Have you ever awoken from a dream and been shocked at how fake the world seemed? It’s as if the dream was actually more real than what everyone else calls “reality.” That has been happening to me a lot lately. It has been happening so much, in fact, that I’m beginning to doubt which world is actually the real one.
My life is dull. I wake up, go to work, come home, waste time, then go to sleep. It is a cycle of the most mundane repetition. Of course, there are days when the world seems good. There are days I spend with friends and everything seems perfect. There are times when I visit new places and discover new ways to have fun. But ultimately, it all leads back to the same unfulfilling cycle. The time I spent with my friends becomes a memory. The new places I visit, I eventually must leave. The exciting new ways of having fun become my old ways of having fun and they soon become rather boring. I have been living this life of utter vanity since I was born.
But in the midst of all this vanity, I began to dream…
I found myself waking up for the first time in a whole new world entirely. I remembered my other world all too well—that world where I lived unfulfilled. This world I woke up to, however, was different. My heart felt alive for the first time. It felt like every breath I took in this world was pure life flowing into me. It was a feeling that can only be understood by those who have also experienced it. And now that I experienced it, I never wanted it to leave.
I was riding in a carriage. A man was sitting next to me, watching me as I looked out the window curiously. We were traveling through a street in a town that seemed to be in the early 19th century. Outside, I saw men and women running through the streets, holding their hands or cloths over their faces. Nobody outside was standing still or even walking for that matter. They were either running, or they were not outside.
“What is wrong with this place?” I asked out-loud.
The man next to me replied, “In this world, there is not much air. All the air we have is found only indoors so anyone who stays outside for too long will suffocate.”
“That is the way it has always been. At least, it has been that way ever since the great fall of our ancestors.”
“The great fall?” I asked curiously.
“When we were first created, our world was full of air—but it had so much more than just air! It was filled with everything good. Life was perfect. But our ancestors ruined that by acting out on their selfish desire to obtain greatness. In doing that, they caused the air’s presence to diminish and they were forced to construct buildings where the air could still be found.”
Admittedly, the logic in that was too strange for me to understand it, but I nodded my head then remained silent until I noticed that the very carriage I was in was being pulled by two horses. “But if there is no air, how are those horses able to survive?”
“The horses?” The man looked at the animals with a confused look on his face. “Ah! Of course! Forgive me. Sometimes I forget how little newcomers know of this world.” He chuckled. “Beasts are not like man. They were not given the Breath of Life. Because our Creator breathed his air into us, we are dependent on his breath to survive. That is the air in this world—his breath.”
I had never believed fully in a creator. Some days the idea of God did seem to make some sense, but I never gave that idea enough credit to devote any loyalty to it. I thought, “Even if there is a God, why should that have any effect on me?” But now that I was in this new world, I felt ashamed for thinking those thoughts. The air I was breathing certainly felt like a, “Breath of Life.”
A few minutes passed and I noticed a few men with torches in their hands. They came from a building with the torches already lit, then quickly ran to a house within breathing distance, threw the torches into the house, then ran back to the building they came from before they suffocated.
The man next to me seemed to notice that I was confused and rather upset about what I saw, and before I asked anything, he answered, “That building had lost its ability to house the air. It was corrupted and no longer served any purpose.”
I remained silent for the last five minutes of our carriage ride, observing the strange behavior of the people in the streets and wondering at the feeling this Breath of Life brought.
Presently we stopped at a large, beautiful temple. The man next to me beckoned for us to get out so I opened the carriage door and did so. As soon as my feet hit the ground outside, I tried to breath, but instead began gagging because of my inability to do so. Immediately, all the vanity of my “real” life rushed into my mind and my heart grew heavy and sick. I stumbled to my knees from my unexpected suffocation and began to panic, but the man with me quickly pulled me to my feet and rushed me into to the temple where again I inhaled and felt the Breath of Life return to me.
