Blog Post: Be Still and Know

I’ve never been one for dream work, apart from one dream reflection done in my very first unit of CPE at TJUH, and even then, I must admit I did a fair amount of bullshitting. I didn’t dream much that summer, and what little dreaming I did do that summer consisted of nightmares- of patient deaths, of my pastoral insufficiencies, and constant questions of whether I had gotten God’s call to ministry (not even just to chaplaincy) wrong. I remember even to this day a few of my nightmares from that summer, two years ago to this day, and many of them involve the dreaded CODE BLUE trauma pager. Except in my dream, the code pager multiplied exponentially, as did patients and their desperation. Fortunately, two years later, my wounds feel far less deep and puss filled, and I am able to laugh at jocularity of these dreams, as they no longer wake me up sweating and panting in the dark of night.

But again, I am awoken by another set of dreams, questioning what they mean, on the eve of a set of transitions and potentially huge life markers. I’m not a huge dreamer in general, and when I do, they’re vivid sagas, with lifelike characters, voices and narrative story lines. Sometimes the stories end abruptly without a clear conclusion – clearly, I awake from sleeping and ruin a perfectly good dream, oh the spoils of sleep! While other times, the dreams unfold like a long road before me, becoming more and more complicated and difficult to follow. That is where last night’s dream comes in. I was in some type of dark auditorium or classroom, with rows and rows of chairs lined up facing a projection screen. Some movie was playing on the screen but no sound came with it. I don’t remember what was being projected, but I do remember my supervisor – current, not past, and this detail is significant to the dream – standing up front in a position of authority. The room is dark, backlit by only the haunting silence projector. All of a sudden, a resident peer, with whom my relationship has not always been the most, shall we say, peaceful, begins to shout at me, her arms waving in violent gesticulation. I am still sitting, and wondering what is happening, a stiff and angry knot forming in my core. Even in my sleep, I can feel my heart begin to race, and a word forms in my throat, as hot tears stream down my cheeks.

SHUT UP…won’t you? I yell, as I come to standing, facing my aggressor in my fullness. I can see that my supervisor is motioning to my peer, arms waving in a helicopter motion, as if to temper the situation, but it is too late – the words have boiled over. As have I. Before I can say anything else, my peer sits down, as do I, but I realize that I cannot breathe. Suffocation sets in, heart beating too fast. The scene in the auditorium pulls away quickly, leaving me in darkness, and I wake up from dreaming.

A fellow chaplain and respected colleague told me this week that in the meditative place – the dream space – we are able to come closer to God, to have a closer sense of what God needs to tell us, what we have been ignoring in the cacophonous clammer of daily existence, where both we and God coexist.

This dream space brings into being sacred messages of clarity, and even, cryptic messages revealing reality checks too. And I wonder if, I am intended to stop, take a pause, and awe at something based upon the astonishing message of this dream. Rarely do I yell, let alone tell anyone to shut up in such a violent tone, regardless of their actions toward me. CPE, and my chaplaincy year 3000 miles away from my family and beloved faith community has without a doubt strengthened my pastoral authority; it has taught me the meaning of my voice – my justice voice, my advocacy voice, and perhaps most importantly, my listening voice. So maybe the voice being used in this dream is not that of advocacy – the most obvious of those listed above – but rather that of listening, and the one that must “be still” and listen for the still small voice of the Divine in the midst of what is still unknown (or yet to be determined) in the immediate future with the God who holds our vocational walk together.

I have always struggled to wholly trust that God will hold my vocational walk safely in His hands, and perhaps that is what this dream is teaching me. To use language that is firm, as sometimes I need that type of verbosity to get through my thick scull…

SHUT UP, LIZ…Won’t you? Do not fear. For I have this in the palms of my hands. Be still and know that I am YOUR God, and YOU are my BELOVED CHILD. We will get through this together…just as we have before. 

Maybe that is what God was trying to say before I woke up. Only my unconscious knows. And God of course. But the great thing is, God is still there, waiting for me to be still. And so here I am. Being still. In the midst of a waiting period, until I know what comes next.

So stay tuned…because with God at the helm, something exciting always seems to be on the horizon.