If only all dreams were sweet – but some are nightmares. In recent years I learnt to make friends with my nightmares, and I very rarely have nightmares now.
A friend of mine once told me that she believes that God speaks to her in her dreams because that is the only time when she listens to Him because she is so busy in her waking hours! I believe that God is with us every moment, which, of course, includes the time when we are asleep, a time when our conscious minds have no control over some thoughts which we may firmly push aside when we are awake.
I pray every night before I sleep. I had a very detailed dream the other night. It was not a nightmare and it didn’t wake me up, but it was also not a pleasant dream. The next morning I wrote down all the details of the dream. I have been advised that the best interpreter of dreams is usually the dreamer, but that others can make helpful suggestions. I have also been advised that other people in a dream can actually be hidden facets of ourselves. The terrifying dream person can actually be a part of ourselves that we may not know very well, and we may be frightened of that part of ourselves. We see may see that part of ourselves as an enemy, and as being ‘out there’ somewhere, rather than realising that there is actually quite a dispute going on inside ourselves.
Jesus told us to love our enemies. I think that loving the ‘enemy within’, the parts of ourselves which we don’t love and may disown or not even consciously know about at all, is not a bad place to start.
I did not find it easy to face up to the fact that I had such an argument going on in myself, an argument between ‘me’ and ‘myself’, so to speak. Theologically, I don’t know exactly what St. Paul was describing when he wrote Romans 7, but he was certainly describing some sort of inner dispute.
When I became a Christian in mid-life, much of my ‘inner dispute’ was between the person I had become in order to please my parents, and the person I was becoming as I prayed and others prayed for me, and as my love for the scriptures grew and I increasingly sought the counsel of others about the scriptures.
I don’t want to give personal details of most of my dreams but I am happy to write about one dream here. This dream seemed, at first, to have nothing to do with anything, but I wrote down the details of it and prayed, and I eventually understood something which I had never really understood before. I dreamt that I was with a group of friends ( a group I currently meet with regularly). I started doing the arm movements of the backstroke and my friends all smiled and their smiles were encouraging smiles, not mocking leers. A few days later, I remembered an incident which happened when I was eleven years old. Despite the fact that I grew up near the coast, I had not learnt to swim. My father wanted me to learn the breaststroke and the front crawl, but I was afraid to put my face under the water. On this occasion, we were in fairly shallow water at a nearby bay. My father eventually gave up on me and said, ‘You”ll never learn to swim’, and walked away. Unknown to me, a boy from my school class had been watching and listening. He called out to me,’ Have you ever tried swimming on your back?’ I hadn’t, but I tried, and then went to the town swimming pool as often as I could to practise, and was soon swimming eighteen lengths of backstroke. My father was very pleased and soon a friend of his recommended me to a swimming coach and I went for training twice a week for two years, until we moved away from the coast.
I realised two main things: that there can be many ways of doing things, and if I fail at one way I can try another way; that I had no interest in competitive swimming – I enjoyed it, and wanted to achieve my ‘personal best’, but I didn’t think of it as a race. I was relieved when my training came to an end!
After dreaming the ‘backstroke dream’ I became less discouraged by failure and less discouraged by negative comments by others. I became eager to try out new ideas and, in relation to some ( though not all) of my family members, friends, and fellow Christians, that sometimes meant doing things differently from the way they wanted me to do things.
As Christians, we need, at times, to remain firm in the face of discouragement and criticism. My ‘backstroke dream’ was a gentle reminder of this and I was strengthened by it.