The temple was filled with people. Some were on their knees praying while the others were seated in chairs listening to a man giving a speech. The man who was with me went ahead of me and found a seat of his own. I followed him and sat at his side. I had trouble focusing on the man giving the speech. I was too curious about everyone else to give him my full attention. I did, however, still hear bits of what he said:
“…And do not steal from your neighbor, nor look longingly at what is his, for there is no room for the air where envy is present…”
My mind went back to my other life. I realized that my nearly everything I had was based on envy. The car I owned, I only owned because I wanted to look more successful than my friends who had always flaunted their wealth in my face arrogantly. Nearly everything I bought, I bought because I was jealous of someone else—even though I could not really afford it. And as for actually stealing—yes, I knew I had had my share in that crime as well.
“…And do not lie or bear false witness about anyone, for deceit is detestable to our creator and against all that he is. For he is truth…”
I began growing uneasy. I lied more often than I spoke the truth. I wanted to impress those around me, and I felt that the truth was not very impressive. I wanted to hold onto the friendships I had, and I feared the truth would only result in my loneliness and rejection. I did not know how not to lie.
“…And do not lust. And have no sexual relations with anyone but your own wife, for sexual immorality will surely lead to death…”
My heart tightened painfully inside of my chest. I did not have a wife, but I was very familiar with “sexual immorality.” I wanted to weep because of the detestable life I had been living, but my desire to keep from looking weak was stronger. However, I could hardly bear the conviction inside of me. I had to do something to escape that feeling. So instead, I fled.
I got out of my seat and hurried out of the temple. Upon exiting the building, I quickly surveyed my surroundings. I noticed the smoke from the burning house I saw earlier rising to the sky. I saw a couple people rushing from one building to the next. Despite my efforts, a tear formed in my eye. “What hope then do I have?” I wondered.
Then, in my foolishness, I fled further. I saw a hill just outside the small town where there were no buildings. Not caring about my fate, I ran toward the hill thinking, “If death is my fate, then why delay it?”
I did not make it far at all before my inability to breath caused my vision to darken and the strength in my legs to fail. With the last of my consciousness, I looked back at the hill. It was too dark to really see anything, and I thought I also felt the earth shaking violently. Then, just as my consciousness forsook me, I heard a voice that seemed to resonate through the whole world. “Eli, Eli, lema sebachthani?”
I awoke from that dream with a long, deep breath. The air I inhaled was dead. Immediately, my heart grew very heavy. I sat up and looked around my room and saw the decorations and accessories I had put so much money into accumulating for myself. Such vanity!
With no desire to do so, I slowly got out of bed and prepared for another day of work. As I walked to my car, I remembered the pride I had when I first bought that vehicle. I remember thinking, “Now people will really respect me.” But this time, as I looked at it, I despised it. I am destined for death. What worth does any of this have?
It was a Friday and when my day at work came to an end, some friends of mine, seeing that I had been depressed all day, urged me to go to the bar with them. I eventually agreed after they pushed through my first three rejections.
I had no desire to drink, so I ended up spending thirty minutes on a single glass of beer. My friends laughed and joked around me, trying to pull my mind back to reality, but my reality was wavering between this life and what I had experienced in my dream.
At one point, my closest friend came up next to me and pointed out a woman across the bar who, according to him, seemed very interested in me. I looked over at her and she quickly met my gaze and smiled. I did not smile back. Instead, I looked away in order to keep my heart from sinking even deeper into the despair I felt.
“What’s wrong with you, man? That, right there, is an attractive woman. If you won’t talk to her, I’m going to.” My friend was already drunk.
I grew irritated. Very irritated. I clenched my hand into a fist, and as my friend turned to walk over to the woman, I slammed my fist on the counter in front of me. “What’s the point?!” I cried out. Everyone around me grew silent and stared at me. “We’re all just going to wake up tomorrow worse off than we are today. We’ll just be one day closer to death, and one day further into this wretched life we’ve created for ourselves!”
“What’s gotten into you?” My friend grew defensive.
“Go ahead, talk to her. Follow where that leads.” I picked up my jacket to leave and as I headed for the door, I continued, “And when you wake up in the morning, tell me if that emptiness in your heart has gone away yet.”
