Venus on the horizon at sunset
Let your boat of life be light, packed only with what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing. (Jerome Klapka Jerome)
I have a nightmare, excruciating. I am with my husband and two of my children, the eldest and the youngest. We take a sightseeing ride over St. Anthony Main, where the Mississippi burgeons for the first time into her full glory as a major river of the United States. The river is 300 feet below us, huge boulders slicing her flow into streams. Suddenly the car we are in tips haphazardly to the side, nearly spilling us to our death over the rocks. My husband grabs my son's ankle and my daughter grips the rope. Then we huddle together in the bottom of the car, shifting all our weight to the other side, trying to keep it upright. I beg my sleepy husband to hold tight to my son's ankle or I will go mad.

I wake up sweaty, and it is time to get up and get ready for work. I put on my scrubs, my PhD(c) lab coat, my stethoscope. I head back to the ICU to pick up a patient. I face the scorn in the eyes of the coworkers. I try to find the cath lab to drop this patient off for his procedure. I am squeezing the bag that connects to oxygen and the tube through which he breathes while comatose. I can't find the lab through the maze of construction in the hospital, and I am begging, "Lord, if this is a nightmare, please let me wake up." The stress mounts, and I am undone.

I come up another level, this time really to consciousness. At least, I think so. I am drenched, weary, fearful. What if this is just the third nightmare-within-a-nightmare? I have visions of the movie Inception. It is not until 30 minutes later, pulling on my yellow jacket and heading out the door to church, that I am sure I am really awake this time.

This is PTSD. The nightmares and flashbacks bring me continually to my knees, so that I pray even in my sleep. How can I deny that God is moving through the most painful season of my life, when all the traumas of past days come crashing down and I can finally hear the sound of the walls in my heart moaning under the pressure of new stress, collapsing and clouding my mind with their dust and grit.

In Deuteronomy 31, God sings through Moses' mouth these words to Israel:
I would have said, "I will cut them to pieces. I will wipe them from human memory," had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries misunderstand, lest they should say, "Our hand is triumphant, it was not the Lord who did all this." See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside me: I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver you out of My hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, "As I live forever, if I sharpen my flashing sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me." Rejoice with me, O heavens, bow down to Him, all gods, for He avenges the blood of His children...and cleanses His people's land. (Deuteronomy 31: 26-27; 38-41; 43)
He wants me undone. He wants me struck open like an overripe melon, spilling my guts and hollowing out a place for Him. He wounds me so that He may bind me, so that I might see the awesome power of His hand in my life. While I am hurting, I sit in the palm of His hand, in His grip. When I am whole, it is He who makes me so. He empties out my life, so that I might simply live. He sweeps away distractions and leaves only that which matters most, so that I might notice the simple joy and the all-consuming love that surrounds, instead of all the cobwebs I've stored up in my spiritual house. It is as if the furniture has been removed, and standing in the echoing room are my husband and children, my family and friends, just people - nothing else. The sun streams in the windows and hits the whitewashed walls, and I am undone again, this time by the incredible beauty of His creation instead of the cardboard crowns I have constructed life long. I can say, this day, that I care nothing for appearances, abandoning them for the absolute, pure glory of God.

Glory to God, the beginning and the end, Who was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:8)