Until reaching middle age, I rejected the information dreams offered as mere concoctions of my unconscious mind, influenced by happenings of my day, or what I ate before going to bed. I now see dreams as gifts from a loving God who is guiding me day and night.
Around 1983, I had a dream that ultimately landed me at West Hills Friends, but it took about fifteen years to get me there. I had a lot of growing to do. At the time of the dream, I was an active member of a kindly, liberal Episcopal Church, but found the liturgy and hierarchy stifling. A numinous conversion experience at sixteen had led to my baptism by a beloved Episcopal priest. I still felt loyal to the denomination, despite my longing for something more resonant with my soul.
Here is the dream as I remember it. I am sitting naked in my Episcopal Church, observing the rite of Confirmation. The seats are theatre seats, rather than pews, and I stand up on one to see what’s going on at the altar. The Bishop is performing a confirmation rite,* striking each youngster kneeling before him. He is clobbering each teenager on the head with his scepter, making the kids scream with pain. While feeling outrage at this, I suddenly become aware of my nakedness. Uncomfortable being naked in church, I look up at the crucifix above the altar, at Jesus. He is looking right at me. I see that He also is naked, and still alive, squirming on the cross and beckoning me to help Him. He wants to be taken down from that cross. I proceed to the altar, pass the Bishop and the kids, and make it my work to remove Jesus from the cross. Freed, Jesus hoists me onto His back and we fly outdoors into the daylight.
The Friends Church I went to after that was Christ-centered but just as unsuitable for me as the Episcopal one. Instead nailing Jesus to the cross with liturgy and ritual, these Friends impaled Jesus with dogma, fear, and prejudice. As I grew more and more uncomfortable, I recalled the dream I had in 1983. I didn’t want to give up on being a Quaker, even though I couldn’t be authentic there. Finally, I made a decision to heed my dream’s wisdom, and I found a better fit at West Hills.
The change of heart required trusting my Inward Teacher, and sojourning only where I can be openly myself, where Jesus is not nailed down, but alive and well.
*This symbolic blow is actually part of the confirmation rite, but is usually administered much more gently than in my dream.