By the time my anger had passed and I came back to myself, I found myself at home, alone in the dark, weeping bitterly on the floor. “I can’t do this anymore!” I screamed. Only silence answered me. “Is there any hope at all? Or am I doomed to continue in this living death until true death takes me?” Still the quietness of my lonely house was the only response I received.
I continued to weep with no sense of time passing around me. Without realizing it, I slowly grew weary and my thoughts began fading in and out of reality as dreams began to form in my mind. The floor I was lying on and the wetness on my eyes disappeared for a moment and I heard someone calling my name softly. I saw the hill I had been running toward before and on it stood a cross. The world felt solemn.
But suddenly, my thoughts returned to reality and I became aware of how uncomfortable the floor was. I made half an effort to get up and get into my bed, but my sorrow and tiredness dissuaded me from doing so. I laid my face against my carpet and mumbled, “I need help.” Then my reality switched over to my dreams.
I was lying on the softest grass I had ever felt when I came to my senses. The air I breathed brought an even greater sense of life to me than the last time I was in this world. I heard the beautiful sound of a woman singing softly nearby so I lifted my head and looked around to find her.
I spotted her sitting under a large oak tree with her back propped against its trunk. She was holding a daisy in her hand, examining it delightedly as she sang. When she noticed my movement, she looked up at me and smiled.
“You came back.”
I did not recognize the woman, but I immediately felt like I knew her as though we were bound by something stronger than our minds. “I feel new.” I replied.
She laughed joyfully. “You are new!” She lifted herself to her feet and frolicked toward me, giggling the whole time. When she reached me, she immediately took my hand and placed the daisy she was holding in it then looked deep into my eyes. “I’m so excited to meet you.”
I was speechless, but the expression on my face must have told her I felt the same way because she smiled with the most angelic smile I had ever seen then laughed again.
“But aren’t I supposed to be dead?”
“Why do you think you are supposed to be dead?”
I felt ashamed to tell her. There was something about her that made her seem more innocent than a child. I did not want my past to harm that innocence. But still I replied, “I have done terrible things—things against our creator that are worthy of death.”
“Mmm,” She held her hands behind her back as she turned away from me and began sauntering slowly back toward the oak at the top of the hill. After taking a few steps, she stopped and said, “We are all deserving of death. I, myself have committed some of the worst of crimes. But there was one who was completely innocent.” She beckoned for me to follow her as she began walking again toward the tree.
I ran a few steps to catch up with her then walked at her side. She continued, “This one who was innocent—he was the son of our God. In innocence he lived with us, and in innocence he died by our hands.” I looked at her and saw tears forming in her eyes which caused my heart to sink.
We reached the oak tree and she stopped at its trunk and laid her hand gently on it. “Here is where our Savior died, but death could not hold him. In his death, he gave life back to the world as he, himself, became life.”
“That is why the Breath of Life is no longer confined to indoors?” I asked.
“Indeed. Our savior overcame the law and now nothing stands between us and him. His breath dwells within us now.”
“But my past is still heavy with the terrible things I have done. I am still deserving of death.”
“How do you feel about the sins you have committed?”
“They are abominable! I despise them with every part of my heart!”
The woman smiled. “The innocence of our savior was poured out upon us, making innocent those who love him. With repentance, every dark part of our hearts is made pure and our condemnation is lifted. You have a repentant heart and so there is now no reason to fear death.”
“I don’t deserve such grace. When I committed my crimes, I knew what I was doing. It was not in ignorance that I lived in debauchery. I chose to lead an evil life.”
“That is what was. Now it is time to decide what is and will be. Do you wish to continue in that lifestyle?”
“No! I would do anything to make sure I never become that way again.”
The woman took my hand in hers and began walking again. “Come with me.” She led me down the hill on which we stood and to a river about half a mile away. We stopped at its bank and she looked lovingly into my eyes and said, “Here is where we can overcome our past. Here, we can put to death the evil that once ruled us.”
I did not need to be told what to do. Immediately, I entered the river and waded deeper into it until I could no longer touch the bottom and still breathe. Instead of swimming, however, I let the water cover me as I exhaled until I had no breath left in me. I then waited.
