I have very very vivid dreams. They are so real that it can take days to shake them, the reality of them. One of the great things about being married was that I could nudge poor George and say “Have we ever walked across a crystal bridge in Iran?” and my long suffering husband would reply, without even opening his eyes “Not that I can remember.” And there are bad dreams too, not always crystal bridges in an exotic landscape…. But now there is no one to tell me when my dreams aren’t true, no one to help me out of the confusion and daze of waking in the early hours in maybe another, harder time. So I just wait, I drowse and wait for the dreams to go and reality to return.
This morning I drowsed a long long time and my mind became a sort of dull and banal kaleidoscope. No amazing colours but quite a few dull scenes. It would be good, wouldn’t it, if we could take our brains out and give them a good wash?
When an image, or a memory comes to mind suddenly, unbidden, it can be either a little gift or a damn nuisance. A sudden image of somewhere you’ve not thought about for years, a scene that had slipped into your subconscious, a face or voice you once knew can somehow realign your day and either lift or drag you down. There’s a verse in the New Testament (don’t ask me where, I’m sitting here in my pj’s and it’s not even 6am and my brain is foggy) that tells us to take our thoughts captive. I think the meaning is that when thoughts are negative, or fearful, or not glorifying God, don’t be overrun by them – instead overrun them with good thoughts. This morning as I drowsed in bed, awake far too early and so tired (weird, eh, the more tired I am the earlier I wake), I remembered something that must have happened about 10 years ago.
I was on the writing team for Coronation Street, and this meant a meeting in Manchester about every three weeks. My very old parents lived in Norfolk and I would visit them every month at least, sometimes more. The Corrie job meant a four drive through the little towns of mid Wales and over the high roads of the north, a slog through traffic delays and ring roads and motorways until, finally, the very centre of Manchester. The trip to Norfolk was even longer – 5 or 6 hours, and the roads across the heart of England were lousy. My life was, for several years, a treadmill of meetings, driving, fretting, sorting, deadlines and exhaustion. There was little choice – I had to earn extremely well to keep my parents in the lifestyle they demanded (not joking) and I became a sort of mindless automaton. I did it because I did it, because I did it. I could see no alternative to this crazy lifestyle.
One night, returning very late from Corrie, as I drove through some small Welsh village, I saw a fish and chip shop and – miracle of miracles!- it was open. I hadn’t eaten since the sandwich lunch, so I stopped and went in, relishing the thought of chips and vinegar and maybe a too-heavily-breaded sausage. Ooh. Wonder if they do mushy peas? Heaven.
Now, bloggies, I am not a prude. I love words, I am irreverent, I like a good swear-up occasionally, and I don’t get offended by any play on any phrase or name or saying… Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me (or you). There was just one person in front of me being served and as I waited I saw a beautifully lettered chalkboard, advertising ‘Almighty Cod’. Next to the words someone had drawn a pair of praying hands. Almighty Cod. I turned and walked out of the shop. Even as I did so, I wasn’t sure why. There was just something in that moment, in my tired and hungry brain, that couldn’t take the slight light mockery. I went home hungry. That should have told me that I was in love with someone, but instead I just wondered why I was being so unreasonable. It should have told me that God mattered to me, but instead I clambered back on the treadmill and kept going, head down. It should have told me that there was more to this moment than met the eye.
The wee still voice of our innermost heart.
I did a little study yesterday about the phrase ‘Every man has a God-shaped hole in his heart’, wondering where it came from. Apparently it first appeared in the writings of some dude called Blaise Pascal in 1670. I think that when I went into the chip shop that night, my tiredness stripped away the veneer of my life and revealed the God-shaped hole. When I lay in bed this morning, hardly stringing two thoughts together, and went tumbling back to that chip shop, I realised that, however stupid my life becomes (and it’s a bit stupid at the moment), I need to listen for the small still voice. Whether I’m in a chip shop and it whispers ‘You love God, you love God. You love God – so why are you ignoring Him?’ or in bed ten years later and I hear ‘This is not the way…. re-think’, or sitting at my Mac writing to you, and I hear a whisper… I will listen. I will.
God is good, and ever present, and in our hearts and in our minds, and we need to calm, to steady, to listen. And then bloomin’ well obey.
Today I will rethink. And pray. There’s a thought!