Monday, January 31, 2011

Dreams of Inadequacy

I have a colleague who is really into dreams.  He keeps a dream journal and does a lot of interpretation, and recently even preached about the importance of dreams in Scripture.  I've never really been that interested in all the dream interpretation stuff, but I do think that dreams can tell us something about what is going on in our own subconsciouses.  Maybe other people's dreams are more cryptic than mine, but generally, if I remember my dreams, they're not exactly subtle.

For example, a few years ago, I had a recurring dream about preaching.  I would be in the middle of a sermon, and the pulpit would start growing.  It got bigger and bigger, and I would find myself peering around it, trying to keep track of my manuscript while still looking out at the congregation.  Finally, the entire pulpit would shatter into pieces, and I would step through the rubble and keep preaching, without the manuscript or the shelter of that  wooden edifice between me and the congregation.  The dream was clearly connected to my growing confidence in preaching and the ability to be more mobile in preaching and ministry in general.  My subconscious kept telling me, "You are ready to drop the crutches and walk on your own."

This week, I've been having somewhat less positive dreams.  I dreamed that I got married to a guy I knew in high school.  The wedding was a disaster, utterly unplanned and chaotic, and I was marrying someone I hadn't really talked to in fifteen years, so the relationship itself lacked any sense of preparation or foundation.  The whole dream carried a feeling of "I should have done more, it's my fault that this is going so badly."  I dreamed that my mother was accusing me of being a failure, and then that a colleague told me I was a bad pastor and should consider other vocations.  I keep having dreams about not doing enough, or being enough.

My subconscious tends toward the overly literal (much like my songwriting, which is never as poetic as I would like), so I wake up and first ask myself questions like:
"Is this an expression of suppressed desire to get married?" (Not so much; I'm pretty sure the wedding would have gone better if that were the case.  But that was the same day that I was working on my wedding files all day and then looking through a friend's wedding pictures.)
"Why is this dude popping up in my dream when we've barely spoken for years?" (Maybe because I happened to look at his Facebook profile just before I went to sleep.)
"Do I think my mom is disappointed in me?" (Nope.)
"Do I believe that my colleague doesn't value my ministry?" (No, he's very thoughtful about making sure I know the exact opposite is true.)

Which leaves me the common theme of all of these dreams: my own sense of inadequacy.  I've paid enough attention to dream interpretation theory to know that dreams are generally not about what other people think of you, they're what you think of you.  And I am in this weird and frustrating stage of having to face significant physical limitations that are lasting longer than any I've had before.  As a result, I fairly consistently feel like I'm not accomplishing enough.  In addition to the temporary injury-related stuff that's going on right now, I've also been having longer-term existential questions about what I'm doing with my life and contributing to the world.  Part of me just wants to be...more.  I'm trying to picture where my life is going from here, but that vision is proving elusive.  I want to be doing something big and exciting, not sitting on my couch and worrying about finding a second van for our mission trip.

So, as I'm figuring out how to balance what could be done vs. what can be done on a daily level, I'm also trying to form a picture of my future in which I can hope for big things and advocate for big change, but not be disappointed in myself if that doesn't mean that I have the big job or the big name.  I want to keep my drive without driving myself into the ground.  I don't want to keep dreaming about inadequacy.

1 comment:

  1. i have recently been having dreams reflecting my own inadequacy (after some investigation) and paid little attention to it, but what you wrote inspired me to think about it more
    " dreams are generally not about what other people think of you, they're what you think of you"

    I really started to trust my dreams too and allow myself to take heed their message as it is a glimpse into into my busy mind that is not at all at ease..