“What if you slept,” asked Samuel T. Coleridge. “And what if, in your sleep you dreamed? And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven. And what if, in heaven, you plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if, when you awoke, you held the flower in your hand?”
Why can’t I have a dream like this? Most of my dreams take place anywhere but in heaven and I wake up to anything but a flower in my hand or a good feeling in my heart.
Such as it was with last night’s dream.
I was walking across the parking lot at Dillard’s Department Store at the St. Matthew’s Mall in Louisville. In my left hand, I carried something I needed to exchange. What it was, I do not recall.
In my right hand, however, I was pulling a suitcase on wheels. That’s right. The suitcase I pull onto planes as I travel around the country visiting clients.
Tell me this isn’t weird!
Why would I be pulling my suitcase into Dillards? Stranger still, in my dream, and on my mind as I pulled the suitcase into Dillards was the fact that it was Saturday morning and I had all but forgotten to prepare a sermon for Sunday morning church. It was a feeling of sheer panic that I knew so well believing my judgers would judge me more harshly than ever if I wasn’t adequately prepared.
There was a time when I knew this fear well…call it anxiety…even panic. I lived with it weekly and worried about it daily. But that was another lifetime. I have not been a pastor…or a preacher…with the need to prepare a weekly sermon for more than a decade.
Now, I’m no Jungian interpreter of dreams. But I think I get this one.
As a minister, I lived weekly with the fear of standing before a crowd of judgmental churchgoers who were dutifully fulfilling their spiritual obligations and wondering if I was going to be entertaining enough…good enough that Sunday…awesome enough in my delivery…spellbinding enough in what I believed they expected to be a flawlessly delivered sermon…punctuated with just enough jokes to hold their easily bored minds at attention. I knew if I did not, their wandering minds would escape, as they dreamed of shorter sermons and a head start on the Methodists down the street during the Sunday rush to the restaurants after church.
While I no longer live with these fears…except perhaps in an occasional bizarre dream…I still know what it’s like to feel judged by those who say their church is a “judge-free zone.” I still know what it’s like to feel worthless…to believe I’m not quite good enough…or deserving enough…or even adequate enough.
You only ever feel worthless if you believe you’re worthless. So what do you believe about yourself? What are your nightmares? What does the voice in your head say to you? About you?
It’s amazing how much you and I drag through life a suitcase of negativity and negative self-judgment.
Know what I’ve learned?
The worst judge doesn’t sit in pews. He lives instead in the baggage of my mind. The worst nightmares I have are not those that take place between eleven at night and six in the morning. It’s the nightmare inside my head…the stuff I say to myself about my self that’s simply not true.
Know what I’m say’in?
Here’s the real truth: You are an infinitely wonderful creation of God. But your worth is not in what you do…or what you achieve…or the books you write or the crowds you amaze…or the degrees that hang on your wall.
Nope, the real truth is, you are.
And that, my friend, is enough!
But only if you believe it!