This morning Spencer and I were talking about a loved one who had a deeply meaningful experience in their life that has brought about the significant healing of emotional hurt. It reminded me of my own journey, and how those moments of deep healing are sometimes hard to articulate or define, but one knows that something profound has taken place in the center (or spirit) of one’s being.
When the kids were three-years-old, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I awoke from a reoccurring dream that had been plaguing me for years. In the dream, I was in the corner of a room cram packed with people, and I was tiny, about a quarter of the size of everyone else, barely seeing past all the bodies pressing me against the wall. Then the crowd parted and, cutting a swath through the center of the room, strode a huge man and his entourage—he was proud and strong, with high chest and bold carriage. Like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. The man represented my OBF (old boyfriend), the guy I’d dated off and on for six years from high school to after college. The relationship had hurt me deeply from rejection and left me believing that I was disposable, worthless. From my corner in the dream, I gazed up through the throng at the man parting the crowd with his presence, waiting for him to see me cowering at the periphery, and hoping against hope that he would acknowledge that I was there, to notice me and validate my existence, even if only by just saying hello. But he walked on, leaving me invisible and even more worthless.
Well, when I woke up, I was just disgusted with myself for being so weak. My stupid subconscious was driving me nuts, making me experience such vulnerability and pain when I was asleep and defenseless. In my waking hours, I was fine. Happy with a lovely life, a devoted husband, and healthy, precious quadruplets. I didn’t have time for such nonsense. And I told Jesus as much. I said, I’m tired of this. I want to end this right now. I want to see my OBF and I want to see him today. I’ve had enough of these stupid dreams!
After my little tirade, I pulled myself together and went on with my day. I knew I was just being ridiculous, but I often had those honest heart-to-hearts with Jesus, and it was just another ones of those. I didn’t give it another thought and went on with my day. The kids had spent the night at their grandparents’ and I was going to use the day to prepare for Thanksgiving. On the way to pick them up, I needed to run into a grocery store to get the ingredients for green bean casserole. At a store I didn’t normally use, I wandered until I found the aisle with those French fried onions in a can. I hoped the container would tell me what else I needed to buy and how to make it. As I stood reading the can, a person next to me said, “Well, look who we have here!” The voice was so familiar to me, my brain scrambled to make sense of and put into context something I hadn’t heard for over ten years.
I turned around and my OBF was standing there. Right there. In the canned vegetables aisle. I just started laughing. I said to Jesus in my head, “I can’t believe this! Look what you did!” And we laughed together. That got my OBF laughing too. I’m pretty sure he thought he and I were laughing at the serendipity of running into each other. I was laughing because just that morning I’d told Jesus that I’d wanted this meeting to occur. I didn’t think it was really going to happen. I mean really. I was just blowing off steam. It had been over a decade. My OBF didn’t even live in my city.
While his sons ran around his legs, we visited for a few minutes and caught up a little. He was just passing through town on his way home from vacation and his family needed to stop for some car food. Then he said with enthusiasm, “I want my wife to meet you.” He led me through the store to find her. “There she is,” he said, pointing to a woman near the cash registers with a cart and a baby. He called out to her a couple of times. We caught up to her and he said, “This is Cheri.” No explanation. No summary of who I was. Just my name. Spoken with—dare I say?—admiration. And she knew who I was. She smiled and greeted me warmly.
And in that moment, something deep, down inside of me healed. I’d been seen and acknowledged. And after that, I didn’t have that stupid dream anymore.
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