We're not supposed to remember our dreams -- at least I've read that this is true. Our minds naturally process information, experiences, emotions and images as we sleep. When our sleep is disturbed -- be it because of a strange sound, a bathroom break, a disturbing dream or even a prolonged sleep session beyond the norm -- we start to remember.
When I was younger, I remember having lots of dreams at a time when my emotional, physical and spiritual being was changing and growing. I'd often have trouble sleeping. There is a portion of Scripture from the prophet Joel that talks about God's spirit pouring out on all people, and there is a particular section that speaks about young men prophesying and dreaming dreams.
One dream that was both disturbing and exhilarating is burned into my memory. Sleeping on the living room couch, rather than in my bed, I was barely covered by a small blanket. As I fell asleep, I remember noting how dark the night was, but I slipped away. At some point I felt as though I'd woken and I was still on my back feeling comfortable, but I was unable to move in the complete darkness. The dream world became reality for a moment. I suddenly was standing in the darkness, and a face the size of a building slowly appeared in front of me. In my mind, I was staring into the face of Satan, the evil one himself.
Every muscle in my body wanted to run, but a thought from my faith life held me still: "God is with me -- I don't need to be afraid."
But I was afraid.
Another thought came stronger and took hold: "If I run now, I'll be afraid forever. God is with me. I can do this."
So I looked into the eyes of the phantom. It was a swarm of colors making a face. The eyes were devilish with cat-like pupils. Fear rolled over my body and left somehow. The dream ended and I realized I hadn't been awake and something important had happened. Staring into the face of evil was both terrifying and eventually cathartic, and my faith was strengthened as I realized that in my real life I would see evils and I would need the same strength not to turn and run away.
Why do I share this moment in my life? I think I'm still trying to process what happened to a group of movie fans in Aurora, Colo. They were in a dark room and had expected to be safe. A door opened and as bullets targeted people, they saw a similar face staring at them. Some of them felt true fear for the first time.
James Holmes, the man who planned a demonstration of how cruel people can be, used other's lives as entertainment, but there was an interesting side effect. In the darkness of chaos, in the face of evil, stories of people saving one another, shielding and caring for one another in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation became national news. News outlets across the country began to tell the story of Allie Young, who had been shot after an initial explosion in the theater. Her friend, Stephanie Davies, immediately covered her. Despite Allie's pleas for Stephanie to run and save herself, like a good friend Stephanie stayed and applied pressure to the wound and made sure her friend got the medical attention she needed. Stephanie became a symbol of how boldness and courage shines in these dark times.
These stories become beacons that can shine like a bright star.
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened." (I Peter 3:13-14)