[Written in the late afternoon]
Today I’d like to share with you a dream I had last night. This may be a bit personal for some, but I want to show a little honesty here. It was a rather peculiar dream, one that has been on my mind since I woke up this morning. I’ll have you note that I don’t often have dreams, and I rarely remember them in detail like I do this one. Often, they are terrifying and not worth thinking over. This one, though, seems to linger on, and while it’s personal, I think it brings out some questions that should be discussed. I’m giving the detail because I feel it’s necessary to drive home the point that this was one of the most real dreams I’ve had. That said, if you don’t particularly care for a man’s unconscious thoughts, you’re free to leave, and I wouldn’t hold it against you. If you want to get the end message of this whole thing, go to the last two paragraphs; that should satisfy the point.
The dream began with me sitting down on a carpeted floor in front of a TV, back against the couch, wearing just my undershirt, a pair of sweats, and socks. This isn’t unusual—Flahives (mother’s side of the family) are notorious for skipping the couch and going straight to the floor for comfort. My arm was above my head relaxing on top of it, and the other had the remote. I was flipping through some channels, and came to stop on some newscast about current events; it was the evening sometime after dinner. I can’t seem to recall what the time setting of this little narrative was, but I could tell it was in the future, and the house (it was indeed a house) was not one my conscious self has seen before.
The room I sat in was not dark, but the lights were not strong. If you’ve ever just had a few lamps on (not with those harsh, new eco-lights, but the mild old ones), you know what I’m talking about. The couches were large, but not huge, and not leather. The rug was a slight brown, but not dark. The television was before me, with a fireplace in the wall to my right, and a window facing the front yard to my left. This was obviously a family/living room, and it wasn't just a house, but a home. Funny enough, I didn’t have to guess who’s home this was—it was mine. It wasn’t because it had some setup that I would have. It simply felt like I owned it, that it was mine, and I had a purpose here.
And like dreams happen to do, something random happened. I heard a woman’s voice call out, asking where I was. Without hesitating, I replied, “In here.” At first, I couldn’t tell to whom the voice belonged, but as she entered something clicked (my subconscious, of course) and told me, “Stanton, this is your wife. Newly wed, perhaps a year or two, maybe longer. You don’t have any kids yet, and you’re still young, even if you do live in a nice house. Ignore the seemingly apparent holes here. Just accept it as reality for now.” Again, without hesitation, I did. This was my wife, and she, like myself, was wearing casual cloths: a sweater and some sweats. I won’t go into detail on her physical appearance, but know that the dream constructed a detailed individual who was realistically beautiful.
She came down and sat next to me, my right arm transitioning from resting on my head to resting on her shoulder. We went into some talk on how our days were, what happened, and some other small chat. I don’t really remember those details, but it’s important to know that that type of conversation happened. It grounded the dream in some realistic setting. At some point, I had gone from sitting up to lying down on my back, feet towards the window, and my head in her lap. Immediately I knew why this occurred; one of my all time favorite things is a good head scratching. Not necessarily a massage, but a rub, perhaps. And that was what my wife was giving me.
She then asked a rather specific question: “What do you want most?” Both dream-me and me-me seemed confused. In a reply that totally fits my political ambiguity, I said, “Do you mean immediate, intermediate, or long-term desire?” She pulled my ear hard and demanded all three. I chuckled and replied, “Intermediately, I want what is best for my family; well-being, security, comfort, happiness. I wouldn’t mind a nice job, but that’s not on top of the priority list, unless it leads to helping my family. Long term…” I paused, wondering what else there could be, and I continued, “I suppose salvation and fulfillment of happiness.” I really wasn’t sure how to answer that, and she could tell. She simply kept scratching my head, and gave nothing but a, “Huh.” She wasn’t entirely satisfied with my answer. She moved on and asked about the short-term. I said, “Immediately, I just want my head scratched.” I tilted my head back, and I could see her smile and shake her head. I sat up and said, “But I’d appreciate a kiss, too.” Cue the kiss, the dream ended.
Now, if that seems like a weirdly incredulous and cliché scene, it sort of is. To be quite frank, when I woke up, I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t confused—I knew what happened. It was more a, “The hell was that?” I thought it would just fade away, but throughout the whole day, I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s bugged me for two reasons. One, why did I have this dream (not an abnormal question for dreams) and two, why am I still thinking about it in the first place? I’m still not sure, but I’d like to put some thoughts down.
