YESTERDAY MORNING I ABRUPTLY AWOKE FROM A DREAM, MY BODY TINGLING WITH FEELINGS OF EXTREME JOY AND INTENSE FEAR. THE DREAM STARTED OFF WITH MY BEST FRIEND AND I ABOUT TO CLOSE A HUGE DEAL THAT WOULD MAKE US EXTREMELY WEALTHY. IT WAS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE HIRED ANOTHER MAN TO REPRESENT US IN THE NEGOTIATIONS. HE WAS A SHARK THAT WE KNEW WOULD GET THE JOB DONE.
As we waited for the negotiations the dream turned into a nightmare. It seems my past was involved in the bartering process. I was dropped into horrible situations that represented experiences I had lived through and was forced to fight through them. It was like each one was a game that forced me to win or die. I traveled through wave after wave of bad situations, narrowly escaping each one. Then something profound happened.
The next image was of my friend and I walking down a road. As we walked we received a call from the person we were making the deal with. Our shark had broken down as an impostor. He decided he couldn’t make the deal for us and admitted he was a fake. My friend and I were crushed. We started saying, “What if this? What if that?” until finally we looked at each other and basically told each other to forget it and move on. It felt like our way of saying that things happened the way they did and we were just going to keep moving, but as we walked down the road negative thoughts started to invade my mind. I couldn’t just shake it off. The thoughts became louder and LOUDER until they were overwhelming me with noise. The things I had to do to negotiate the deal, the deal we lost, left me feeling guilty. I felt like I was about to explode when my friend and I came across a cemetery.
I looked to my right and saw a gravestone with a large celtic cross on top of it. There was an extremely bright light shining from behind. I immediately fell to my knees in front of the gravestone and started to pray. I pleaded with God to help me. The exact instant I uttered the words Jesus Christ, the noise that was building up in my head disappeared and an overwhelming feeling of joy struck me. It was like I suddenly knew that everything was going to be ok. All the negativity, all the fear, all the guilt, it just vanished, and it felt like it happened in my actual body. That’s when I snapped awake. My body was tingling. The feelings from my dream had carried over into reality. This was no ordinary dream. That feeling of joy was still lingering. However, I was also afraid.
I was afraid because it seemed like God was sending me a message that I couldn’t come to terms with. The message was loud and clear that I was to follow Jesus Christ, but my fear was that I couldn’t do it. For a long time I have been struggling with faith. I was raised in the Catholic church, but abandoned it around the age of 14. None of it made sense to me. Why should I believe in this thing that I can’t see or hear or use any of my senses to detect. I felt like I was just blindly following something that made no sense at all, and was wasting my time.
Is God real? This question has been debated for centuries. There are so many different ways people connect with the spiritual side of themselves that a lot of conflicts arise. And to make things more difficult, spirituality is something that is intangible. There is no physical evidence of God. Does that mean He isn’t real? And if He is, how do we tell people without sounding crazy? It can be scary to admit that you believe in God because our culture can make people feel stupid for doing so. I have that fear. I can pretend all I want that I don’t care what people think of me, but I do. It’s in my nature.
For years I proclaimed myself an atheist. The more I questioned the existence of God the more I believed it was all a lie. Some of it was because that’s what made sense logically, but more was due to social pressure. Atheists are usually intelligent and a lot of intelligent people are atheists. That doesn’t mean that atheism is right, but it does make it hard for anyone who considers themselves intelligent to admit they believe in God. The cultural narrative says that intelligent people are supposed to be atheists. It says that science and God don’t mix. Evolution or Creationism. Coincidence or miracle. Logic or faith. Never both. With this narrative an intelligent person risks being rejected by his or her tribe for stating that he or she believes in God.
That’s exactly why this dream was so scary. How can I come out as a person who believes in God? I fear that everyone will think I am crazy. I fear that my friends won’t want to associate with me. I fear that I will be labeled as a weakling who can’t think for himself. I fear these things because, in the past, I have had these exact negative reactions to people who have brought up the subject of God to me. I have treated them like they were crazy. I have tried to ignore them. I have dismissed them as soon as the word Jesus came out of their mouths. Again, it was this fear imposed by culture. I did all these things not because I actually thought those people were crazy, but because I was afraid to even be seen with someone who believed in God. I thought people would make fun of me if I did. So how am I supposed to come forward and admit that I believe? Was this dream enough to push me through the fear?
