Sometime around 3:30 am, Mariah came trembling into our bedroom, whispering to Jamie for comfort. I continued sleeping, wrapped in an electric blanket; fan blowing to drown out the commotion.
A few minutes later, my wife returned to wake me.
"Jerry," she said gently, "You need to go into Mariah's room and reassure her that everything is alright."
I looked at the clock, then mumbled, "What do you mean?" It took me a minute to allow my mind to catch up to Jamie's explanation:
"Mariah had a terrible dream. She believes that you were standing over her with a baseball bat ready to punish her. I told her that it was just a dream, but she is convinced that it was truly happening."
I poured out of the comfort of our bed and walked down the hallway through the last door. In the moonlight I could see the shadow of my five year old daughter, curled up under the covers. I eased my way across her room, and slid beneath the sheets to hold her. She was unsure, paralyzed in the tension between deep sleep and immanent reality.
"You were having a bad dream, love bug." I told her.
She thought for a moment before responding, "You were going to hit me!" She whispered, as if appealing her innocence before a Judge who had already determined her conviction.
"Listen Mariah... do you hear that?"
She waited in silence before shaking her head. I leaned in more closely and gently pulled her head down toward my chest. "It's my heart beating," I said. "Every time you feel that pulse, it's another wink in your direction!" She kept her head on my heart as I continued, "I would never, in a million years, hurt you. As a matter of fact, I would hurt myself before I would allow you to be hurt."
She looked up at the ceiling, where dozens of glow-in-the-dark stars were witnessing this covenant. After a few minutes she was fast asleep, and I returned to my own thoughts:
I wonder how often I blur the lines of dream and reality? If my conceived imagination paints a picture of my Heavenly Father waiting to destroy me with flood, or fire? If in my looking back, I may be turned into a pillar of salt or swallowed by a whale.
If I were to be honest, my image of God is fuzzy; an ironfisted Judge on a power trip, a bi-polar executioner with a trigger happy legion of pyrotechnical principalities. I often fear His Presence, fleeing from prayer like a refugee in a war-torn country, afraid of my own shadow, let alone - His!
Sometimes while driving down the highway, I can sense God's obvious hatred for me, as evidenced by the abandonment of His followers. I'm afraid to take each exit, taking my chances with an empty fuel tank (long overdue for an oil change).
While climbing back into bed I realized an ironic epiphany. At the exact moment that Mariah was having a dream of me with a baseball bat, I was in the middle of my own dream. When Jamie had originally woke me to tell me about Mariah's nightmare, I was deep in a dream that went something like this:
In my dream, we were on a television game show playing against two other married couples. It was the kind of challenge where the host quizzes each spouse separately, and they must write down the same answer to win.
The host asked the following question; "Not including yourself, who is Jerry's best friend?"
Jamie thought about a [receding] list of names and faces that I considered to be in the inner circle of trust. But after a moment she remembered that I always refer to my daughter(s) as my bestest friends. She wrote down Mariah's name.
Fortunately, I did the same.
"Correct!" The host of the game show yelled. Confetti and lights and cheering and money and an eternal feast waiting for the entire family.
Jesus understood the hand of His Father was not to be feared, but friendly. "Abba" literally means, "Daddy". Our is the Father that climbs into bed with us when we're expecting an execution. He is kiss when we're expecting a slap, a hug when we deserve a kick. He is a friend, that is closer than a brother. The Lion is the Lamb.