The panic that I feel as the dream unfolds wakes me up, calling to mind how poorly prepared I am in many areas of my life – I cut one too many of life’s classes, maybe?
When I cut classes in high school – or I skipped lectures in college, I had fun stuff to do; when I skipped out on life’s lessons, I just thought I knew better. When I was young – ignorant of what made my little world so secure – my dreams and answers made sense; I quickly detected others’ foibles and failures, and knowing I would not make those mistakes, I skipped their lessons. I quit listening to my parents, whose struggles were choking off any conversations worth having; I stopped going to church, shortly after my parents stopped going, and life seemed more real outside the stained glass. I pulled away even from friends when their choices looked too confining for my ambitions – me, the ruler of all I survey. And of course as a benevolent, wise ruler, I would right all social wrongs I discovered.
So, I wanted out of my life as I knew it – I remember the slant of the late afternoon sun on the lawn the day I decided to go as far in the opposite direction as all my friends went, and my parents seemed to value. And no one objected – or argued – or tried to dissuade me when I walked out. Only one person, my aunt, offered a parting shoot: “If this doesn’t work out, don’t be embarrassed to come home.” When I reached the end of my search for the personal peace and affluence I craved, her words were a dim light on the rocky return path, I ‘m still traveling.
Some of the classes I cut had lessons that I am glad I am not learning. Mastering denial, which many of my family did because of alcoholism, is not a worthwhile life skill. Nor, is pigeonholing people a commendable accomplishment. And it’s also unproductive to study with people who know about God, but haven’t met Him yet. I am grateful for the make-up classes that God, though. My attendance isn’t always perfect – nor is my mastery of subjects like humility, gratitude, perseverance and compassion complete.
When my recurring nightmare of being lost and unprepared for a major exam shakes me awake, some might say regret and guilt are knocking. God knows, I have enough of them! So, I wonder if my Teacher has more lessons; I wonder if the nightmare is an answer to a prayer I say I like to pray?
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
People tell me, “Be careful what you pray for.” But I have an upcoming final – not sure when, and don’t know where; all that I think I know, all that I have ever done will be tested. (1 Corinthians 3: 10-15) Since the Teacher is up all night, maybe we can review some? (Psalm 121)