I have had similar experiences in the past where I thought I was receiving a message from God, but I always rationalized them away. There was always some sort of explanation behind what happened. I told myself that I was just seeking out similarities resulting from coincidence or that I was having delusional flashbacks from my use of psychedelics. I always felt like I was making connections that weren’t actually there. Still there was a shred of doubt. Maybe I was missing something.
After I woke up from my dream yesterday, the first thing I did was start reading the Bible. I have been reading it for a couple of months now in an effort to figure out what my beliefs actually are. I have had a feeling that God may exist, but it didn’t seem right to me to practice a religion based on a book that I have never even read. It also didn’t seem right to blindly follow what other people told me was true. So I decided to take things into my own hands. I started praying and reading scripture.
After a dream like the one I just had it only made sense to open up my Bible. All alone the dream was enough to make me question things, but like before there wasn’t anything to prove it actually meant anything. At this point it was just a dream. But as my day unfolded everything became clear. The very first thing I read when I woke up was a passage from the book of JOB:
Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn aside man from his deed and conceal pride from a man; he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. (JOB 33:13-18)
When I read this another wave of tingling swept over my body. I had just had a dream about God saving me and the first thing I read is a passage about God speaking to man through dreams in order to save him. The urge to cry came over me and I began to weep. I can’t even remember the last time I cried, but this was uncontrollable. My pride has been higher than ever recently. If God was going to warn me of something, this would be it. The first part of my dream was a perfect metaphor for the pit. The deal was what would have sent me into it. I realize this is still just interpretation. It could all just be a coincidence. My subconscious could easily have dreamt up this vision of God and I could attribute many verses in the Bible to God saving man. However, my day wasn’t over yet.
When I got home from the gym later in the afternoon I looked at a picture my cousin had posted on Instagram. It was a picture of him playing hockey in dedication to my grandpa for the one year anniversary of his death. The image of the celtic cross on a gravestone popped into my head. Could the message have been from my grandpa? A few minutes later my mom told me she was going to my grandpa’s grave site to honor his passing a year ago. This was really strange. I had no idea this was the day my grandpa died. I had planned to treat it like any other day. Now it was clear I had to go visit his grave site with my mom.
I was telling my mom about my dream when I brought up the fact I woke up from it a few minutes after 4 in the morning. She gasped and said, “Grandpa died just a few minutes after 4.” I was in shock. There was almost no way it could have been any clearer that this was a message without God Himself coming down and telling me in person. It was suddenly much harder to attribute my dream to coincidence.
My mom and I took the lightrail out to the cemetery where we met some other family member’s to visit my grandpa’s grave. This is when the message really solidified itself. When we finally got to my grandpa’s grave the first thing I see is a celtic cross engraved in the top. It was the exact same cross that I saw in my dream. I had never been to my grandpa’s grave, and I had no idea what it looked like. There was no logical explanation anymore. There was no way I could rationalize this away.
Not a doubt in my mind exists that this was a sign from God and that my grandpa is watching over me. I went back and read the passage from JOB I had read earlier. It continues:
Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife on his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out. His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and he is merciful to him and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’; then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’ (JOB 33: 19-28)
This fits everything that just happened so perfectly. The first part describes my spinal cord injury. I have continual pain and strife on my bones, my muscles have atrophied so that the bones stick out, and I almost died. There is obviously an angel watching over me. Grandpa, is that you? If the deal from my dream was the pit, then maybe you are the one who negotiated my ransom. All that’s left for me to do is pray to God and accept Him.
I don’t know how people are going to react to this story and to my subsequent confession of faith. Maybe they will think I’m crazy. Maybe they won’t believe me, or think I made part of it up. It doesn’t really matter at this point. I know what I saw and what I felt. Sure, part of it is my own interpretation, but part of it is also solid. The feeling of joy that hit me in my dream was unlike anything I have ever felt. It was so incredibly intense that I simply can’t overlook it this time. God is alive in my heart. All those years of wandering aimlessly have led me to Him, with a little help from my grandpa. There is still a little part of me that wants to hold back. It is hard to admit that I was wrong. It is hard to confront the big questions. It would be much easier to just ignore it and continue living the way I have been, but I won’t do it this time. This time I am going to let God show me the way.
William Joseph Scheremet