It is a strange feeling to describe. The air in my physical body was gone, but I still felt the Breath of Life in me. I felt half of me suffocating while the other half flourished. Soon, the part of me that was suffocating could endure no more, and I felt myself die. But immediately, I felt more alive than ever before.
I opened my eyes and saw my old body sink to the bottom of the river. I smiled. Who I was, is no more. I spread out my arms and pushed down against the water and shot to the surface. As I swam back to the river bank, the woman met me in the water and pulled me to my feet. She opened her mouth to speak, but finding no words as she looked at me, she simply smiled admiringly. “You look wonderful,” she eventually said.
The rest of my day was perfect. The woman continued to show me around this new life-filled world. I met many new people who were all just as wonderful as her—although none of them touched my heart quite like she did.
We all began fellowshipping until a grand dinner was prepared. Together, we sat and ate to our fill. The food satisfied me in a whole new way. It seemed to be nourishing my spirit as well as every other part of me.
Evening came and music and laughter filled the air as we began to dance and celebrate more. Thinking back, I realize it might seem strange to others who have not been to that world that we would be having a festival for no particular reason. Our reason was simply that we had life. Celebration grew to be a part of our lifestyle.
The night grew late and serenity came as the music and dancing slowed down. I was sitting in the grass next to the woman I had quickly grown very close to. I felt like I was home. I felt for the first time in my life that everything was as it should be. As we talked, I said something that made her laugh, and as she laughed, I could do nothing but stare and admire her. But then, for just the quickest moment, I blinked.
As my eyes reopened, I saw the white carpet of my living room in my house, in the reality that I felt now, more than ever, was just a lie. To my delight, I still had joy and peace bubbling inside of me, but that only helped convince me that my dream world was the real one.
After getting up and preparing for the day, a lamp I owned caught my attention. It was sitting on an elegant end table in a room full of expensive furnishings I rarely used. I walk over to the lamp and examined it. It had cost me over three-hundred dollars and I couldn’t remember the last time I even turned it on.
With a strange sense of curiosity, I unplugged the lamp from the wall, picked it up, and threw it against the ground. I smiled as I looked at its shattered pieces. If it really mattered, it would not have been able to be broken.
I was tempted to think I had completely lost my mind. I suppose anyone who knew the thoughts going through my mind would have thought so. Actually, that’s exactly what people did think.
Remembering the night before at the bar, I called my friend who I had yelled at to apologize. He accepted my invitation for lunch and as we ate together, I told him all about my dreams and how I was really starting to believe that this world was not necessarily a reality that mattered. He did not agree with my logic.
The response I received for my story was ridicule and even a bit of anger. I did not understand why my friend would be mad at me for my beliefs, but he was. He told me I had lost my mind. He told me I even looked crazy. He told me I was not acting like myself, and that he did not like the person I was now. I did not know how to respond.
As we left each other, I felt a heavy burden on my heart. If only he could dream like I do.
Weeks passed. I continued to dream and I continued to wake again. I began to lose my sense of which world I was actually waking from and which one I was waking to, but it stopped mattering as much because they both seemed to affect each other in many ways so I took them both seriously—although I use the term, “seriously,” in a loose way.
While I was in the world that was full of life, I continued to enjoy it and learn more about it; and while I was in the world I had always known, I tried to share my dreams with everyone I could. In the latter world, I continued to meet ridicule and difficulties. In the former world, I continued to be delighted. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, things began to change.
In the world where my joy was made complete, everything seemed perfect. I had grown to love the woman who welcomed me. I learned more about the meaning of life and God and the Breath of Life and many other good things. My purpose finally made sense to me. But then we began hearing rumors of war.
I was shocked. How could there be a war in a place like this? I only knew peace in that world, as did everyone else. What reason could there be for war? As time passed, I learned of our enemy who’s only goal and motivation seemed to be to ruin our peace and destroy us. Beyond that, I had no desire to learn more about them.
In my other world, a friend of mine confronted me excitedly and told me that he dreamed of the world I talked so much about. He told me that I was right about everything and asked me to meet with him regularly to share our dreams. Joyfully I accepted.