Let’s answer the first question in part. I’m convinced it must have been something that I experienced that forced my subconscious to contrive a scenario for the experience. I can’t tell you the science on it, but I’m willing to guess there are some psychological theories on dreams. If there are any science folks who work around this area, lemme know! I love scientific explanations, and enjoy a good overview of our natural world. Back to point, I still don’t know what experience would have caused the dream, but I can at least speculate it revolves around the following.
The discernment of vocations is not my forte. In fact, discernment isn’t a forte at all for me. Ask a couple of close friends and family; as it comes to big decisions (not business decisions, mind you, but personal ones), I usually spend a significant amount of time considering it and asking for advice, and after I make the decision I’m still a little hesitant on it. This is something I’ve always struggled with, and my vocation is no different. In fact, I’ve still come to no definitive conclusion. Many men, I think, can sympathize with the frustration of wanting to be a husband and father and the high calling of the priesthood.
Throughout high school, I focused my energies on the priesthood, attending retreats and meeting with seminarians. I nearly entered the seminary a couple of times, only to be resolutely told, “Not quite.” It wasn’t until the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college that I felt a need to actively discern the married life as I had Holy Orders. So, I did, with some good lessons along the way. I won’t extend this already long post by going into those details. But, for the past month, especially now the election is over and my mind is not boggled down with poll anxiety, I’ve been swarmed with questions of mission, purpose, charge, duty, and so on. The real pressing prayers that are constantly on my mind (and perhaps even my heart) are, “Boss, what’s my job? Sure, I know I need to be a saint, and we’ve gone over that. You told me to do my own thing. But, is my thing good for me? I know you’ve got a mission ahead, a purpose. Lay it on me, I’m ready.” The answer? You guessed it. Not much.
Because of this, I usually say, “Ya know, I’m just gonna continue planning everything out, doing my thing, and if the Boss has a different idea, he’ll let me know.” But this has become increasingly insufficient, and there resides a fire in my stomach that simultaneously inflames frustration and passionate desire to know.
So I went back to God. “Ok, Boss. Everyday, I’m gonna say prayers for every good thing that happens. Van to the airport turns around and comes back to get me? Prayer. Flight landed safely? Prayer. Professors are merciful on a late project? Prayer. The only thing I ask, God, is a little hint at what you want me to look at, just a peek into your infinite wisdom and will. That’s all; you want that too, right? Ok, I’m glad we’re on the same page.”
And it’s been a very pleasant experience thus far. I’ve already seen a great improvement in my spiritual battles against temptation and greater acknowledgements of my personal faults (see, humility). But, as it is, there’s not much development on the vocation question.
By this time, if you’ve stuck around long enough, you see where I’m going with this. I’m not saying this dream was some divine intervention from God, but I’m also saying that God has done weirder things and he has a method to his madness (please don’t stone me for heresy; it’s a term of art, folks).
I do, however, think there’s some larger reason behind this dream. It had a clear vision of married life, and it was very, very happy. It wasn't just pleasurable, but it had great joy in it. I think one of the reasons this dream has lingered all day is because I felt as if I was missing out on something when the dream was over; similar to when a movie is done and you feel left wanting more. Now, I know the dream didn’t say, “Hey, find yourself a woman to love and love you.” What it does say, though, is far more pertinent and helpful.
“Stanton, don’t despair. Your frustration is heard and your heart’s desires are known. Your 'long term wants' of salvation, which were bland, are part of something greater. I put them there. They will be answered and fulfilled; do not let this passion turn to anxiety. I will provide all things for you, including the answers. Pray to me, and you will not be left wanting. Love me, and you will be fulfilled.”
And this is what the post is all about. Your entire life is oriented towards God, and every individual has a specific way in how that is achieved. Here’s the kicker: it’s ok if you don’t know what that way is. In all things, and I’ve come to find out from experience, it is IN ALL THINGS that God provides. In everyway you can think of he makes sure you are taken care of and the events around your life point towards your ultimate good and happiness. Of course, it’s not a free ride. Frustrations and suffering must happen. And you have to amend your life a little into wanting his will, to pray for the good and to be thankful. It’s as remarkably simple as that. Easy? Maybe not always.
So, I encourage you to consider this: should you find yourself frustrated and on the brink of anxiety, make the same petition I did. It’s not a bargain/bribe/deal. It’s a partnership, a relationship. God wants me to follow his will and to pray. I want to understand what I need to do, and I’d like to have a better spiritual life. For my prayer, God will show me his will. Simple as that.
For the end-of-the-post one liner, here it is. Pray to God for your vocation by praying to God about everything not about your vocation, and eventually, by that constant prayer and reliance on God, you will learn your vocation.