement, then discovered his stomach issues were cancer. The sickness quickly stole his life here. But he did not let it stop from ministering and he made every effort to be at church. Just last week he lamented that he would not be able to attend Sunday, writing:
“I will not be in Sunday School this week. The pastor has given me an excused absence… I hope this Sunday will find you in worship. Don’t let anything stand between you and worshipping the God who loves you. Being a pastor’s son, I have seen old hurts, people not getting their way, and feuds with members cause them not to worship the God who loves them. Don’t let that be you.”
Too often I allow the trivial to dominate. Though I may attend church my joy is so easily stolen. But Jake stands as a reminder that all of our struggles and frustrations are often small. Even imaginary. At least in comparison to our God who loves. Our God who comes to save. Our God who sacrifices Himself so that this life will not be the end. A reality Jake preached and now knows.