I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. – Psalm 16:7
I had a dream about a month after I returned home from Arkansas after care giving for my sister during her 10 month battle with cancer that helped counsel me through a very dark period that I endured afterwards. The grief over the entire year’s events, the loss of her, the loss of my father earlier that year, even the loss of my 17 year dog finally found opportunity to lay it’s full weight on me once she was gone and I returned home.
I found comfort in the dream as one finds comfort in having a map when they feel lost . Perhaps it may help another find their way out of grief as it has helped me.
I dream that I fell down into a very deep and dark underground tunnel. Not a speck of light could be seen. Everything was pitch black, absolutely nothing of my surroundings were visible because of the thick darkness. However, I somehow knew I had landed in the midst of an amusement park. It was an inner awareness I could not explain. I knew I was surrounded by rides, tents and stands, but I could not even make out their slightest outline. There were no sounds and no movement. The amusement park was still and completely deserted. The darkness was so complete it engulfed me. I felt the floor beneath my feet but I could not see it. For a moment I wondered if this great darkness was but an amusement itself. Was it an illusion that I had to find my way out of? Was there an end to it?
I started to walk forward through the darkness slowly making my way, feeling my way with my feet one small step at a time. I wondered how long the tunnel would be like this?
After some time had passed and I had progressed some distance through the darkness, I came to have a small light in my hands, like a small personal candle. The light was very small and not very bright, but it lit my hands and brought me comfort by having it to hold onto in the dark. I continued my way through the tunnel holding that tiny light in my hands as I walked cautiously forward.
I kept walking until I found myself on an empty street on a small sidewalk lit by street lamps. There were several glass storefront shops on either side of me lining the streets. The little shops were all closed and deserted by their owners but their windows were gently lit with lamps shining down on various items and novelties the shop owners were displaying to anyone passing by as they walked along this street. I began to curiously look into each of the windows as I walked and their miscellaneous items and amusements began to catch my eye and distract me as I walked forward.
The tunnel became more like a very dark evening, as if I were taking a midnight walk alone down it’s streets. It was very deserted and empty of any other soul but my own. However, I was surrounded by the handiwork of others so I began to feel in a sense that I was not completely alone. Other people had been here, worked here, even made it somewhat of a pleasant place to be despite the darkness and deserted nature of the place. However, I began to miss life, the breeze, the birds, the rivers, the heavens and sky above me and people. There was no life here, only empty places and lifeless objects left behind. Tied to them were only memories of life but not life itself.
I kept walking forward through the dark tunnel. The further I moved forward the more light I could see. There were street lights and more lit up storefronts in front of me but these were open. People were coming and going. People like me who have found their way out of the dark tunnel. They were very busy amusing themselves with items found in the stores, with conversations, coffee shops and food. There were many new shops ahead of me lining the streets that were open. The shop owners mingled among the people in conversation over their displays. It was the dawn of a new day.
The world was broader and eventually the tunnel was gone. I began to lose myself in daily amusements along with the others. I don’t know how much time passed before suddenly the ground gave way beneath my feet and I had fallen again.
I found myself once again at the very beginning of that dark tunnel. Not a speck of light could be seen. I was surrounded by amusements but there were no amusements, just darkness and the earth beneath my feet. I knew in a sense that it was all a great illusion. The awful darkness could not hurt me. There was no fear but emptiness and I had to find my way out of it again. I did not want to move but I had to. I begin to slowly step forward one small step at a time.
I recognize the tunnel. I did not want to be in it. I recognize the little light that eventually came and comforted me and guided me along the way. I held onto it once again. It was all I had for sight and understanding of where I was. It alone pierced the darkness even though it was weak. It did not allow me to see far, but it allowed me to see enough. I recognized it as the word and promises of God.
I made my way to those deserted storefronts again with their great windows and soft lamps shining. They offered me their own light as I had so little of my own. They brought me comfort with their previous presence. Their window displays spoke to me in silence leaving me alone to observe what they left behind for me to find and see. These were the books on grief I had been reading. They had been here before. They were no longer here now. They had left their lights on for me by publicly sharing their stories. I was alone but not alone. Their words encouraged me to trust God and counseled my grief when no one else could because they shared and understood my suffering. However, it took time for me to come to a place where I was ready to listen to hear their stories.
And in time, I began moving forward again. Seeking live comfort. Seeking distraction and daily amusements. Enjoying life and then suddenly I was falling again…
The dream repeated itself three times. I would have to make my way through that dark tunnel only to fall again into it’s depths and have to start over. Was it with each new loss that I fell again each time? Or is it the nature of grief itself, just when you begin to think you are finding your way out of it, in a moment you can suddenly fall and grieve like it was the first day all over again. There is no comfort at times like these. Even the light of God’s word and his promises provide little relief. But then there are times when God’s promises, our hope of eternal life and heaven, are the only bit of understanding and light you have and holding on to it is how you make it through each time one step at a time.