Bright Lights in the Dark
By Daniel Griswold
Original Text: Written for “The Island Packet” Bluffton Edition
You’re not supposed to remember your dreams. At least I’ve read that this is true. Your mind naturally processes information, experiences, emotions and images as you sleep regularly. When our sleep is disturbed for some reason, be it a strange sound or a bathroom break or a disturbing dream or even a prolonged sleep session beyond the norm – we start to remember. In my adolescence is when I remember having lots of dreams at a time when my emotional, physical and spiritual being was in a swirl of change and growth. I’d often have trouble sleeping, and often had a hard time staying asleep through the night. There is even a portion of scripture from the prophet Joel that talks about God’s spirit pouring out on all people, and there is a particular section speaking about young men prophesying and dreaming dreams.
One dream that was both disturbing and exhilarating is burned into my memory. Sleeping on the living room couch, rather than in my own bed, I was barely covered by a small blanket. As I fell asleep, I remember noting how dark the night was, but I slipped away. At some point I felt like I’d woken, and I was still on my back feeling comfortable, but unable to move in complete darkness. Though I hadn’t woken up, I thought I had and the dream world became reality for a moment. I suddenly was standing in the darkness and a face the size of a building slowly appeared in front of me. In my mind, I was staring into the face of Satan, the evil one himself.
Every muscle in my body wanted to run but a thought from my faith life held me still. “God is with me – I don’t need to be afraid.” But I was afraid. Another thought came, stronger and took hold, “If I run now, I’ll be afraid forever. God is with me. I can do this.” So I looked into the eyes of the phantom. It was like a swarm of colors making a face. The eyes were stereotypically devilish with the cat like pupils. Fear rolled over my body and left somehow. The dream ended and I realized I hadn’t been awake and something important had happened. Staring into the face of evil was both terrifying and eventually cathartic and my faith was strengthened as I realized that in my real life I would see evils and I would need the same strength not to turn and run away.
Why do I share this moment in my life? I think I’m still trying to process what happened last week in Aurora to a group of movie fans. They were in a dark room and had expected to be safe. A door opened and as bullets targeted people, they saw a similar face staring at them and for some of them they felt true fear for the first time. James, the young man who had decided and planned a demonstration of how cruel humanity can be, used other’s lives as entertainment but there was an interesting side effect.
In the darkness of chaos, in the face of evil, stories of people standing and saving one another, shielding and caring for one another in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation became national news. News outlets across the country, even while the press was seeking information, began to tell the story of Allie Young, who had been shot right after an initial explosion in the movie theater. Her friend, Stephanie Davies immediately covered her. Despite Allie’s pleas for Stephanie to run and save herself, like a good friend she stayed and applied pressure to the wound and made sure that her friend got the attention she needed. Stephanie became a symbol of how boldness and courage shines in these dark times. These stories become beacons that can shine like a bright star.
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
(1 Peter 3:13-14)
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