Over the past week, almost every night during my deep sleep, my head has become a performing stage for the most outlandish, tender, frightening, and improbable stories to play before my mind's eye. In less than a week's time, I have become the father of two children that, strangely enough, are not actually mine (nor did I bother to attend the birth), battled slow-stalking zombies in the middle of a cornfield somewhere in Indiana, berated my former boss, Grear Howard, for not taking the responsibility to cage a pesky, skull-faced demon that enjoys wreaking havoc on a Houston gas station, confronted a high school bully, and been framed and imprisoned by terrorist Colin Farrell in a large Coast Guard ship while the rest of my crew is led to believe that I am actually the one who wants to kill them all. And these are just a few of the more memorable nocturnal narratives ...
It is interesting to me that the metaphor for both repentance and eternity is the physical, yin yang-like understanding of life and death, slumber and waking. Both Scripture and the Church maintain the metaphor of "coming to life" when someone repents of their condition - imprisonment - to sin. The metaphor is often paired with someone who is asleep (no doubt sleeping the sleep of death) and suddenly comes awake. This is a fresh view that has no equal, no comparison. You were asleep, lost in a confusing, vague dreamworld. Now you are awake; there is clarity, light, understanding.
You were dead. Inanimate. Meaningless. Non-existent. Without purpose.
You come alive. You move, you breathe, you think. You have purpose.
The apostle Paul, and those other commendable members of the Christian "cloud" (see Hebrews 11 and 12) who wrote the letters and treatises that make up much of our New Testament, employed this metaphor for repentance as well as for eternity. The Pauline letters are filled with this imagery. Why?
Perhaps because it is as meaningful as it is simple. You were dead, now you live forever. You were asleep, unable to partake in true goodness and love. Now you are awake, free to do so forever.
It is a striking thing to follow this metaphor even farther, and, the more you do, it becomes evident that perhaps this is not simply a metaphor, but the very underlying reality of all things created. If clarity is found in the new person, the redeemed person ... If true life comes after physical death ... then all that we experience here, in our humanness and our unenlightened states, is as cluttered as our dreams. While physical life may seem vivid and framed by some sort of narrative, it is as chaotic and unpredictable as any haunting nightmare. In such a dream state - the state of non-repentance and self-centeredness - you can trust no one, you can rely on nothing. Everything is constantly changing. There is no true equilibrium.
I love to be entertained, and because of this, I appreciate the dreams I have almost every night. However, I would never want to live in such a confusing world. I wouldn't last very long in a place where the more evil the pursuer the slower I am forced to run, where guns don't fire right, friends change identities on a whim, and clothes seem to disappear at the most embarrassingly awkward moments.
I suppose all this musing depends on how loyally one accepts the metaphor, but lately I have been reminded of how blessed it is to escape the dreamworld that is this life.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. I Cor. 13:12a
Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Eph. 5:14b
And so, let me wake once again ...
Once again, I repent of this dreamworld, O God.
I repent of the confusion I have ignorantly tried to figure out.
I repent of the false hopes I have clung to in a world that offers no hope.
I repent of indulging in the pleasures that are as beneficial as a lie and as lasting as vapor.
I repent of wanting to stay asleep. I repent of returning so quickly to my slumber.
I repent of disregarding the blessing of the breath, mind, strength, clarity, and purpose to which you continually call me.
I repent of this dreamworld, my God.
Guard my heart and mind, lest I return again to such a tempting nightmare.