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I don’t pay much attention to most of my dreams.

For one thing, I very rarely remember much about them.  For another, the vast majority of my dreams are like a combination of a train wreck and an attic and when they do make sense they probably have a lot to do with first-child syndrome: that burdened business not of feeling like God, but of having been deputized.

But tonight I awoke from a dream that left an impression.

I was sitting with my younger brother in a hospital waiting room.  To understand what happened you need to know a few things about my real-world brother, Dave.  One, he is an accomplished hand surgeon.  Two, he is the father of two great young men, one of whom is applying now to medical schools.   Three, over four years ago Dave’s active career as a surgeon came to an abrupt end when he discovered that he has a life-threatening brain tumor.  (There is a lot more that I would like to tell you, but that will need to do.)

Back to the dream:

While we sat there waiting for Dave to have some kind of treatment (my dream wasn’t real clear about what kind of treatment), I found myself talking to a nurse about the possibility of entering medical school.  Not long after that (and, again, in a way that my dream failed to account for) I found myself wearing a white coat and stethoscope; and, for some reason, I had been presented with a file detailing a patient’s needs and a surgery that needed to be done ( I never did learn who the patient was, but it was not my brother).

I felt a profound sense of satisfaction about being asked to do this and it felt great to be a physician all of a sudden, but I was also panicked at the prospect, because I also knew that I had not been to medical school.  So, for what seemed to be hours on end I began to prepare, frantically trying to learn what I would need to know in order to operate.

Finally I asked my brother for advice.  He flatly told me that I needed to advise the surgical nurse that I wasn’t ready and that I didn’t know what I was doing.  But, then he took me aside, extended his arm and told me that he was going to take me through the process, step by step, so that I would be prepared to do the operation.

That woke me up.

I am not entirely sure what that dream was all about.  But a few thoughts were front and center when I woke up:

One, I am deeply proud of my brother.  He is a determined, brilliant, disciplined, gifted man, and a bit OCD  — though he isn’t the only one in the family.  With integrity and dedication he has spent his adult life using those considerable gifts to meet the needs of others.  (As a child and teenager he spent a bit of his time doing other stuff, but didn’t we all?)

Two, I grieve the losses that he has suffered and the threat to his own life that his cancer presents.  The dream was, no doubt, about my own desire to fix something I can’t fix.

Three, I also sensed a measure of simple, profound peace there was in helping people — unalloyed by the politics and nonsense that, sadly, are as much a part of medicine as they are a part of the ordained and academic life that I live — but it is easier for me to dream about his life, than it is to dream about my own.

There is a school of thought in dream interpretation that argues that everyone in your dreams is a surrogate for things you are trying to work out in your own life.  If that’s the case, I suppose my brother represented a number of my own needs:

  • The desire to do something of clear, unalloyed benefit to others.
  • The desire to heal the wounds he and others have suffered — many of which I know full well, I cannot heal.
  • The desire of an older brother to protect and safeguard a younger brother.
  • And the desire to find a life’s work that is not spoiled by the blatant cruelty and selfishness that I have seen so often in the church.

But I don’t believe that dreams are that simple and I hope that mine aren’t that narcissistic.  I think this dream is also about pride in a brother whose work and strength I deeply admire — who has suffered losses that even after all of this time discussing them with him, I have yet to comprehend — and whose life’s work I wish he could continue.

It occurred to me, as a I write this, that just as he offered his arm, it was likely that it was the arm of Jesus as well that was extended to me.  I have no doubt that his is the only arm that can offer either one of us that kind of healing.

Why share this with you?  These observations:

  • Pay attention to the dreams that you have and can remember.
  • They may not always make sense, but from time to time they are the extension of the waking prayers and conscious struggles that mark your life.
  • If God can talk to you when you are awake, God can no doubt continue the conversation with you even when you are asleep.
  • You are the best, first interpreter of your own dreams.  Others may help you understand them, but it is important to listen to your own emerging impressions.
  • Take the impressions that arise from your sleeping prayers into your daytime, conscious prayers.  Some of what you learn in your sleep may help you live your life during the day.
  • Night or day, we are in God’s hands.

2 Responses to “Dreamwork”

  1. Carol Lawson says:

    Dear Fred, thank you for including me in your correspondence along with many others. It has been so long since I have received anything
    of yours and it was very good to read your writing again. I agree
    about dreams. The Lord has spoken to me in dreams since becoming a Christian in 1970. He doesn’t so much anymore and I miss that. I don’t know if it is medicine as I age or that my life with Jesus is not what it should be. I keep daily attempting to take up my cross and follow Him but stumble many times in a day.

    I greatly miss you. So do all your beloved brothers and sisters here in Dallas. I heard from Mary that you had moved. Did you know that she and Charlie became Jesse’s godparents when he was baptized over a year ago. Jesse, my grandson, is now 7 years old and he is taller than my nose. I guess height is in his genes.

    I still have my beloved Maple, Alaskan Malamute, my wonderful companion. She is truly heavenly. Tim is doing ok as well. Time just doesn’t wait for any of us!

    I loved hearing your dream and your interpretation. Many people throughout the years have come to me for interpretations and I do my best with the help of the Lord who gives wisdom and to whom wisdom belong. But when people try to interpret my dreams I know when they are not seeing it clearly as I supposed most people
    have that feeling. God made each of us unique and we should cherish that thought all the time that He loves each one of us forever and ever-more. His love is boundless and free. One of His angels count each time a hair on our heads is lost or gained. We cannot possibly begin to understand the love He has for us. And our loved ones gone on before us love us and forgive us easily. We are made in His image.

    Oh! that the image of God would be more impressed on my heart and mind daily. Remember me in your prayers, please. I remember you – you are such a special person with immense talents.

    Thank you again for including me and I pray you are well and your book will be a large success. Why shouldn’t it be? Once people get to know you they leave with much more than they came with.

    With love and sincerity, Carol Lawson

  2. fwschmidt says:

    Thanks, Carol! It’s so good to hear from you.

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