I woke up one day to the Breath of Life flowing strongly within me. There was something strange about this day. My heart was restless and an ominous feeling lingered over me. I looked out at the horizon and saw dark, eerie clouds gathering and making their way gradually toward me and the village I had grown to love. I was on the hill that I normally found myself on whenever I reenter this world, so quickly I ran to the village to find the meaning of what I saw.
My curiosity was quickly and painfully satisfied as I stepped into the street and saw people hurrying in every direction, taking up arms and preparing defenses against an attack. In hopes of finding an alternative to the truth, I called a man aside and asked him what was happening.
“Our enemy is on their way here. By evening, this whole place will be a battleground.”
My first thought was of the safety of the woman I loved. Desperately I began to seek her out, but in the excitement, I could not find her. Against the will of my heart, I had to give up my search in order to help my brothers prepare for the coming battle.
The dark clouds grew nearer and nearer and as the sun began to set at our backs, they overcame us from the east. It became difficult to see. As I looked for a sign of the enemy, I saw shadows of men and cannons rise over the hill where I first awoke. My grip on the rifle in my hands grew tight.
Soon, everything became chaos as guns went off around me and buildings cracked from the impact of cannonballs. I remember little of the battle. I can only recall the terror inside of me for the safety of those I loved as I fought for the hope of saving them.
The battle lasted through the night and just as the sun first appeared on the horizon, everything grew silent. I saw no sign of our enemy. They may have retreated, but by how suddenly they were gone, I could only conclude they had simply disappeared.
I looked around at what remained of our town. It was in ruins. I saw wounded men all around me, moaning in agony. Those unharmed were doing what they could to tend to the wounds of their companions. But my mind was set on finding one person: the woman I loved.
I cried out for her. I searched every street and every building but found no sign of her. I asked everyone I met if they had seen her. None of them had. So I continued to search—my heart growing heavier every second. Finally, when it grew too heavy, I fell to my knees and wept. I had been unable to save her.
When I awoke in my bed, I was still weeping. The sense of loss burned my heart torturously. “It was only a dream,” I kept thinking to myself. But I knew that was not true. It was so much more than a dream—it was the revelation of my spirit.
Months have passed and I no longer dream. But I am different now. Work is no longer just, “work.” Life is no longer just, “life.” My dreams have become a part of me and although I can no longer go to that world which I so dearly love, I know that it is entwined with the life I have now.
What began as me and my one other friend meeting regularly to discuss our dreams has grown into a group of over twenty people meeting and celebrating our revelation. When I am with them I can feel my dreams closer to my heart. It is as if in those moments the world I love is one with this world and I can feel the Breath of Life rush into my lungs.
That can happen anywhere, really. All it takes to bring my dreams into reality is to see beyond the vanity of this life—to look past the veil into the real reality. Watching a bird take flight and wondering at the magnificence of its creator… Observing the innocent and delighted laughter of a child… Laying down one’s own desires and comfort for the sake of another… These are all things that cause my two worlds to meet.
It is a unique gift—being able to see beyond this world’s veil. I know that I am blessed to have it. My dreams have opened my eyes to things most people will never see. I see beauty in things that are so often overlooked. I see splendor where none would expect it. They are God’s fingerprints.
But my heart remains heavy. I have been blessed with so much, but there is one last longing in my heart.
I had just finished meeting with my friends. As usual, we had a wonderful time talking about our revelation. It was around six-o’-clock and today I just did not feel like going back to my empty house. Instead, I went to a coffee shop to read the best book ever written.
I often randomly opened my book and read the first thing I saw. This time, I opened it to the beginning of Song of Solomon. I chuckled. Not for me. It seemed like a better evening for Psalms, so I turned the pages back and read from there.
After about ten minutes, another customer entered the shop and as I always did, I glanced up for a brief moment to acknowledge whoever came in. My heart stopped. I slowly got out of my chair as the guest looked at me. I tried to move, but my legs felt weak and I was afraid that any attempt to do so would only send me to the floor.
Matching my unbroken gaze, the woman from my dreams slowly walked over to me. We stared at each other for what seemed an eternity, entranced. Finally, tears formed in her eyes and she smiled. “You found me,” she said.
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