In the dream: stress.
It was the kind of dream that kept going on and on and on, and the stress level mounted with each minute. I was younger, in college, and I had finished my coursework. I remember being very tired, having completed all the tests, papers, and assignments sent my way. And oh how I was ready to graduate!
Except this one strange thing: graduation already happened. The entire college had kept the secret from me. Someone approached me and said, “Ha! You didn’t graduate! You didn’t get your degree! All that work for nothing.”
I panicked. What? How could I not know this important piece of information? Why would they keep the ceremony secret? This perplexed me a while, but then I calmed myself down. I don’t need the recognition of an event. I still earned my diploma. I’ll just go to my counselor, explain what happened, and pick up my degree there.
So I visited the counseling office, but the counselor said, “The only way to get a degree is to attend graduation. Sorry, but no degree!”
I started to cry. “But I’ve done everything I was supposed to do,” I said. “I earned my bachelors!”
But the school would not budge. It simply didn’t matter that I had worked so hard, obeyed all the mandates, “earning” my degree. None of my work mattered.
I went home, then, devastated. My mom was there, and Mark too. The home was different, of course, because dreams make things off kilter, but what I noticed surprised me. I didn’t walk through the house, but I meandered through a beautiful back yard. And Mark was fashioning these amazing arbors and gazebos, all white, all glistening.
Why were they glistening?
I got closer. That’s when I noticed them–white, pearlescent jewels hanging down like icicles from the eaves of these outdoor structures. When the sun hit them, a cacophony of light and brilliance danced.
“They said I can’t graduate,” I told Mark under one of the dazzling white gazebos. And I started to cry.
He looked at me with compassion-eyes. And he smiled. “It’s okay, Mary,” he said. “It’s okay.”
I wondered how in the world could it be okay.
But he just smiled at me, then said something like, “You’ll understand later. Things aren’t always as they seem.”
And then I woke up.
It wasn’t until I told the dream to Patrick over breakfast that the realization came. Mark was an architect. He built beautiful things on this earth. He worked hard. And now, perhaps, he is building different kinds of structures on the other side. And he has the kind of perspective I lack. He sees that what we deem important on this earth (recognition, a degree, reward for hard work, being noticed) is not so very important after all.
All this worry about provision and career. All this work I’ve done, ticking off the boxes, writing millions of words–it may not be seen or applauded on this earth. But this earth is not all that matters.
I cried when I recounted the dream. I had kept the grief of losing another father figure buried in the ground. Mark’s presence, joy, and matter-of-fact way in the dream brought deep reassurance. And I cling to the tenor of his words.
“You’ll understand later. Things aren’t always as they seem.”