Courage at Twilight: Dream Walking

Behold: The Carina Nebula's 'Mystic Mountain' | NASA

I sat on the side of Dad’s bed to wake him on this Sunday morning, this Christmas morning, to talk about getting him showered and dressed and settled in his reading recliner. I could see that his whole body ached as he turned his head on his arthritic neck and stretched out his invalid legs and brought his arms under him to reposition.  His welcoming words were unexpected: “I have dreams…”  I wondered what kind of dreams, whether literal sleeping dreams or waking hopes and aspirations, and did not have to wait long to learn.  “And in my dreams, I am walking.”  I was touched that he had allowed me into this intimate and personal place, the place of his soul’s desires, and was touched by the aching irony of his wish to be healthy and for his body to function, but to be able to do so only in impotent dreams.  Dreams for the present broken.  “Sometimes,” he continued, “sometimes I think my paralysis has happened to me because God is trying to teach me a specific lesson.”  I personally am disinclined to believe God targets us with specific afflictions to teach us particular truths.  Rather, I am inclined to believe that the nature of this life is designed to bring us into inescapable contact with experience, and the equally inescapable choices associated with that experience.  A coworker is rude to me, for example.  That is the experience.  Will I react angrily, self-righteously, and judgmentally, or patiently, compassionately, and empathetically?  That is the choice.  And my choice—that all-powerful vehicle of self-creation—establishes the trajectory of my character.  But despite my inclinations, who am I to say that God cannot teach us in surgical fashion when he finds it appropriate?  “I want to be the kind of man who chooses to be humble of his own volition and is not compelled to be humble” by God or by circumstance.  Dad’s humility is the least of my concerns for his soul.  In fact, I am not concerned at all for his soul, only for his present comfort and happiness.  When Dad kneels before his Savior, he will look up into that glorious face and declare, “I did my best, Lord!”  That will be a sweet moment, for God accepts the offering of every effort we make for good.  With crumpled wrapping paper strewn about on the floor, and small piles of Christmas gifts on chairs, Dad sank into his gift of a Popular Science edition about outer space.  A photo of the Carina Nebula decorated the back cover, a gift from the Hubble and the James Webb.  “I love outer space,” he exclaimed.  “It won’t be long before I’m there.”

 

(Photo of the Carina Nebula courtesy of NASA, used here pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine.)

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