It was during Easter Sunday morning service when I traveled back to a disturbing event nearly 40 years ago. I was in an old pickup truck but couldn’t make out who the driver was or why we were …
It was during Easter Sunday morning service when I traveled back to a disturbing event nearly 40 years ago. I was in an old pickup truck but couldn’t make out who the driver was or why we were traveling up the steep mountain road; there had obviously been some beverage and thought-clouding weed consumed earlier.
All seemed to be slow motion as I noticed huge rock formations, a la Mount Rushmore far above us. I asked my mystery driver, “Who is that highest one supposed to be?” He said, “Oh, that one’s called Jesus Christ; it has always been there and will never fall.”
He had barely finished answering when the earth around us began to shake and dislodged rocks rumbled down the mountain. An earthquake — I was sure of that.
My eyes remained locked on that huge highest formation, when to to my terror, it swayed ominously back and forth before it finally toppled over the edge of the cliff. Suddenly I, too, was somehow transported to the earth, standing next to a gaping, crater hole wafting hot smoke and ash. Within seconds, from the bottomless abyss, a striking figure began elevating, as in levitation. I immediately knew it was that rock formation come-to-life and looked exactly as portrayed in Sunday school so long ago.
Then I saw my constant-prayerful mother standing nearby, staring into me with deep sadness. Christ slowly walked to her, turning her around as he draped his robed arm in front of her eyes to shield her sight of me. I tried to run toward them, pleading, “Wait, let me go with you!” The glowing, bearded man turned his face back toward me and a lone tear rolled down his cheek as he said, “You never knew me then; I do not know you now.”
In an instant, they were both gone and I was left behind. I found myself being forced in the opposite direction as my mind flooded with memories of the countless times I had heard my mother praying for me to return to our little Church of God, and all the times I let her down by not showing up. I was usually worshiping at LaPorta’s Bar.
And then … I’m sitting up in bed looking at my little apartment, bedroom curtains and realize I had just had another one of “the dreams” — this one far more realistically vivid than any previous. When you’re raised in a Pentecostal church, versed in the horrors of being “left behind,” aware of a mother’s unceasing prayers, all while partying away your 20s, those familiar curtains are the most beautiful sight imaginable. Life goes on (but I immediately called my sister, just to be sure).
CMA Pastor Randy Shaw’s Easter sermon had stirred my memory, particularly the part about Jesus crying out, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me,” and “God turned his back on him.” It summoned my horrible dream scene when Christ turned his back and led my sad mother away.
Although I had bolted awake in a frenzied sweat soon after that point, I later created a “Part II; Playing Poker in Hell” sequel for my only writing class ever — a fiction course taught by Mike Riley back in ’88. I’m not sure if my classmates realized every word of Part I was true; dream-wise it was 100% non-fiction.
That dream full of frightful symbolism affected me so profoundly that it was years before I could tell it without becoming emotional. Fire and brimstone upbringing and a saintly mother praying endlessly for one’s soul can do that to a fragile psyche. Between my alcohol binges and gambling trips to wicked Vegas, my wild, “fun” years were lived out in the shadow of impending, eternal doom. Talk about a living, conflicted dichotomy!
Those once-frequent dreams are extremely rare in these later years. I’m now secure enough in my state of repentant grace to have shaken most of those well-intended, but emotionally-damaging horror sermons of my youth. I can honestly say I’m thankful to not be “living the dream.”