The Secret Room

Some people talk of recurrent dreams.  I can’t say that I have had repetitive dreams although I can relate on some level to those who do.

A number of dreams I have had take place in this particular house.  I don’t know if I own the house, if a family member owns the house, or if it belongs to someone else, as in a hotel.  The last option is most likely because the house is more likened to a mansion, filled with many rooms and ornate furniture or decorations.  The inhabitants – if they may be called that at all – seem to come and go.  Some nights the same individuals can be found; other nights a recognizable face might enter for his or her first appearance.

What is most unique about this mansion is that I travel many paths to get to my destination, rarely taking the most direct route.  Sometimes I take an elevator, sometimes stairs, and sometimes I explore corridors whose existence might not be public knowledge to the less inquisitive guests in the house.  Consequently, I have a secret room in this house.

In the earliest dream that I can recall, someone had died and left instructions in their will which allowed me (and me alone) to find this room.  It is situated near the attic on the top floor which could explain why it remains hidden so well.  To gain access, one must enter a crawlspace on hands and knees.  Sometimes the narrow tunnel forms a straight path; sometimes it is likened to an ascending chute.  It is similar to the changing staircases at Hogwarts: you will never find it exactly the same as the last time and yet I still have no trouble finding it.  At the end of this opening is a small door with a brass keyhole.  The key, of course, is in my possession.

Grand finale and we have entered the secret room.  I can share this with as many people as I want or I do not have to share it with anyone at all.  My most valued belongings are kept in this room.  I can seek it out for privacy or silence at any time.  It is my place of safety.  I always take caution when entering the room.  No one is around and very few know it exists – only the few friends whom I have granted access.  It is a wonderful dream, one that could be extracted from the movie Inception, only I am my own architect.

That all changed last night when I encountered two figures in the room…uninvited.  A childhood fantasy fell apart as I learned that my place of sanctity had been breached.  The thieves shuffled off after picking a fight, leaving me curled up on the floor, devastated and forever vulnerable.

If anyone has interpretations to offer, even in jest, I welcome them.  But more importantly, the secret room delivers a message.  As a child everything is safe and secure.  There is always someone to protect you, always a place to run and hide, to cry when no one is looking, to play where no one is watching, and to make funny faces in the mirror.  As an adult, some of these supports and securities disappear.  But there is still laughter and hope because when the secret room gets stolen away the thief cannot kill the imagination.  Whether waking or sleeping, one is never too old to wonder.  Time to rebuild.  Another room…


Sleep Your Cares Away

This dates back to May 2008 in my college days.  The entry comes from an old, expired blog, but the message is, I believe, up to date.  Hear these words:

He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep….

The LORD will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
– Psalm 121:3-4, 7-8

It was a few weeks ago, one Sunday night, when I unexpectedly woke up at 12:30 a.m.  This news is naturally no big deal but very rarely do I wake in the middle of the night – even more uncommon for that to happen when I am not awoken by a nightmare.  My friend Bobby was in the room (my dorm was the most conducive place for his late night studying) and so he turned from his book to see what awoke me in the shadows.  “Benjamin,” he whispered.  “Why are you up?”  I was still dazed and confused, in that moment of restlessness where you don’t exactly know where you are or at the very least what time it is.  I peered back at him through slotted eyes, still adjusting to the lone source of light coming from the lamp in the room.  “I don’t know,” I mumbled, and left it at that.  Bobby suppressed his laughter but it was clear that if my roommate wasn’t sleeping on the bunk above he would have burst out hysterically and rolled along the floor.

Bobby, without knowing it, asked a rather profound question.  His inquiry had me a little puzzled – I, too, was trying to figure out what woke me up – but it also had this restless mind pouring over philosophical ideas.  The peculiarity of the situation wasn’t that I was awake, for that is our natural state, our natural behavior.  Bobby asked why I was awake, however that answer is obvious to him and needs not be posed at all.  What Bobby should have asked, or unknowingly did, was why did I sleep?  Perhaps I was only asleep for an hour by 12:30 in the morning, but did he really expect that I would never return to consciousness?  Should that surprise him?  Of course not!  The curious circumstance provoking his question was that I ever went to sleep at all.

Why do we sleep?  Of course, our bodies need the physical recovery.  Still, how is it that we can’t squeeze little things into our schedule but we consistently set aside everything that we are doing and devote 6-8 hours of the day to sleeping?  I might have a test the next morning and feel completely unprepared, yet I push away my notes and still commit to a few hours of sleep before.  I might be preparing to ask that special someone out on a date the next day, yet I cast off every worry and lay my head on the pillow as if it’s nothing out of the ordinary.  Honestly, the fact that we sleep doesn’t make sense.

Or does it?  People sleep but there is ‘one’ who doesn’t have to according to Psalm 121, that is God.  So if man is created imago dei, in God’s image or in His likeness, why do we not have that same privilege?  Because we have a dependency upon Him, the one who does not sleep.  The Psalmist recognized that his sleep is a sign of trust, a daily ritual which reminds him of God’s presence and provision, because when he sleeps he has nothing to fear.  God is protecting him even through his slumber and there is an expectation that he will arise with a fresh breath the next morning.  Surely not everyone who sleeps is a Christian, not everyone who sleeps even believes that there is a God.  But for those who do hold that privilege, there is a purpose and a reminder to our hours of rest.  We have the liberty to cast aside our every worry, having the trust that God is there, that he is watching over our coming and going.  If we can lay our head down with this focus in mind, imagine how incredible our day will be to hold that same perspective in the waking hours, when our schedules are filled and our anxieties confront us.  Rest assured.  God is there for you, “both now and forevermore.”

With a Pencil in Hand

Moses: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
God: “What is that in your hand?”
Moses: “A staff.”
God: “Throw it on the ground….(Insert miraculous action)….This is so that they may believe that the LORD appeared to you.”
(Exodus 4:1-5)

Photo of Charles Schulz with Charlie Brown

Charles Schulz is among my favorite authors.  To which you might respond: “he is a comic strip artist, not a writer.”  We can debate the matter but before doing so I would refer you to the following article; a comic strip which evokes laughter while simultaneously accomplishing a greater purpose is certainly worthy of recognition in the category of literature.  Indeed, comic strips come short on words yet the message of truth is not deterred by brevity.

And Peanuts is one such comic strip.  Charlie Brown and the rest of his gang appealed to newspaper readers for 50 years, adding their commentary on daily affairs while you added creamer to your coffee.  The world listened because there are always 20 seconds to hear a joke; there are rarely 20 hours to digest a book. Moreover, it is easier to receive a message from a child than from an ancient philosopher.  Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, and others…they were all children (by no accident) who had the magical gift of relating to adults.

Charles Schulz taught us much and, by the legacy of his beloved characters, continues to do so today.  Consider that for 50 long years, with just a pencil in hand, he made Americans laugh and learn the higher things of life.

Long ago, God did a similar activity through Moses.  He asked Moses, “What is in your hand?”  And with a staff as his only instrument, under God’s instruction and care, Moses delivered the people of an entire nation from the bondage of slavery.

By one small tool a multitude of people might be impacted.  By one simple instrument, in fewer characters than a Twitter post, someone’s life might be changed forever.

This makes me wonder…as a teacher I regularly use a black pen, blue pen, red pen, highlighter, dry erase markers, laptop, SmartBoard, maps, textbooks, posters, handouts,  Post-It notes, calculator, and more.  So what impact am I making?  And when I am done, what message will my students believe?

What is in your hand?