Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dream Guilt

I believe God speaks to me in dreams. Following that statement, I would expect many different opinions about the nature of God in dreams. I am aware of the spiritual ideas of prophesy and visions, although the concepts are still somewhat new to me, having been raised in a Catholic church. I accept those ideas for what they are, but they are not what I am writing about today.

God has spoken to me in radically unconventional ways. He has written my name in the sky, tossed my own words in my face through a television sitcom, delivered me into uncannily perfect settings for conversations - all in response to very specific prayers I had made. I think it is very easy to distinguish between God and coincidence; the feeling that accompanies God's signs to me is often an overwhelming sense of truth, awe, and irony. Dreams, though, are much more difficult for me to decipher. I struggle with them. Most times, I think God uses my dreams not for prophetic visions or profound injunctions, but to reflect the things I most need and hate to see.

I have learned enough about psychology to understand the basics about dreaming. The parts of our lives causing us to think, worry, and stress are the ones most likely to project on our eyelids at night. From what I understand, dreaming also assists the mind in organizing information and recalling experiences. I can certainly attest to these facts; I have had enough dreams of mountain lion attacks to irrevocably cement my fear of them. It is the combination of psychology and faith which causes me to dwell on the residual emotions of my dreams and why my reaction to some of them is so powerful.

Last night's dream is giving me great qualms about myself. I will not describe it here (some things are better kept personal), but I will emphasize my tendency to feel real guilt for imaginary actions. For example, last summer, I had a dream that I had betrayed my best friend's boyfriend to modern-day pirates, who later killed him for his failures. In the dream, I hadn't known he would be punished, and was caught in a horrible trap when my best friend was leaning on me in her devastation, ignorant of my role in her boyfriend's death. It took almost an hour to console myself upon waking; something about the sequence had broken my heart with guilt and left me crying for what I had only done in my sleep. The dream I had last night left me with a similar guilt, though not quite of the same sort. Thankfully, nobody was killed this time! My conscience is perturbed, however, by my dream actions and nonchalance. The guilt of subtleties is incredibly as powerful as the guilt of drastic action.

I wonder now if it is reasonable to feel this way. Obviously, I know I am not to hold myself, nor anyone else, accountable for what happens in my dreams. If this dream is a reflection of what is actually happening in my mind, on the other hand, it needs heavy consideration. I do think God uses dreams to turn us to face what we keep submerged in the trenches of our consciousness, and if this is what I have buried in my head, I have some ugly things to face. I know some people would probably tell me to let it go, that dreams have nothing to do with reality and simply surface in odd combinations of characters and events, but something about this last one feels deliberate. Deliberate, too true for my liking, and a very ugly form of ironic. Knowing God, though, He loves to speak to me in terms of irony, and this would not be strange for Him.

I feel this dream pushing me into action. I know I carry false guilt, and will attempt to relieve it, but I cannot ignore its weight or importance. Unfortunately, my actions will have to be postponed for reasons out of my control, but I certainly feel an immense amount of self-examination to be had immediately.

"For God does speak - now one way, now another - though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives perishing by the sword.

Pay attention, Job, and listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, for I want to vindicate you. But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom."

Job 33:14-18, 31-33

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beret and a Bible Gets a Makeover

Several months have passed since I last wrote on this blog. There is no significant reason why I ceased writing, other than the busyness that accompanies the end of the school year and the advent of summer. The passing time, though, has split my rose-colored glasses, and I am finally able to see through the cracks.

This summer I have been spending a lot of time with my best friends from high school. As expected, the reunions were more than welcome and direly needed. I sank into time with my best friends as a palm on a sleeping bag about to be rolled up, which sighs as the air squeezes out through tight zippers. We told each other all of our stories, struggles, frustrations, joys and questions. We perplexed each other with tangled situations and tested each other with probing statements and honest opinions. We laughed, ranted, made fun of each other, and ate like we still had our high school metabolisms. I couldn't be more thankful for these girls and what they do for my soul.

Today, the second one leaves for school again. She invited me over last night for dinner at her house with her family and one of our other best friends (there are five of us). We spent the night talking, drinking tea, and whooping and hollering to tears over our yearbooks. As I left her house, I began to think about how easy it is to be back with these people, even after I spend about nine months of the year away from them - and how difficult it can be to spend time around those I see every day at college.

This is when I reach the point of reconsidering everything I've done in college thus far. Do I regret anything? Not really. I have realized, however, several things that high school me would have been disgusted to have seen change. These are things I had sworn I would never compromise, things I held dear to my heart as elements of my own truth. They are things I look at like a complicated report that I just don't want to evaluate, for lack of compassion with its given results.

I molded elements of myself to pass through others' judgment.

I didn't put my foot down when enough was enough.

I tried to be close with people I knew I couldn't really care about the way I do my best friends.

These are just a few of the aforementioned failures. High school me would have slaughtered me for these, especially the first. Who do I think I am to change for others? Not only is that detrimental to myself, it is detrimental to those I change for - they don't know me completely, and that takes away their right to decide if they want to really love me or not. I have given up details that infuse me with happiness and ease. I have restrained habits or quirks that may not interest others. I have actually followed trends of the majority.

