Dreaming is a necessity

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep." (Genesis 15:12)

Mother's Day is fast approaching. I've got some time to think about what to do for my mother and mother-in-law back in Pennsylvania. But knowing what my wife wants for this special occasion is never a problem. For years now, Lois has wanted the same thing on the second Sunday in May. But I'll get to that shortly.

Anna Jarvis, a homemaker from Grafton, W.Va., came up with the idea of a day to honor all mothers and sold it to President Woodrow Wilson, who established the special commemoration in 1914. Jarvis, by the way, ended up regretting her actions, lamenting the commercialization of Mother's Day. The holiday has become the largest single day for long-distance telephone calls in the United States. Two of those calls will be mine. But let's get back to my wife.

Lois doesn't want flowers. She doesn't want to go a fancy restaurant, or any restaurant. She could care less about a present. All she wants for Mother's Day is -- wait for it -- a nap. Like old Abram, the first patriarch of the Hebrews, she'd like to fall deep into REM slumber. Our collective gift to her, as her family, is to be quiet that afternoon so she can get some recreational sleep. This has always seemed to me to be a quintessentially prudent and reasonable gift to give. "Mom's asleep. Leave her alone, it's Mother's Day." "Oh, right."

I've never understood people who say, "I don't need sleep. I'll get enough sleep when I'm dead." Without denying the logic of that statement, let me offer a contrary opinion. If a person says the aforementioned, it betrays an opinion that sleep has no benefits beyond basic physical renewal and that we should only unwillingly bend to the demands of the body and close our eyes for a few hours. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, agreed with this view and used to brag about how little slumber he required.

I beg to differ. The only way to dream is to sleep. Dreaming is absolutely necessary. I feel so strongly about the benefits to be found in dreams that I proposed -- unsuccessfully -- a doctoral project on the topic at Eden Theological Seminary. The learned men and women of the faculty determined dreams were not an appropriate theme of theological inquiry. You can't fight the academy, so I'm moving on. But my interest in dreams remains strong, project or not.

There is a school of thought that claims dreaming is simply the shedding of unneeded and unwanted electronic impulses in our brains, sort of a mental "dumpster dump." You have to ignore an awful lot of the Bible to go down the road of assigning dreams to the proverbial landfill. Dreams may be the only time in which God has our complete and undivided attention.

I'm persuaded that in a handful of dreams, no more than that, God has revealed a direction for me to follow in my life. The book of Acts doesn't pooh-pooh dreams: "In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people ... your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." (Acts 2:17)

Long story short: Lois will get her Mother's Day wish next Sunday. To quote the Bard in "Hamlet," she will "sleep, perchance to dream."

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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