I watched, helpless, as the minivan careened down the hill into a giant tree. The passenger's side was demolished, injuring one of my closest friends. I ran down the hill to see if my friend was alive and well. She was alive but she wasn't well; she was covered in blood where the tree had torn through the vehicle on her side. Someone called 911 and I gave her a cotton cloth to wipe the blood off her body, but since she could not move I had to reach through the window to help her. By the time the ambulance had arrived, her head had fallen to her shoulder, then to her chest, and finally the seatbelt supported her entire weight. She had died; I saw her die.
We had been friends since we were 15. My husband and I are "Nino" and "Nina" (terms of endearment in Spanish for "Godfather" and "Godmother") to her children. I grieved for these children; I grieved for her husband; I grieved for myself.
And then I woke up.
I'm not a psychologist - or a psychotherapist - nor do I know much about neuroscience or the study of sleep. And though I often have vivid, realistic dreams, thankfully, they are usually not this tragic.
In the Bible, we read many stories where God speaks to humanity through dreams. In the seasons of Advent and Christmas, there are several stories: The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and, later, in another dream, an angel told him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt rather than going home. The Magi were also warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but to take another route back to their country of origin. These were dreams of guidance and reassurance.
I don't look to my dreams much for guidance of the life direction type, but I have found that some of them have been tools of the Holy Spirit that help shape my character and response to the work of Christ. Often, I will wake from disturbing dreams and pray. I'll pray for the people I dreamed about (such as my friend and her family), I'll pray for my marriage and husband, I'll pray that I'll become more Christ-like and less selfish. My dreams teach me that I have much less control over life than I give myself credit for. I couldn't stop that minivan; I couldn't fly through the glass ceiling (a dream, not a metaphor); I couldn't catch the Steinway as it rolled down the hill and crashed into a million pieces.
Many of my dreams also make me very thankful for where I am, right now. I'm thankful my friend is still alive and her husband isn't widowed. I'm thankful for God's grace that I didn't break my marriage vows (even though I have in dreams). And in a world (and season) where marketing and dissatisfaction are practically making out on the couch, it's important to be thankful for things we often take for granted. Like healthy friends, a faithful spouse, and the Holy Spirit who wakes me from my horrible visions and reminds me to pray.