In addition to that, I have also let things like this keep happening. I have kept myself struggling to keep up, to fit, to sway with the waves that come my way. I have rolled water off my back that should have soaked my feathers long ago. I have kept my mouth shut in an effort to choose my battles, only to avoid the entire war. I stood up for others less and not at all for myself.

I do think it is a noble pursuit to love and be kind to everyone. I like being friendly with people. I enjoy the casual passing hellos as much as I do the rolling, cavorting conversations. I do not, however, think it is necessary to attempt to learn everything possible about people with whom I just do not get along on a "deeper level." I, like anyone else, am drawn to particular personalities, and am averted to others. It doesn't have to be a personal insult to anyone if I don't want to be their best friend (in fact, I would really be surprised if anyone thought of it that way, and I doubt anyone would). Acquaintances are just as valuable as friendships. I do NOT need to befriend everyone in order to be a good person.

All of this considered, I am deeply grateful for the growth of my two years in college. Many beneficial changes have occurred as well as the negative ones. My faith in God, for example, has grown exponentially, and I would never dare to look back on the years without Him with anything more than relief. I have always believed in God, ever since I was a little girl; the things I have learned about Him and myself these past couple years are irreplaceable and immeasurably valuable to me. I want with all my heart to continue following Him with earnest desire, and to chase Him as the most intense and powerful romance of my life. God is good, God is powerful, God is all we could ever dream and more - He is the one good change.

I want to follow God as me. 100% me.

So, I'm sorry to anyone who did not see every side of me. I apologize to everyone who did not witness every truth I carry, be it personal or trivial. Every identity I represented was a true one, but they were all pieces of the truth. From now onward, I will not edit myself. I will be myself again. Here are some bits to start with:

I like Green Day and other inappropriate, drugged-out punk rock bands. I also like metal, country, alternative pop/rock and the occasional rap song. I know not everything I listen to worships God, but God lives in my heart, not in my ears. I do not believe enjoyment of other sounds takes away from the love I carry for Him.

Same with movies.

Literature is the second greatest love of my life. God gave me the obsession with words for a reason, so I will continue to follow it. Don't sue me if it takes a while for me to do something with it.

I hate beating around the bush. I hate softening my opinions so as not to be "offensive." What I see as truth, I will offer. I hate hurting people, but I think it is worse to withhold opinions on truly important things. If you want to hear something particular, tell me what to say. I may or may not say it to you. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." Proverbs 27:6

I do NOT believe there is a right way to do everything. Some things, of course. Not everything. These arguments are futile. Stop arguing about things that vary among individuals (dating, anyone?) and start arguing about issues that really matter and can benefit from passionate discussion.

Sometimes I like makeup. Sometimes I don't. Dressing up does not make me a heathen or an ungodly woman. True, I have moments of vanity, but many people do, and I work on that. I am not perfect. Stop making people feel like they are worthless, trashy, world-obsessed women if they want to play with their appearance a little. Makeup is like crayons for girls - the sparkly ones!

If you are not overly fond of me, I would prefer to skip the false interest in the depths of my life.

I am loud and sometimes obnoxious. I take jokes too far and make the most awkward ones just as the room falls silent. My voice rises as things get funnier. I know it's not appealing to everyone, but I like to laugh. I don't think I'm funny, I just say stuff anyway.

I get angry about things I care for, whether they be people, issues, or trivial pursuits. Anger does not mean hatred. I have come a long, long way with my temper (thanks Jesus), and have a long way to go. I am under no pretenses that all my anger is righteous, and I think about things now before I react. Sometimes, though, in an attempt (as stated before) to choose my battles, I end up gathering anger in my chest. Don't be surprised if it surfaces in a random conversation.

As vain and sinful and selfish as I am, I care far more about others than I will ever care about myself. Things hurting others are what hurt me the most.

I have a small taste for rebellion of the harmless nature. Sometimes I think dirty jokes are funny. Sometimes I play pranks. I tease friends. I am a tomboy; rough-and-tumble punches don't seem strange to me. Sometimes I side with the underdog for the sake of opposing the majority. Whatever.

I believe a person can learn from dating. For God's sake, I have not lost my soul for dating more than one person in my life!

There are millions of little bits of me that I will not list here - I will be surprised if any of you read this far. I just think it is about time I reclaim my identity. I want to relax the way I do with my best friends. They love me when I love them, when I hate them, when I pamper them and when I treat them poorly. They love me when I am stupid and when I am wise. They love me when I date dumb guys and when I ease them through nasty breakups. They love me when I ignore their advice and when they laugh at me as I realize they were right. They love everything about me, and that is why they stay. Whether they are as invested in God as I am, they reflect more of Him than many of the people I am told are better for me than non-Christians (this is not an attack on anyone; be offended if you want, but it is not intended that way). So, I give up trying to fit in the neat little drawer that is supposed to be my sanctuary. My sanctuary is God, and He has given me every bit of myself, including the people I love, who truly are a part of me. I am chasing Him and looking back for nothing, and bringing the people I love who truly love me on the way. I am at home in myself again.

I am back.

"All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. What advantage has a wise man over a fool? What does a poor man gain by knowing how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Whatever exists has already been named, and what man is has been known; no man can contend with one who is stronger than he. The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?

For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?"

Ecclesiastes 6:7-12